We are heading toward a truly mind boggling future. It won’t happen abruptly, but like the frog that is placed in a pot on the stove it will happen before we are aware of what is happening. I am talking about the increasing connectivity that will evolve into technologically enabled telepathy.
We have demonstrated in the past that anything that we can imagine we can build. What is more important, not only can we build it, but there is no effective way to prevent it from being developed. Furthermore, the speed with which we can develop new technology is accelerating at an exponential rate.
This has the potential for unprecedented good but at the same time it has almost as great a potential for unbelievable evil. We can only hope that the quality of communication increases such that empathy tips the scales in favor of good outcomes. The challenge we may find ourselves facing is how do we deal with people that are empathy impaired? And furthermore, who hasn’t found themselves overwhelmed by the suffering of others to the extent that they withdraw? Empathy is for a time suspended in a kind of self defense mechanism.
This leads to another concern. When we are so interconnected that we can communicate with potentially everyone else how will we keep from being overwhelmed by the enormity of the stream of information flowing to and from and through us. Will we be aware, as individuals, of the larger issues that the collective mind is contemplating or will we only be aware of the issues that are being considered locally?
We don’t understand how our brains organize the billions of neurons that comprise them into an organized whole that embodies a sense of self. How can we possibly conceive of the meta-self that will arise from the swarm mind that will be enabled by direct Brain Machine Interface?
And this doesn’t even acknowledge the fact that with computers in the mix as mental prostheses, we may find ourselves facing the brave new world of non-human emergent artificial general intelligence. Will we control it or will it control us? Or, more likely, will we merge with it to become an even more powerful meta-intelligence?
These sound like the crazed ravings of a science fiction obsessed nerd but the fact is if we don’t think about these issues now, we will find ourselves waking up to the emergent reality. As much as we can’t put the Geni of the internet back in the bottle, we won’t be able to put the Geni of high bandwidth human machine interfaces back into the bottle either. We need to have these conversations now while we can still steer the outcome in a favorable direction.
Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.