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Polytopia

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Every act of rebellion expresses a nostalgia for innocence and an appeal to the essence of being. (Albert Camus)
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    A polychronicity of futures, Leaking into reality, pervading virtuality
    Project: Polytopia
    “Reality can be beaten with enough imagination.”

    Mark Twain

    (part 1)

    A number of articles these past weeks have caught my attention as I write these words, the first, coming from: The guardian: Population of world 'could grow to 15bn by 2100' (Nearly 7 billion people now inhabit planet but projections that number will double this century have shocked academics-see here) and the second coming few days later from the NYT entitled seven billions (link).
    Both articles deal with a very real problem we are facing in the coming decades, the immense rise in planetary human population, and though the issue is anything but new, the approaches to the issue have changed are changing, and indeed must change.

    The interesting issue at play from the perspective we are exploring here in the PP discourse is the correlation to hyperconnectivity, and by extension, as technology will evolve, the rise of the global brain.

    The exploration of intense states of affairs (topos) rising in the noosphere as our numbers explode will demand (and already are) a new form of conceptualization. Though the common accepted version presently is one of convergence, of man and machine, or the rise of a network mediated global mind, the polytopia presents a complementary and different perception, one of polychronicity.

    There is very little doubt that in a few very short years, we shall turn the extensions of our minds (such as cell phones and search engines) into embedded extensions seamlessly integrated in our thought processes, such as brain machine interfaces and similar devices.

    That longevity is an inevitable fact is not the real question (though the extent of same longevity is), the harnessing of collective intelligence via crowd sourcing or other heavy handed computationally intensive machines is not in question, the motivations behind it are.
    Intelligent semi automated (and thus semi independent) agents responding to our different requests such as Siri or its just released android opposition Iris, are already here, and though their present efficiency is both questionable and dubious, their attractiveness and progression is inevitable and uncontestable.
    That to a very large extent the evolution of us as connected and augmented minds is inevitable and undisputed is not the issue at play, what is at stake is the manner and fashion this evolutionary inevitability will be exploited to bring us closer to a world we ‘really’ wish to live in.

    The world we ‘really’ wish to live in is a very difficult concept to grasp not least of which because not all of ‘us’ wish or desire to live in the ‘same’ world.
    We may ignorantly assume that ‘all of us’ desire the same basic ‘good’, implying that ethics is a universal to which all human need subjugate themselves out of a universal ethical imperative a la Kant, or indeed that all of us accept a form of utilitarianism a la Mill-Bentham, and though recently a universal brain code has been discovered (link), I do not think in any fashion that neurotypicality is as foundational as it is believed to be.

    As much as I am a strong advocate of the benefits of hyperconnectivity and the info-availability it allows us to exploit, I am also become a positive skeptic in all facets concerning the human unification procedure. Access to the world’s information in itself is totally meaningless in itself, the power and benefits of education notwithstanding, for the simple reason that unless a common ground of multiple narratives as an initial co-extensive and coexisting realism of intersubjective allowance is posited, the information is ignored.
    The issue at play is not whether a global brain will rise, it will, it already does, it will also to a certain extent be conscious, with some caveats at least at the initial stages, it will after a fashion reflect us and thus will have just as much morality as we have, an incomplete and unresolved morality, an ethic that knows not the difference between desire and necessity.

    Will Siri or Watson or any of a number of extrapolated and possible artificial intelligences have a conscience? presently they can't even talk to each other: "So Watson can’t take dictation, and Siri can’t play Jeopardy".

    Consciousness, hyperconnectivity and language

    For any person who has had the pleasure and shock of reading one of the most important books of the 20th century, namely: Julian Jaynes: The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind (see), the idea that until recently we were not conscious or at least not conscious in the same manner as we perceive ourselves to be at present, the idea of the evolution of consciousness, is not new.

    "O, what a world of unseen visions and heard silences, this insubstantial country of the mind! What ineffable essences, these touchless rememberings and unshowable reveries! And the privacy of it all! A secret theater of speechless monologue and prevenient counsel, an invisible mansion of all moods, musings, and mysteries, an infinite resort of disappointments and discoveries. A whole kingdom where each of us reigns reclusively alone, questioning what we will, commanding what we can. A hidden hermitage where we may study out the troubled book of what we have done and yet may do. An introcosm that is more myself than anything I can find in a mirror. This consciousness that is myself of selves, that is everything, and yet is nothing at all - what is it?
    And where did it come from?
    And why?"


