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    Levels of Convergence
    By Renata Lemos, Lucia Santaella
    Full Article

    Metanexus Conference
    Subject, Self, and Soul:
    Transdisciplinary Approaches to Personhood
    July 13 – 17, 2008

    1 Introduction

    We are living in an unique time in the history of humanity. This moment, this turning point, is unprecedented. In order to face the new possibilities of our future it is of utmost importance to be prepared to make wise choices about how will we shape our future as a new technologically enhanced and driven species. Science has taken us this far, but complexity has shown us that science alone will not take us much further. Technology has pervaded each and every aspect of our lives, to a point in which it has gotten literally beneath our skins. Many edifices are falling apart.

    It is not only about a paradigm shift. It is about a much more profound kind of shift, one that alters dramatically our ideas, our values, our bodies, our perceptions, everything and every aspect of human life. In these times of transition, we must try to bridge the gap between disciplines, find a common language that fosters cooperation, and most importantly, open our minds to fresh and daring perspectives. As we do so, trying to catch up with the overwhelming speed of the winds of change, hopefully we will contribute to a better understanding of the challenges that lie ahead.

    8 Conclusion

    The essence of reality lies hidden in the intersection of life and its material platform, of intelligence and its vehicle; of mind and its material embodiment. NBIC convergence begins to approach this complex interface. We are witnessing the emergence of a technontology (Lemos et al., 2007), which within the context of transdisciplinarity (Nicolescu, 2001), operates a new kind of ontic convergence.

    We are unveiling the hidden codes and structures of matter; penetrating underneath the surface of what seems solid and finding out how fluid matter really is. Nature seems more and more to operate according to an ensemble of codes, much like the codes that enable computer technologies. Nature is literally a “system of systems”, and so we find ourselves as “systems within systems” (Bunge, 2003). We can only approach levels in relation to systems, be they material or conceptual. It is the nature of the code which gives structure to all systems and determines the boundaries of each level of reality.

    Previous boundaries between levels of reality become permeable, thus the lines separating levels of reality begin to blur. The only line of separation which seems to remain is found in the juxtaposition of mind and matter. Mapping the interface between mind and matter is probably the greatest scientific challenge of our times. However, even the distance between cognitive levels of reality and material levels of reality becomes shorter in the context of converging technologies.

    Hybrid cognitive interfaces represent a possible new level of convergence between matter and mind. Converging technologies act as a bridge between natural and artificial systems of information processing. Such cognitive integration is technological and is happening in many levels simultaneously, as it can be seen, for example, in the interactive behavioral patterns of populations in digital virtual worlds (Ascott, 2003); in the “intelligentification” of objects through RFID technologies (Floridi, 2002); in the biologically-inspired nano robotic cognitive architectures (Bernstein et al., 2006); and finally in the possibility of direct quantum computation and programming within all kinds of material structures (Lloyd, 2006).

    Technological convergence is taking place at an accelerating speed (Kurzweil, 2005) and it is changing our inner and outer landscapes. The concepts of information and meaning are omnipresent in this process. Convergence happens through a process of simultaneous coding and decoding. The evolution of AI is of particular importance in this context, because through the engineering of artificial systems that can act according to rational principles, a new kind of reductionism appears. Intelligence could a priori be reduced to a computational capacity, resulting in the controversy around the possibility of Strong AI. Introducing AI elements into nano neural applications is the seed of hybrid forms of intelligence, which would be mediated or established through NBIC integration.

    Intelligent artificial interference within biological systems establishes a principle of trans-interoperability between organic and digital levels of reality. Trans-interoperability between biological and non-biological systems, in order to perform a common task or function, allows communication and therefore enables active interference across levels. Trans-interoperability expresses technologically what Peirce´s principle of continuity has expressed ontologically through universal semiosis.

    Peirce´s universal semiotics, together with quantum approaches to transdisciplinarity, emerge as crucial theoretical standpoints in the study about the new hybrid interfaces between mind and matter. Peirce´s law of mind represents to the study of mind what quantum theories represent to the study of matter: a dramatic upheaval and serious challenge to the materialistic conceptions which are the basis of reductionism.

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    Thu, Dec 16, 2010  Permanent link

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