I read another article tonight called Hive consciousness. It got me thinking, and, though it didn’t start out that way, my writings here seem a follow-on article to my post Undreamt Networks.
Storytelling allowed humanity to shift from reactionary bag of meat into a foresightful bag of meat. Instead of only responding to sensory stimulus, we can decide whether we’ll respond.
And we use our pattern matching to know that these prints in the dirt, along with the broken branches, mean that prey has been through here.
We told ourselves stories when we thought of the hunt. That our prey was in search of water, since there’s a stream nearby, and we can catch them there now.
Because we got the dopamine reenforcement when those stories were correct, or dopamine withheld when those stories were wrong, we told ourselves stories more often. We got better at storytelling with that feedback loop.
Seeing the future is something we easily do. We’ve modified the world around us more than any other creature in history, thanks to our predictions.
This has huge ties to the ideas in the Ishmael books by Daniel Quinn. They changed my perspective and outlook a lot, so I enjoy the opportunity to integrate it with other material.
According to research mentioned in the article, when the hemispheres of our brain are split in two, we form two personalities. One in each hemisphere. When connected via the corpus callosum, as is normal, a single personality takes stage. The personality that we know and are familiar with. Running on dual cores. A whole greater than the pieces.
Or the pieces might fall apart. It might only be temporary, by anesthetizing one half of the brain, but that’s enough to create a new personality which operates on the single hemisphere, the single core.
Our consciousness expands to fill all the available space, like gas in a container.
So if we connect many brains together, there should emerge a consciousness that’s more than the sum of the pieces. But the brains must be connected with low latency and high bandwidth. And with the extra grey matter, the consciousness should adapt. The individual subsumed by the larger personality powered by the larger resources.
Once we connect a hundred brains, a personality different from all of those hundred, individual minds will exist. When one brain is disconnected from that larger group-brain, the personality shifts some. Changes. It adapts to the neurons it has available. Still an “individual”; just not one we’ve ever known.
The article asks us to think of what safe guards we’ll need. One jumped out at me as I red the end of the article: we need to ensure that we, as we currently are, the individual person we are before we hook into the group, exist, on our own, for at least part of the day. In order to keep our personalities, to some degree, there must be time limits on how long you can be part of the hive.
Then again, what happens when the interface has a hiccup? Our brains experience sleep, seizures, blackouts, and hangovers. Our technology experiences obsolescence, hard restarts, lag, and out-of-memory exceptions.
Will we have schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder, and gambling addiction, and stage fright when we have more grey matter? I’m willing to bet there’s a whole range of disorders and phobias that only manifest when operating with more cores. In the same way that a beetle doesn’t have OCD, and a single-threaded program doesn’t need concurrency.
Is personality like a muscle? If you don’t exercise it, does it weaken? If we are attached to the group for years straight, and then disconnect, will our regular personality still exist? Will it be there waiting for us to return? As if we’d just parked a car at the airport and it’s ready to drive when we return?
Does connecting to a hive mind, and experiencing the thoughts through the larger consciousness change our brain and alter our singular personality? Perhaps just by connecting to it, we’re changing our regular self.
But this is weird. Some times you’ll exist. And other times you’ll disappear into the brainsoup of the collective brain. And even that hive mind doesn’t have its own, fixed personality. Adding or removing you from the pool changes it. The personality would be likely be chaotic and shifting. Is that even a way for a consciousness to successfully exist?
Perhaps it’ll tear itself apart through flux. Or, the consciousness will never come to know boredom and be able to focus orders-of-magnitude better than we can, since we can become content and accustomed to our surroundings, which wouldn’t happen with this constantly shifting of consciousness.
What Is Self?
Why do we even care about the notion of our self being who we truly are? Is it just romantic? It’s already fleeting, in that our self is gone when we die.
Additionally, the self is only the way it is thanks to the chance of being born, the experiences we have, and fortune of being restricted to two hemispheres of one brain.
As long as we have a consciousness, isn’t that perfectly fine? We can be part of the larger mind and still be just as much alive as when we’re solo. Perhaps even more alive in the group, by unlocking new potentials.
This solo self is all we’ve known though. And the uncertainty is frightening. It’s something we’ll confront though. Some people won’t ever consider it. Others would rather never go back.
Could We Go Back?
Maybe once you’re connected, there’s no way to know the other side. Maybe you can’t even remember there’s a “smaller” person waiting for your grey matter when it’s unplugged from all the others. Unless you’re forced to disconnect. Or you’re told about it.
And you can “know” that idea as fact even if you can’t “grasp” and “feel” and “understand” it. In the same way that I know other people exist and are their own beings as real and complete and alive as I am, but I can’t know, feel, or understand what that truly means. Empathy isn’t Knowing.
The Mutable Self
Or perhaps, everything is relative, and the personality is fragile, mutable, and malleable, like we’d never expect it to be.
After all, which of us has the same personality as we had at age 5, or 15, or 25? Or even a year ago? We’re a person who exists in a single body and single consciousness. But that definition of “single” only makes sense at a high-enough vantage point.
Our current body has none of the same cells it had when we were born. If you look closer and closer, the atomic self becomes the quantum foam of age, location, and experience. We’re no longer the same cells as at birth. We’re no longer the same personality as when a child.
How do we perceive that the person in the past is Us? Sharing memories of that child and sharing the same genes as the baby gives us the ability to say we’re still that person.
When we come to share knowledge, ideas, feelings, and memories with more grey matter at a lower latency and higher bandwidth, over a longer period of time, perhaps that will be what we consider our true self.
Going forward, we’ll fill out the galaxy of being and form asteroids, planets, suns, neutron stars, and black holes of consciousness. The genetics will fade to irrelevant.
A Drop in the Cosmos
Can we connect rat brains and use them to think human thoughts? Are there some algorithms or thoughts that we can only experience when we’ve got access to 20,000 brainpower under a single hood? What happens to those of us who won’t or can’t be part of that?
Will our species split? The nautilus has existed for hundreds of millions of years. It’s not the exact creature it was then, but it’s pretty damn close.
This may be what Arthur C. Clark in his Space Odyssey book series and Christopher Nolan in his Interstellar film allude to. A kind of being we can’t comprehend.
The neuron is not itself aware, even though what it comprises is aware, even of that individual neuron.
Perhaps there is room for humanity as we know it today, even if some become a different beast. Unless we keep the trend of total war, in which case only one will survive.