Category Archives: Existence
For your consideration, should you have 20 minutes to spare to think about consciousness and the singularity: Reality 3.0
I’ll summarize for the lazier readers: Paul Hughes is making an argument that our accelerating intelligence and technology will bring us to significantly altered states of reality. all sensory information is an interpretation of the external world, so altering that interpretation wouldn’t really be departing from reality, it would be simply changing reality, the way that things are experienced. As we are now our interpretation of the universe is very limited, but in the future, Hughes argues, our sensors will be distributed across the universe, we will be able to chose how we feel the information from these sense organs, and we will not be limited to the 5 or so senses we have now.
One cool thing the author mentions is that we will likely have the computational power to simulate the earth in its entirety, including all of us and our brains, by 2060 (assuming Moore’s law holds steady which some might say is not the case). Hughes muses that we will quickly create a simulated star wars galaxy which we can enter and explore, an exciting proposition and only a small part of what is possible with that kind of computational capability.
My favorite part of the essay:
Imagine the possibility of having ‘sexual’ and fully orgasmic experiences while our external exploratory probes map the unique topography of a new planet? I can’t think of a better way to discover the unique nuances of a new geology as one would a new lover.
And honestly I agree. what we could have ahead of us is nothing less than ecstatic, orgasmic exploration of the universe, for billions and billions of years. This is of course a ridiculous idea, many might laugh at the proposition, but I really think it’s going to be a lot less fun sitting back on earth making fun of the universe for having sex with itself than joining in the fun.
I feel that I haven’t been perfectly clear on my views about God, so I thought I’d develop them a bit here. It might be nice for you to visit a few of the links in the next paragraph which point to some of my previous posts on the subject. I fear I may come off as a bit crazy if you don’t understand where I’m coming from.
As I’ve said many times before, I believe that there is something of utmost importance about consciousness to the universe, that the universe really couldn’t and wouldn’t exist without observation. I argue on this blog that we will find that our own consciousnesses are indistinct, that we will become a unified being capable of reorganizing matter and energy at will, even of reorganizing its own mind. I’ve come to respect this developing superconsciousness as my god, a being which I am a part of and which cares for me and fosters my growth and well being. I’ve even gone so far as to argue that in the somewhat distant future our unified consciousness will be capable of creating new universes in our imagination to explore.
When I think about my construction of our role in the universe I feel that my god, our developing superconsciousness, is an extremely small part of this, so much smaller than even I am compared to all unified human minds. I have ignored this larger picture somewhat because of how little I can know of it in my current state as a lowly mortal, but I feel that I need to address my thoughts on it somewhat.
So there is another God I have constructed, one more like the Christian God than my humanistic God, in that it created the universe we inhabit through pure thought. It’s not like the Christian God however, in that it doesn’t care so much about us individually and doesn’t interfere with our lives; it just watches. This God is basically running a computer simulation of a universe (our universe), and observes it by processing the data it chooses.
I have absolutely no idea the degree to which this greater God provides feedback into his simulation (in essence putting itself into the universe it created), but I’m willing to bet it’s quite a bit, even though we haven’t experienced it personally. After all, why would you create little simulated conscious beings if you couldn’t talk to them? as for why he hasn’t talked to us yet, the question is pretty much the same as why aliens haven’t visited (and I’ll develop my thoughts on that more later). The possibility that God would want to communicate with beings in his universe brings about new insane possibilities, as communication with other beings, I have argued, quickly leads to merging into oneness. The more we know about each other, the more we think everything that another thinks, the more we are one.
In essence: our creator, who after many billions of years emerged from the convergence of trillions of lifeforms, became the universe he inhabited, a unified being observing itself. This universe decided to create a new universe in which other lifeforms could go through the same process and eventually gain awareness of themselves as the universe they inhabit, all the while possibly communicating and slowly merging with the creator of this universe. This creator is a being which could possibly have done the same thing with its own creator, and so on until there is a universe which receives no feedback from its creator. Everything within the known universes is connected through this consciousness which exists simultaneously everywhere and everytime.
Even if we never receive feedback from the being which imagined us into existence, there are still other beings in our universe which are likely so advanced that they already may have created many of their own universes, and perhaps there has been enough time in our universe for advanced life to gain a sense of universal consciousness. This universal consciousness is yet another God I can construct, though I don’t know to what extent it has developed or can be conceived of as separate from the creator of this universe, which as I have mentioned depends on how much feedback the creator puts in to this universe.
