This is so Easy! I can just have this guy explain it. It’s quite long, so perhaps save it for a time when you need to procrastinate for 42 minutes. It’s great though, I promise, and this guy presents everything so much better than I ever could. I wish I could get my hands on the pictures he used in his presentation.
The main message is our values will not survive this transition. I’m not sure I completely agree with him on that, but like I said, he’s got great pictures to back himself up (even if they are frustratingly one-off in the video).
People interested in the singularity love fitting the singularity into some sweeping conception of time, and I am no exception. Many focus on the topic of information or energy and our growing mastery of it. Others do exactly what I am about to do: frame the evolution of life on earth in terms of convergence. Let us begin:
In the beginning the earth was a very hot rock. There is no point at which the earth took shape, it was a gradual convergence of dust into a large ball which trapped a lot of energy in its core. This is the case for all convergences: they are gradual, yet we talk of them as if they are a point (like finding the point on an exponential curve where the line looks vertical). keep this in mind as I talk about each convergence as if it was a point in time. anyway, we generally agree that the earth is about 4.5 billion years old.
4 billion years ago, the first cell appeared. The first “life” was probably free floating RNA, self replicating molecules in a simple string. Some of this RNA became DNA and found a home inside a sphere of phospholipids, which form a sphere naturally because one end of a phospholipid is hydrophobic and the other is hydrophilic. This was the nature of the first cell, our ancestor. It was simply code inside a membrane.
2 billion years after the first cells formed, eukaryotic cells formed. These cells came about from the convergence of simpler prokaryotic cells, which came to be the organalles of eukaryotic cells, little cells which perform specialized functions such as providing energy, handling waste, or producing proteins. Each small cell lost its identity and became a part of a whole.
1 billion years after eukaryotic cells first appeared on this planet, many eukaryotic cells converged and formed multicellular organisms. Once more, each individual began to perform specialized functions, losing identity and becoming part of a whole. At this point you may notice that “multicellular” does not have much meaning, as eukaryotic cells themselves are composed of multiple cells. The first multicellular life to appear were colonies of algae.
500 million years after the first simple multicellular life appeared, complex multicellular life exploded on this planet. This started with large, stationary filter feeders, and quickly gave way to animal life, amongst many other kinds of life. These organisms could do novel things such as produce shells and fur, turning dead matter into a valuable part of the organism.
After complex multicellular life erupted on this planet, things get, well, complicated. I can point out so-called “superorganisms,” such as bees, where each “individual” is not an individual at all, but rather a cell in a larger organism. each bee is an exact clone of most every other, with only the queen having reproductive power. I would prefer to skip forward to the next convergence which is significant to us.
500 million years after the first complex life formed on this planet, and about 40 years beyond the present time, one species, Homo sapiens (by the way, we aren’t one species, we are composed of many species of bacteria too) will consciously gain a mastery of the matter that composes its bodies and the information that composes its minds, and very, very quickly converge into one being, an intelligence with the power to rearrange matter into any imaginable state. Once more, each individual will lose its identity, perform a specialized function, and become a part of a whole. This is the end to our evolution as we know it: from then on we will be in control of our own code.
I hope you have noticed the exponential nature of this process. With each new convergence, life gets better at converging, and thus each subsequent convergence was met in about half the time of the previous process. The model isn’t perfect, and I’ve rounded off some numbers to fit into the scheme better, but there are many variables in a system as complicated as a planet. The general curve is apparent though, and it is certainly interesting to see where we fit in it.
As I mentioned in the introduction, Psyche is the greek god/word for the mind or soul. “Psychesingularity” therefore means the convergence of minds/souls into a singular entity. I argue in this blog that the most significant aspect of the technological singularity is the convergence of individual human identities into one, the formation of the superconsciousness of the human race. This is where my argument begins.
