THE FUTURE IS RUSHING UPON US
We're in for a wild ride. Exponentially accelerating technological, cultural, and socioeconomic evolution means that every year will see more developments than the previous one. More change will happen between now and 2050 than during all of humanity's past. Let's explore the 21st century and ride this historic wave of planetary transition with a confident open mind.
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Majority of transhumanists in the English speaking world often fancy that the future will continue becoming increasingly hyperindividualistic and that cybernetics will accelerate the process of divergence in pleasures, values, and modes of being due to divergence in vessels in which the human minds will find themselves. Considering the speeding up in fragmentation of cultural trends in Western culture (think of the duration and intensity of memes and trends in either music, film genres, activism, or even politics), such predictions sound like a safe bet. However, a couple of factors contribute to possible emergence of integrated collectivism the likes of which could not have been imagined before. Brain to computer interface communication is one such factor that is worth exploring. Let's discuss it systematically.
The last few years have brought great strides in the field of brain to computer interface. Paralyzed patients are now able to control cursors on computer screens with their thoughts and to type by thinking letters. Although much better communication between the brain and a machine's computer can be established through physical insertion of a net of carbon nanotube receivers straight into the brain tissue, increasingly it appears there is no need for that in many cases. The human brain waves have a frequency high enough to penetrate the skull and be read by ever more sensitive receivers on the scalp.
mind controlling a robotic arm to feed itself and a monkey managing to move robotic legs on a treadmill by just thinking about it. It is necessary to emphasize that brain action in regards to use of the internet and non-humanoid machines can be very different than brain action in control of neuroprosthetic limbs. In the latter, the existing neural hardware is the source for outgoing brain signals and replaces missing/immobilized phantom limbs with mechanical ones while working in familiar territory. Whereas in the former, it is an unfamiliar territory and the brain has to be continuously exercised to create sufficient new neural connections and get an ever expanding stream of signals to operate programs that have little in common with human hardware.
As an example of the less familiar brain to computer interface, lets take a person's brainwaves "flying" an object (say a virtual airplane) through a simulation reality. This already exists by the way and you can get headsets allowing you to do so. At first the airplane spins wildly but the person realizes that he can steer it left when utilizing his right hemisphere and stir it to the right when utilizing the left. Frontal and posterior regions can do the up and down. The program understands the brain layout and thus utilizes it as a framework for 360 3D control. Obviously to think of math, lyrics, art, etc to control an object sounds insanely inefficient in comparison to neuroprosthetic method of thinking of moving a left thumb, right thumb, left foot, right foot, etc.
The issue here is not the development of the quickest simplest "universal remote thought control" (URTC) to control first a virtual object and then a real physical object in the form of a machine that is either attached to the body, is a short distance away, or is on the other side of the world. The issue is to create an easy to learn/use plug and play control mechanism that will have an almost non-existent lag in comparison to person's normal reflexes. Sure, we might at first have to create a simple internationally used URTC (think a simplified virtual keyboard for your brain to control a great number of programs from computer operating systems to lawn mowers to transport construction robots).
It now becomes more apparent that there are a number of possible thought control methods (with those relying on the most newly evolved linguistic parts of the brain being perhaps the slowest and least efficient). The linguistic thinking process may be enough for just communication (thinking up a word instead of typing it) but not for high speed and reliable manipulation of machinery. For that the more reptilian/ancient reflex oriented brain parts are probably needed.
Yes, but what does this have to do with emergence of possible collectivism?
If you consider that eventually, the total neural signal output will be captured, you'll see that this data can then be stored, streamed, modified, etc. In essence, the ability to read the total output will allow to fully record a person's experience as it happens and thus allow external storage of such experiences (memories). Reverse engineering of the total one way communication from the brain to machine will enable a total one way communication from machine to the brain. This means that the memories recorded from one person in real time can be stored and then played for another person.
We can conceptualize subcultures and religious sects where the members share the memories to such a degree that they increasingly relate more and more to each due to the fact of them increasingly becoming each other. Even without such inclination to overly share, we can see a youtube type sharing of thousands of key memories by millions of individuals who become one without really trying to do so. Rather than continue becoming individualized, the process will begin to revert itself as people from around the world gradually melt into one giant increasingly homogeneous collective. The more they become one the more that will influence which memories they seek out next which just accelerates the process. Of course since there are a number of different psychological breeds among humans, such process should result in a number of increasingly polarized collectives within one loosely integrated global one. After all, there would be thousands of hours of exciting memories yet not enough time to watch them all. Person's cultural, educational, psychological background would decide.