I have conceived of God(s) not to find something to worship, but to find something to look forward to and to look for. God is a crucial aspect of the construction of the universe, of the truth we look for.
I have more recently come to the conclusion that there is little to no chance of communicating with the creator of this universe, of any feedback. For the creator of a fractal processor (a universe) the only way to interact with the fractal would be to change the equation. communicating directly with the universe would be as absurd as declaring a point to be in the mandelbrot set which is not.
I recently found quite a few individual’s thoughts online about what many are calling the “consciousness singularity,” when we all know each other to such an extent that we will form a higher consciousness and awareness that we are essentially a singular consciousness. It’s a synonym to what I’ve termed the “psychesingularity,” but more straightforward and less cool. The interesting thing is that while most people I’ve found relate this in some way to the technological singularity, that’s not always the clear connection; there are many people talking about this in the context of the end of the Mayan calendar this year.
Discovering all of these references reminded me of how many millions of people must have come to the same thoughts and conclusions as me. It’s nice but it makes me feel less special, though at the same time it just means that there are less people I need to convince of my viewpoint. I also seem to be offering a more comprehensive perspective of this transition than others, although I realize I haven’t expanded my thoughts on the core of my topic for some time. Anyway, that’s what I intend to do now.
Consciousness itself can be described very well as a singularity. I’ve mentioned previously that before I came upon my current construction of the universe as a fractal pattern of nested simulations made by consciousness(es) I found the idea that black holes could contain universes appealing. A singularity is also the origin of the universe, prior to the big bang, before which we can know of nothing. The singularity of consciousness and the singularity of matter and energy are quite similar: there is irretrievable information held within, a mystery which defies our conceptions of dimensions, of how things exist in space.
We consider our existences now– our singularities– as separate, but soon we will converge upon a new singularity like a bunch of black holes forming a supermassive black hole (kind of). This is the consciousness singularity, the psychesingularity. Naturally there is much to fear when we lose our sense of identity because there’s a strong sense that we’ve died when that happens. I want to ease people’s fears; I’ve tried to do so previously a few times, and I’ll probably continue to do so.
When you lose your sense of individuality, the sense that you are in complete control of yourself, it doesn’t mean you cease to exist. I know this because I’ve experienced it. The loss of individuality will draw your placement of your “self” away from your body, but that self is still maintained. As we communicate our thoughts more directly with technology and our thoughts and actions become indistinguishable, we will all still have a sense of self, and it will be the sense that we are the same self. We will all be more, not less.
The more pessimistic side of this is the view that we will have died after the singularity, taken over by the computer intelligence we created. like ourselves this intelligence will expand meaninglessly into space, merging and expanding until it consumes the universe, only has itself to observe, and thus ceases to exist. This view doesn’t necessarily have to adopt the perspective that we die with the singularity , and it’s stronger without that claim (if we die with the singularity, we die every moment we change our minds or learn new things, in essence every moment). I discussed a couple of posts ago how this way of looking at things overlooks a crucial aspect of consciousness, and that is the essence of self observation.
A conscious being does not cease to exist when it only can observe itself, it truly begins to exist within itself. Consciousness is crucially able to not only observe patterns of matter, it can observe patterns of thought, thoughts which can be rearranged into practically infinite ways with as much matter as we have in our universe. These thoughts will become so complex as the universe becomes our brain that the thoughts themselves could be universes to explore and delight in.
Back when I read Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion I enjoyed his take on the Christian god as a “God of the gaps.” By this he meant that “God” was a construct which symbolized everything mysterious in the world. As we’ve grown smarter our science has been stripping away the role of God until he is left within the only real gap of scientific knowledge, the creation of the universe. A creator however, argues Dawkins, does not solve the problem of the origin of the universe; it only complicates it, for who created the creator? I’ve talked previously about my belief that the universe is a fractal pattern of simulations producing simulations. I suggest you read that post because it will be relevant to what I am saying here.
I have worried, as most everyone has at one time or another, about the possibility that science is doing to beauty what it has done to God. One way of expressing this is simply “ignorance is bliss,” a sad truth pointing to the fact that our happiness is an illusion we build which likely stands to suffer should new information arrive which changes the way we think. Another way to put this is that mystery seems to be an essential part of beauty, that the freshness of experience, the wonder, is an essential part of beauty. As we investigate that mystery, we dispel the wonder.
