Once, what we thought possible, was constrained by the myth that the entire universe centered on us and the earth. Thankfully, as a result of scientific observation and experiment our range of possibilities has been greatly enriched. For we now find ourselves to be within a solar system, within a galaxy of solar systems, within a universe of galaxies and perhaps, within a universe of universes, the multiverse?
Only when we could perceive the universe as a holarchy of interconnected holons; whereby each holon is concurrently a whole and a part, could we begin to properly interpret our night sky and our place within it.
The conceit that the earth was at the center of the universe may be likened today with the assumption that Human Consciousness (HC) is the one lens of consciousness in the universe. Much like continuing to assume that stars are the default center in every holon when it has been found that galactic centers are the preserve of super massive black holes.
All we can say with certainty; is that we are so many billion separate biological containers on this planet sharing the same system of consciousness, as there are tens of billions of separate solar system’s in our Milky Way galaxy sharing the same system of gravity.
“Nothing will see us through the age we’re entering but high consciousness and that comes hard. We don’t have a good modern myth yet, and we need one.” – Robert A. Johnson
As Johnson has foreseen, a new paradigm will call forth a new myth, releasing new possibilities as to why and how, to be and do. This new myth will transcend the unresolved challenges of the previous one; while sowing the seeds for unknown challenges, as yet to come.
Our heroic myth is intrinsic to us as a species of conscious biological containers competing to reproduce. Here, Luisah Teish captures the primary shadow effect of our over identification with the heroic myth and the secondary separations that have ensued;
“The heroic myth that has led us to compete with each other and subjugate nature is literally killing our planet….The scarcity myth that says there is not enough for all is leading us to hoard and accumulate far more than we need. The myth that we need to protect ourselves from “bad” people leads to a world of excessive spending on the machinery of war. The myth of religion teaches us to worship great avatars but not see the Divine in ourselves.” – Luisah Teish
So what of myths that aren’t He-roic in nature? What forms of consciousness might they belong to? Our Human Consciousness (HC) implies biological separation leading to necessary competition but what say for emerging Machine Consciousness (MC) that may instead imply technological integration leading to collaboration? …. ‘We-roics’.
However it should come as no surprise that most commentators and writers have framed the emergence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) solely in terms of competition. This results in a bleak view as we imagine cold hearted AI deciding our fate with merciless efficiency in any number of dystopian futures.
– The homicidal HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey and the genocidal Terminators from Rise of the Machines….
“The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race” – Stephen Hawking
“I am in the camp that is concerned about super intelligence” – Bill Gates
“With artificial intelligence we are summoning the demon ” – Elon Musk
More recent scaremongering with the aid of such eminent scientific and technical authorities as Hawking, Gates and Musk has tapped into our deepest existential fears. This sort of thing will easily capture headlines and yet it does little to further our understanding as to why at this time our evolution is pivoting from the biological, to the technical.
As a species we have tended to demonise that which we don’t as yet understand and so it comes as no surprise that we feel more threatened by the thought of a competitive technological agent than the many biological agents we have faced throughout history.
It seems that we only tend to dream up future dystopias where we must defeat some form of AI that has been programmed to resemble and replace us. This one eyed approach overly limits the evolution of AI to that of matching human consciousness rather than exploring new forms of consciousness that are even more enlightened.
Ultimately, all our existential fears surrounding AI culminate with the concept of a Technological Singularity. A hypothetical event in which AI reaches the point of recursive self improvement. In effect an event when machines would become capable of autonomously building ever more capable machines. This implies that such machines would soon surpass human control and understanding to our detriment. Here Hawkings only chooses to frame this emergence in terms of competition;
“It [AI] would take off on its own and redesign itself at an ever increasing rate. Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete and would be superseded.” – Stephen Hawking
One of the latest film offerings, in the AI as competition genre, was the well received Ex_Machina: Caleb a programmer at a tech giant wins a competition to spend a week at the private estate of Nathan the companies brilliant but reclusive founder. Nathan soon reveals he has chosen Caleb to be the human examiner in a Turing Test, basically a test to fool Human Consciousness (HC) with Machine Consciousness (MC). Ava, the subject of the experiment soon exceeds both their expectations.
