Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Autoevolution III

This is a sequel.

As Eli justly remarked, we are already cyborgs.The computer is extending our ability to think and remember. The Internet is extending our ability to communicate and share information. Microscopes, telescopes, night vision etc. are extending our ability to sense.

What is going to change in the future in this respect? Firstly, our technological extensions will become more numerous and powerful. Equally importantly, they will become more synergetic with ourselves. Instead of looking through a telescope, your experience will be that of your eyes being the telescope. Instead of searching in Google using your keyboard, you will do that by merely thinking. Instead of writing things down in Microsoft Outlook, it will just feel like remembering. Instead of doing computations with a calculator, you will do them in your mind without “sweat”. Instead of driving a car, you will become the car (provided you really want to control it instead of just getting from point A to point B; even the later will usually be unnecessary).

Extension of human “IO” will not be limited to information naturally contained in the physical reality. It will include conventionally encoded information: the kind we store in writing, computers etc. today. The synergy of the human use of such information will lead to the Internet becoming a “virtual reality”: something experienced directly rather than through non-transparent intermediates such as keyboards, mice and displays. “Ordinary” reality will become “augmented reality” as additional layers of information will be seamlessly available about “surrounding” physical objects (that is, objects under attention). Imaging looking at a bus and knowing what line it is and what is its trajectory. A possible intermediate form of augmented reality is superposing the additional information layers on the existing senses, e.g. “seeing” a “clickable” line number floating in the air besides the bus.

Physical location of human beings will become much less important. Even now the Internet, cellular phones and video conferences are reducing its importance. In the future this trend will continue much more. The culmination is mind-body separation. One can image huge immobile “brains” banked somewhere, operating bodies in distant physical locations and purely “virtual” realms.

Many activities don’t require engaging the “direct” physical reality but allow working with “conventionally encoded” higher abstraction layers. These include

  • “Software” engineering, that is the design of technology operating within these higher abstraction layers
  • Communication
  • Theoretical learning and research
  • “Virtual” Art

Other activities require interaction with “lower abstraction layers”. These include

  • “Hardware” engineering
  • Experimental science
  • Colonization of space
  • “Physical” Art

Eventually the “synergy” of the “virtual IO” (the exchange of “conventionally encoded” information) will make the “Internet” into a shared memory of human kind. It will store actual memories, experiences, thoughts, knowledge etc. which will be downloadable and uploadable. This will result in individuality becoming “fuzzy”, up to the point of almost utter disappearance. The entire population of a given planet will merge into a “multimind”. The multimind will be a continuous array of memories, desires etc. connected by associations as is the mind of an individual today. The mind of a modern individual contains a “stream of consciousness” (“CPU”) continuously traversing the memories (“RAM”), loading them into the short term memory (“cash”), connecting them to IO and transforming them. In an analogical way, the multimind will contain many streams of consciousness processing the shared memory in parallel, each with its own cash and connected to specific IOs at any given moment.

I call this multimind a “Solaris”, to honour Stanislaw Lem. The Solaris is a single entity uniting the whole technosphere, ecosphere and consciousness of an entire planet.

Due to the disappearance of individual, property will lose its meaning. Birth and death will also become obsolete, except for the birth of new Solarises through space colonization.

It is also possible that the Solaris will contain “quasi-individuals”: tightly bound chunks of memories, desires and ideas. Such
quasi-individuals will dynamically form out of the Solaris and dissolve back into it.


Sergei said...

I've missed the point where does the individual loosing up his identity. Merely sharing the memories doesn't make them "yours". We share memories and ideas now. Don't you think we need something more than a bandwidth to disregard the notion of "self"? Anyhow, even if I could "remember" your memories, they would be meaningless for me, unless I'm an individual myself. However.. You're probably right. Consider an individual growing up on memories that are essentially shared. He will have the notion of objects and relations, but less connected to his "self". Ok :)

Squark said...

Firstly, our current sharing of memories is very poor. We are able to convey only very coarse information.
Secondly, we are not able to bring up memories of other people merely by "associating", the way we do our own memories.
Thirdly, since our brains develop differently, we don't even know how and whether the memories of A can be "reformatted" to be comprehensible for B. In the future this will be different since we will have both understanding and control of the structure of the mind.

Lev said...

This reminds me of Lem's story about the Highest Evolution Stage. There, someone said that the highest stage of evolution must be that where people can do anything by power of will. From that he somehow surmised that this stage really exists.

Squark said...

I'm not sure I fully understand the connection except that Lem's story is about evolution.
Btw, I'm willing to accept Lem's premise if instead of postulating a single stage where everything is possible we will just stipulate that every given thing will be possible at some stage of evolution. As long as this thing is consistent with the laws of Nature, of course.

Lev said...

That's the point. Things like shared memories are not necessarily physically possible.
This is different from Autoevolution II where most things are surely possible.

Squark said...

I am not aware of any law of nature which would prohibit shared memory, or even make it exceptionally difficult to implement (e.g. by requiring tremendous amounts of energy).
As Segei noted, we already have "sort of" shared memories: texts, videos etc. The difference is that in the future they will exhibit more "synergy": the ability to transfer information of all kinds in a way that is quick,
error-prone, transparent and with little overhead.
Another, perhaps more problematic issue, is that of authenticity. A video on youtube can be fake but usually you are confident at your own memories. This will pose a barrier but I'm guessing that it will be overcome.
Of course, I might be wrong and shared memories are impossible to implement for some reason which we cannot at the moment articulate. However, the whole point of this series is speculating, and this is my best guess so far...

Sergei said...

Effectively sharing memories indeed seems like an achievable task - long before we "fully understand and control the mind" (which I would be more cautious about).
Resent developments in the connection to the brain suggest we'll be able to do more with it, without understanding how it works, or even how does it knows, what is that do we want from it.
However, revising my previous opinion - I fill very uncomfortable about the loss of individualities. I'm afraid (hope?) that such a mind, growing up without the notion of "self" will disintegrate and disappear into the void.
I know it shouldn't, by some energetic considerations, it is more efficient than each "cell" carrying a notion of self. But still, that's what I feel. Mind is essentially individualistic, and is meaningless on any scale below the individual.

Squark said...

I'm not sure I follow you. When you say "mind", do you mean the multimind or the single "stream of consciousness"? The multimind has a notion of "self" which refers to the entire Solaris. The single stream of consciousness has essentially the same notion of "self", since this notion, in my opinion, is encoded in the memory/knowldege.
What do you mean by "meaningless"? It appears to me that at any given moment you are only using a small subset of your total sum of memory/knowledge, hence at any given moment you exist on a scale "below the individual", in a way.