The human brain is composed of a bunch of neurons. The approximate number is irrelevent, as we can’t comprehend numbers that large anyway. These neurons, using basic physical laws, send pulses of information to other neurons. I say pulses of information, but the pulses do not contain information so much as they are the information. In terms of computer science, a pulse can be considered “1” and the lack of a pulse “0”. a neuron responds to pulses based on the pattern they exhibit: a quick succession followed by slower pattern, or endless other possibilities.
Conscious experience emerges from these patterns. This is a fact which many cannot accept: instead consciousness, or the “soul” must be something more mysterious, more energy like, or more quantum. From what I have felt about consciousness, this is not the case. Consciousness to me seems to be an accumulation of experience and thoughts. the idea of the “self” is a thought which we carry with us almost constantly, except in rare transcendent moments.
In any case, all of these different experiences that we call consciousness can be boiled down to patterns of information. these patterns of information have become so complex that they process other patterns: our conscious mind is a small part of our brain collecting information from all other parts of the brain, processing it, and feeding information back. in a sense we are a small bit of brain matter which evolved in our species to perform the valuable task of monitoring the many separate systems in the increasingly large human brain. this small bit of processing power was so effective in it’s job and so good at processing information into symbols that it produced a symbol for itself, and began to “think” that it was not only the entire brain, but the entire body.
This sense of individuality is very strong in us, but we have nothing to prove it, nothing that separates the matter that composes our bodies and minds from “others.” As a result, many people over time have come to regard individuality and the self as illusory. While most would not go this far, the loss of individuality is considered the height of religious experience for many people (and the essence of psychedelic experience).
Projects are quickly developing to simulate the human brain. These ventures raise much skepticism in people who believe that we don’t understand the brain nearly as well as we think we do. Skepticism aside, in the near future an accurate brain simulation will exist and with enough tweaking and processing it will match humans in any task. Even before then our computers will outmatch us in individual tasks such as face and voice recognition, driving, organizing, and theorizing.
People are talking about using the upcoming technology of brain simulation to upload their mind. this process could involve the slow process of removing small systems of neurons, simulating them, and routing the output back to the brain. theoretically, no experience would change as the person slowly became a computer. The thing is, replacing your brain with a circuit board doesn’t make you a computer, it affirms what you’ve always been. The same process can (more easily) be applied to the human body, a gradual merger with technology starting with pacemakers and hearing aids and ending up as a robot.
We are struggling to grapple with consciousness and computers. When people debate about what is going on inside a computer, however, they do not use the word “conscious,” they use the word “intelligence,” a distinction which only serves to make us feel less creeped out about our computers. Back in the day, it was thought that when a computer could beat a man at chess, then it would be “intelligent”. when this did happen, we set new standards. one of these is the Turing test, wherein a computer holds a conversation (probably with text) with a person, and if after a certain time the person decides if the computer is human or machine. If it tricks the human, then it’s “intelligent”. The thing about this test is it’s time dependent. A computer could already fool me for a few seconds, but try a life time. Anyway, the point is that many people have trouble accepting that consciousness is a sliding scale, and some people will not accept that computers are conscious until they look in a mirror and see this staring back:
So, if you accept that you are indeed a robot and a computer, what does this mean for you and your psyche? Well, a robot can be mass produced, and computers have no identity. When all of your thought patterns can been reduced to information; transmitted, multiplied, lost, transformed, corrupted, and destroyed, what sense of “you” can be retained?
The singularity will expose our construction of our “selfs” as purely that: a construction, but that does not mean that the construction will therefore collapse, that we will cease to exist; it merely means we will regard ourselves quite differently.
If a neuron sends information based on a set of information it receives, how are we different than neurons? We as a human species constitute a brain, a superconsciousness which will erupt with the technological singularity. through technology and our mastery of information we will experience others’ experiences in completely real ways. Just as a small part of our brain read information from the larger brain and body and believed it was the brain and body, we will experience other’s information so directly (even their thoughts) that we will think we are them. Everyone will think they are everyone else, and so we will be one. This is precisely what is meant by “psychesingularity”.