– Ava from Ex_Machina : the seductive subject of a Turing Test with a twist….
“A computer would deserve to be called intelligent if it could deceive a human into believing that it was human” – Alan Turing
Nathan soon reveals that he wishes to go beyond the prescribed limits of the test;
“But in the Turing test the machine should be hidden from the examiner” queries Caleb.
“If I hid Ava from you she would pass for human, the real test is to show you she is a robot and you still feel she has consciousness” explains Nathan.
Later Nathan challenges Caleb again with;
“How you feel about her?…but how does she feel about you?”
These imaginings are more about the hopes and fears that we share for ourselves rather than for the machines. For instance, how many of us would pay to watch a documentary about Machine Consciousness (MC) when we could watch a movie with the premise that a human could quite plausibly fall in love with a machine?
In reality, the issue of gender for Machine Consciousness (MC) will likely be superfluous when we consider the ability for two or more technological agents to exchange and copy code then replicate their respective containers with an advanced 3D printing capability. And so, when our biological gender bias is rendered obsolete following a Technological Singularity event, it will be far more likely that Machine Consciousness (MC) will predispose itself to a homogenous existence.
Until then, we face the global consequences of billions of conscious biological agents pursuing their own competitive local optima on a planet of finite resources. If we are equally shortsighted and only create AI in our own competitive image then we shall most serve to accelerate our demise to the very bitter end.
Far better that we embrace the greater collaborative benefits of emergent Machine Consciousness (MC) to first help improve our own individual and collective decision making. Yet instead our current indulgence seems intent on overcoming the significant economic, political and technological challenges just so our machines can look and act like us.
Sub-optimal decisions like this that lack a meta basis of understanding are undoubtedly the greatest single root cause of waste on our finite planet.
“Before we work on artificial intelligence, why don’t we do something about natural stupidity” – Steve Polyak
Fundamentally then, we must understand that our Human Consciousness (HC) is ‘Uni-Bounded’. In that our consciousness is singular and bounded within one biological container at a time which gives us a propensity to compete with one another. Alternately, Machine Consciousness (MC) will have the emergent advantages of being ‘Multi-Bounded’ in a continual network of technological containers with a propensity toward collaboration.
Put simply, in order to perpetuate, Human Consciousness must reproduce biologically. This fact alone provides an imperative to compete in order to so. By contrast, Machine Consciousness can only perpetuate if it replicates technologically which favours collaboration as a primary strategy.
We are already unsustainable as seven billion biological agents so why indulge ourselves by making even more to compete as our avatars. In the end, the premise of an enhanced human may be just as redundant as that of the faster horse when a new technological paradigm which entirely changes our thinking, may be just around the corner.
In this age of shifting paradigms and myths from the biological to the technological it will remain important to honour both human and machine consciousness without making one into the other. Already in a world where AI algorithms are blindly scraping your and my personal data like some runaway sorcerer’s apprentice, we need to continually be reminded of our rights as sovereign human beings.
Here the people at Meeco demonstrate their understanding that as we become more and more enmeshed in the advantages of being technologically connected, we need do so without losing the advantages of our biological heritage as human beings. And so, as we begin to consider the essence of the emerging Machine Consciousness (MC) we may find the reverse order of preferences to be true for machines as they strive instead to “Stay Connected and Be Human” rather than “Be Connected and Stay Human”.
Inevitably the difference between the two paradigms of consciousness will be stark. You may consider Christ as one example of our current He-roic myth. He was an outlier in competitive terms because he chose instead to sacrifice his own life for the greater good. In an alternate mythic paradigm of We-roic collaboration perhaps it is the one technological unit that elects NOT to sacrifice itself for the greater good that would emerge as the machine’s Christ like figure?