    (excerpt from the Introduction to The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind- Here)

    The idea that consciousness is not a single artifact or phenomenon, is not personal or emergent as such, but is an extended phenomenon, across a wide range of events of a sociological and cultural nature is a work in progress that only lately has received some traction.

    We are wired for cooperation:
    “The brain was built for cooperative activity, whether it be dancing on a TV reality show, building a skyscraper or working in an office, according to new research by neuroscientists.”

    (It Takes Two: Brains Come Wired for Cooperation, Neuroscientists Discover)

    We are everybody

    “Many aspects of everyday human consciousness elude neural reduction. For we belong to a boundless, infinitely elaborated community of minds that has been forged out of a trillion cognitive handshakes over hundreds of thousands of years. This community is the theater of our daily existence. It separates life in the jungle from life in the office, and because it is a community of minds, it cannot be inspected by looking at the activity of the solitary brain.”
    (Rethinking Thinking - How a lumpy bunch of tissue lets us plan, perceive, calculate, reflect, imagine—and exercise free will.)

    Ripe for disruption- our civilization

    HG Wells urged us to domesticate the impossible with plausible assumptions- we need therefore assume (and assumptions is all there is) that the number of humans on this planet will continue to grow exponentially, that the number of connected humans and objects-things will grow and that this hyperconnectivity increases the consciousness factor of the mind of mankind.

    There is no doubt that with the advent of the hyperconnected state of affairs, with increases in nano systems, biotechnology, exascale computing, big data, and cognitive computing, the plausible assumptions with which we may domesticate the impossible need change accordingly.
    Plausible assumptions are assumptions that have enough hold in present day observable threads of actuation and yet are stretchable enough so as to allow a glimpse of things to come.
    We need these kinds of assumptions for the simple reason that the domestication of the impossible is an ART not so much of extrapolation (from immediacy) but of value estimation of changes (in immediacy).

    Hyperconnectivity as an example can be extrapolated into a global reach but needs be estimated in the values change that such a reach implies if we are to domesticate its unpredictable consequences.
    One of those estimations that change in value is the manner by which hyperconnectivity changes our brains and by implication the fashion by which our minds interpret that old concept: ‘reality’.

    The view I hold that the concept of ‘reality’ is being dramatically altered by hyperconnectivity implies a few distinct and easy to parse points, namely that:

    Assumptions about the extended narratives of our personhood as embedded cognition are mobilized in hyperconnectivity to create new ‘natures’.

    Assumptions about existence in hypercomplex systems as diminishing the freedom of the individual are mustered in hyperconnectivity to increased freedom.

    But most importantly:

    The quality of being, as an aesthetic phenomenon, is radically altered in the age of hyperconnectivity in a fashion that prominently features the art of becoming, not as the mimesis of an other that is not authentic, but in a fashion that re-describes the extended narrative of the individual into a multiplicity of authentic beings.
    These new authenticities are the new natures, performing acts of freedom that were not hitherto recognized as such, primarily because the technology needed for such freedom was not available, but also because the realm in which these freedoms prevail did not exist.

    To the conscious aware entity that we have engendered (and in so have become) in our hyperconnected infoverse, the hypercomplex system has become interesting again. And since what makes a system interesting is its capability to reach beyond its self-image, bring back new input, criticize its self-image, upgrade it, iterate it, and reach again, we have become more interesting to ourselves again, in that we have become freer.
    We are self-disrupting creatures, using our abstract capabilities to undo that which we have established for the purpose of penetrating into realms unknown; Realms that might endanger us as well as delight us, realms of freedom unknown, realms of interest, redefining not only our realities in immediacy but also our futures. These futures are operating simultaneously on many dimensions but on different speeds, hence polychronicity, and though these futures originate in virtuality, slowly but surely they leak into immediate reality, altering it in the process.

    This new reality constructed of an indefinite number of state of affairs (topos), is what the polytopia discourse is all about.

    Ten or fifteen billion minds connected to fifty and more billion things in an incredible mesh of hyperconnectivity is an unknown realm to which we have no clue but much desire to explore.

    “There is no point in using the word 'impossible' to describe something that has clearly happened.”

    Douglas Adams, Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency


    Shortly to be expanded..


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