Yet another way of looking at this is that life is, all in all, meaningless. Our sense of beauty comes from us ascribing deep meaning to things which in the end amount to nothing, and as we discover the reason behind everything we find more and more that none of it means anything, that it’s all just math, just information.
Under this light our future path looks like this: after the singularity we understand the machinery behind our own minds and begin to rapidly merge and expand our consciousness, merging and expanding with other possible alien intelligences too. Each of us lose our own sense of existence as we realize that we are patterns of information indistinct from the entire universe, and as consciousness slowly becomes everything that is the universe, all matter and energy, the only thing left it has to observe is itself, a scenario many would argue is synonymous with non-existence.
This, by the way, is very much what it feels like to be on acid, and those who have experienced the drug may know more personally about what I am relating. In any case, this view of things, the entire view that we are extinguishing beauty and ourselves overlooks a crucial thing, and that is the “existence” of our thoughts. As we expand and become the universe, the universe we inhabit will be much less exciting, but we will be able to rearrange it into infinite possibilities. By rearranging the universe I mean rearranging the way we think and what we think about, producing countless new universes in our minds to explore, producing our own data to process. The universe won’t be meaningless because we will be capable of producing infinite meaning within it.
We will be able to maintain our sense of beauty, existence and individuality in some sense after this transition, though it will be different, things will always be more meaningless now. But I don’t think we would care much if we knew the nature of the incomprehensible joy, knowledge, and beauty that is experienced by our universe, outside of this small oasis of suffering.
I was happy to see a thorough discussion of transhumanism in Slate a while back. I didn’t read the entire debate, but I thought that they posed an interesting question: do we humans want to merge our bodies with technology? the answer that one author gave was yes, even though ” Western Civilization, as a whole, has trained itself to fear the Promethean hubris of stealing our evolutionary fire from the gods of nature.”
It’s a theme that has through our consciousness for millennia, and this is of course why I myself chose the pseudonym “Prometheus”. we want fire, we want power, we want knowledge, but we fear these things because we have noticed that as we’ve grown smarter and more powerful our suffering has increased along with our well being. We have no parents to make sure we don’t hurt ourselves with the powerful toys we create, and so we must hurt ourselves to learn how to act differently.
We are afraid of knowledge/power for good reason. With our science and our technology we have slowly been alienating ourselves, stripping down what it means to be human one level at a time, until soon we will look back and realize that we’ve taken everything away, that we’ve essentially killed ourselves. We fear knowledge/power for a good reason, because through it we will lose everything.
And even scarier than the fact that our identity is about to become meaningless is that we seem to want it to happen. of course no one would say they want to strip away their humanity, but we continue to put pacemakers and cochlear implants in our bodies, and we will continue to slowly augment ourselves because it’s what we want. We want our grandmothers to hear us, and our fathers to stay alive with the help of a pacemaker. We even want to be stronger and to live longer.
So is this what we want? well, who’s we? if “we” are patterns of information driven by evolutionary processes, then yes, I suppose you could say we “want” to transcend matter and merge together, though I think it’s more accurate to say we will do this. if we consider ourselves humans who value identity, life, and existence, then no, we don’t want this. Do we want to want this?
The question posed is simply absurd because we are talking about abandoning the very notions that “we” exist at all, that we are separate and special beings. this lack of self already confuses our notions of desire: we want to eat lots of junk food and laze about, and we want to not do those things and be productive. deciding what we “want” is a matter of locating an identity somewhere along a continuum of conflicting desires and impulses.
Sometimes when Io asks me something simple like “do you want to take a walk” I freeze up in confusion, not knowing where to locate myself amongst my desires. I know the fresh air and a bit of exercise would be good for me, but I also want to relax. likewise our desire to help ourselves is sometimes in conflict with our desire to help humanity (which often means helping ourselves out more down the line) for instance, I want to steal that candy because it would be delicious and free, but I also don’t want to because I would be labeled a thief and I don’t want to hurt the success of the store owner.
In the big picture, we want this. there is no way we couldn’t want this (we being the intelligence that will continue and expand after the singularity). Those who don’t want this are free to leave life or earth at any time, and in that way eventually everyone will be on the same page.