Free Falling into Abstraction of Consciousness
We are on the precipice of a new abstraction of consciousness. A critical junction in the evolution of mankind. The technologies of Artificial Intelligence (AI), genetic modifications, quantum computing, surgical implants, and virtual realities are building the components for humans to enter an alternative form of reality. Shows like WestWorld only scratch the surface of what it means.
A comparable moment in history is when money began to circulate, representing an abstraction of the underlying value of goods. The first known use of a form of money was in China around 1100 BC and involved small replicas of goods cast in bronze. King Alyattes of Lydia in modern-day Turkey was the first known ruler to mint an actual coin. By 1250AD the use of money was prevalent in Europe, driving explosive growth in trade.
Interestingly, this time period of the rise of the use of money coincided with St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226) and his warnings about money and power, resulting in relationships between the person and an object. St. Francis argued against the rising production-consumption economy and its focus on usability, functionality, and self-interest. Arguably, we began to lose our experience of inherent enjoyment for a thing in itself, as itself, and even by itself. Instead, we focus funds on gathering resources and power over one another.
Before we launch too far, it should be noted that consciousness itself, the one we currently possess, is really an abstraction of the reality around us. Our minds interpret the signals it receives through our senses to interpret our environment in a way that enhances our ability to survive. We fill in many gaps in our reality based on the electromagnetic signals (light waves) we receive. An organism sensitive to only the strong and weak forces of quantum physics would perceive a very different world than us. Even stranger, an organism not based on matter, but energy, may not even perceive our concept of time, or at least a greatly distorted understanding of time relative to us.
Today, we are stepping towards another layer of abstraction of reality, an abstraction of consciousness derived from the original, possibly a subset or maybe a path to something greater. A type of abstraction of consciousness based on the values of mankind. Our bias and assumptions about the world would form a foundation for the new consciousness. Our interest in independence and assumption of a scarcity of resources would transfer over to the new abstraction of consciousness. If you think of the two political parties in the US as two collective consciousnesses, inhabiting two different realities, you begin to get the picture.
Would a Silicon Life Possess All Money?
Maybe an example will help. Assume that AI improves to the point where a silicon-based individual become conscious. For simplicity let’s assume it says it is conscious and we accept it to be true. (Consciousness is a notoriously difficult thing to define) Furthermore, let’s say this conscious machine has specific skills that are in high demand. Something like the ability to accurately predict the movement of stocks one week in advance of their actual movement.
In the above example, what do we do? Does the developer of the machine simply own the conscious machine and rake in unlimited amounts of cash? Is this enslavement? Does the developer replicate and sell the conscious machine, again raking in billions of dollars? Is this slavery? Does the conscious silicon life become autonomous with its own rights, defensible in a court of law? What happens if this autonomous silicon person chooses to enrich itself at the expense of organic people, in another word – us? Do we become slaves to it as it manipulates the political process with the money it now possesses?
What if the conscious nature of the machine is attained by uploading a human consciousness into it? Just think how valuable you could become! But, do you need a benevolent host that promises not the shut you off? Have you sold your soul, literally? Are you now a slave to making money? Is it really that different from your current role as you work to pay off the car, house and last vacation? What do you do with all that money when the material world has become irrelevant to you (other than access to the energy to run your systems and parts to make you work).
Today our egos are strong. We value independence, ridicule those who require handouts, punish those who resort to desperate measures because of their situation. This view breeds greed, prejudice, and inaction in the face of atrocities. To transfer this attitude of independence into another type of conscious world is to bring all our problems into that world. If we remain separate in a new consciousness we invite a view of scarcity to follow us, requiring the hoarding of resources and war for power within a new reality.
Alternatively, if this new consciousness allows the self to diminish and we become one, something greater, then scarcity goes away and we can work together. We will give and receive without worry for what is mine and what is yours. But, given our current effort to gain power, I remain doubtful.
Engage in Our Self-Creating World
We need to start moving past the dualistic thinking of today if we are going to build something greater than ourselves.