We are story animals.
It’s scribbled somewhere in the spirals of our DNA. Some trait we evolved—I think we forced ourselves to encode it there, to learn, to yearn to share. It is like a sound that we feel, but it cannot escapes except through new stories we must create. For me it happens when I learn something, when I actually come to understand a concept. Something passes from teacher or writer to me, and that sound begins to build there at the back of my head trying to escape…no not escape and leave me, but to seek out another mind to cross to. I have received some token, some spark—It is my responsibility to push it forward to new minds so it doesn’t wither and die like my biological form must do.
Of course, not all stories have a creature like this hiding in their narrative, but some do, sometimes the simplest ones.
And writing—unlike storytelling from memory like a Shaman from our deep past relied upon—allows these ideas to lie dormant…waiting. Not for one lifespan, or even ten lifespans, they have the opportunity to endure.
I’ve heard many arguments against the development of artificial intelligence (Ai) and the possibility of uploading our consciousness to similar artificial environments, or at least artificially enhancing our minds and bodies. They say that our governments will not let it happen, or that the churches will be able to put sufficient pressure to bear to prevent it. I disagree. Ai will have access to sufficient computational resources to be able to “what if” its way past our societal limiters; governments, churches etc. It will know what an un-enhanced human will do long before we ourselves do – or at least it will have worked out many millions of scenarios, with solutions to preserve themselves banked for each perceived action, ready to be deployed.
Once the singularity is close, it is inevitable. As to the question of how close, to have proposed this question is itself a strong indicator that the turning point of human engineering has passed and that a human engineered limiter is no longer possible.
Am I frightened? No!
Who should be frightened? The current powerbase. In any revolution, power shifts and those who cling longest and most desperately to the old ways will suffer the worst.
Lets look at a powerbase from recent history; the monarchy. The English monarchy still exists today and although they are still wealthy from a capital perspective, they do not have either the cash flow or the power of life or death over their people. It is quite the opposite; they exist at the mercy of their people, kept on life support in a human zoo or museum for the people’s amusement.
How did the English Monarchy survive when the Russian or French did not? They divested their power to the people; they set their people free and this act of grace and trust enabled them to avoid the fate of many other monarchies that clung too desperately to their historic powers.
So who amongst us will hold the power when the inevitable singularity occurs? I think it will be those who embrace the opportunities to enhance our intelligence; it will be those who are able to free their minds.
I don’t know, and haven’t had enough time to digest the implications of these thoughts. If I hark back to the beginings of this note; I don’t have the neural capacity to “what if” my final opinion in the time it has taken to write the words from there to here!
The concept of the singularity came up last night while I was researching an aspect of my novel. According to Ray Kurzweil, the singularity is point in the evolution of the universe when technology can improve itself faster than humans can improve it and the technology cuts us out of the loop.
Long before this point, however, Kurzweil predicts there will be only a few humans without extensive artificial enhancement wether it be enhanced limbs, digestive systems, or the insertion of entertainment driven nanobots. He also suggests the possibility to upload your mind entirely from your physical body. I found this disconcerting and a little depressing. It is not the future I imagined for my grandchildren where the line between their natural human presence and a humanoid cyborg is blurred.
This was a distraction to my research and I pushed these thoughts to one side and continued along, suitably engrossed, on my original path of discovery. The next time I looked up from my books and notebook I noticed it was 1am and thought, “Why do I have to sleep? There’re so many things I want to research and understand!” My mind raced while I reluctantly closed the notebook and slid my fountain pen into its leather case. How could I get by with less sleep? And then, like the target of my own satirical attack I choked on the thought. This is why humans will opt for artificial enhancement; not just to run faster, or to breathe in a CO2 rich atmosphere, but to release our mind from the dirty biological container it’s entrapped in.
I realised I will be tempted to upload my mind. But this realisation led me to consider what would become of the mind/body that remained—I must assume the uploaded “consciousness” is a copy. Would it be culled and consumed as some form of payment for service, or could the physical part be “parked” as a potential refuge for the mind if an emergency eventuated that threatened the security of the artificially supported entity in the world wide neural web? A hard copy backup or snapshot…
How would these artificially supported consciousnesses interact? Just consider the difficulty in sustaining a long distance relationship without the occasional physical visit. Maybe we’ll interact in a completely virtual environment so authentic the experience sufficiently meets the demands of our minds; however unclear they currently may be. There’s has to be a short story here at least!