“Let’s say we have an ant hill in the middle of the forest. And right next to the ant hill, they’re building a ten-lane super-highway. And the question is “Would the ants be able to understand what a ten-lane super-highway is? Would the ants be able to understand the technology and the intentions of the beings building the highway next to them?”
I woke up this morning and decided to reply to that post after several months...not sure why, other than I woke up with a certain phrasing around the issue, so this is not about eLearning...but I also hardly blog anyway...also responding to posts on Artificial Superintelligence Part 1 and Part 2 vaguely.
Why that analogy? Imagine, instead, that your consciousness is an ant riding on the car riding on a ten-lane super-highway, instead of next to it. An integrated unit, much like your body. How would it seem to you? How would that over-consciousness communicate with you? Well, how do you communicate with an individual cell in your body? You don’t, consciously. Thus, you could well be involved, like our ants, in a system of consciousness that you can only glimpse in the slightest of anomalies or sensed at the odd moment in the mind. Do the individual cells of your body understand their role in the greater whole? If all of reality is what can be comprehended on the level of individual egos, are you not perhaps taking the same philosophical view as the ant or the individual cell in your body? What if the ego is a level of consciousness that is aware of its own existence but uncommunicative directly with other levels of consciousness? We are now deducing that there may be other parallel universes, so we are sensing an anomaly in our universe. Thus, we would have, on one hand, the “God Delusion,” and on the other, the “Ego Delusion.” Perhaps the best we can conceive at this level of consciousness is a space in between the two that inspires “goodness” regardless of one’s cosmology. The conception would mean that all the world religions are “anomalous experiences” for the ego that would indicate that there are higher levels of consciousness. That conception would also mean that individual anomalous experiences are also significant and not just tricks of the mind. That conception would also mean that the individual ego must not project its own self-concept onto its known universe. It could be likely that there is an actual planetary consciousness affecting individual egos and a universal consciousness affecting individual egos more distantly and then levels of consciousness beyond that equally self-aware and unable to communicate directly between levels. So, congratulations, you may already be immortal, just not how your ego wants to be. You can expand (or reject) the significance of this thought in any number of ways, obviously. Certainly, it cuts against the snobbery of modernity while perhaps acting as a fortification against the worst aspects of humanity that are only abetted by technology and perhaps an obvious bridge between so-called creationists and so-called evolutionists. It would also make our allegiance to any foundational belief or recognizable identity seem petty (“Oh, you think red ants are so superior to black ants? You’re an ant!”). Perhaps this would also explain Fermi’s paradox with an almost dismissive wave of the hand: why are you looking to the heavens and not studying the anomalies here for indications of greater levels of consciousness?
So, from this perspective, I’m actually not worried about Artificial Superintelligence (ASI) being achieved. We may be able to re-create the functioning of an ego via artificial intelligence, and that re-creation may teach us something about the limits of our own self-understanding. It may even create something greater than the ego’s self-conception, but for it to somehow start re-making the universe would mean essentially from our level of consciousness that we create a “God Machine.” I don’t think that is any more likely to happen in the near future than a horseman flying through the sky indicating a different apocalypse.