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 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.