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Roland
Milan/Tokyo, IT
Immortal since Jan 11, 2008
Uplinks: 0, Generation 3

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    The human species is rapidly and indisputably moving towards the technological singularity. The cadence of the flow of information and innovation in...

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    Where forward thinking terrestrials share ideas and information about the state of the species, their planet and the universe, living the lives of science fiction. Introduction
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    Two realms of self-enhancement

    In three(ish) parts:
    Introduction
    The concrete realm
    The informational realm (Parts 1, 2, and 3)




    Summary:

    Part 1
    There are aspects of ourselves that reach beyond the concrete realm.
    These are our presence in an informational realm we have made.
    The contents of the informational realm are selected for their rapid manipulability.
    Relatively simple aspects of ourselves are routinely displaced to the informational realm.


    Part 2
    More significant growth into the informational realm has been made possible with the advancement of technology.
    It is possible roughly to delineate the level of technological sophistication required to support a person's existence in an informational realm.
    However, a crucial variable is the utility of any particular aspect of informational existence, as judged by the user of the technology.
    As a result, the step beyond the concrete realm is made by the imagination, intellectually.

    Part 3
    Informational aspects of being are conceptually distinct from humanity, and can be superhuman.
    It is possible to distinguish informationally enhanced and unenhenced humans.
    There are already coexisting humans of these different kinds.
    Extra-human beings will become convincingly super-, rather than sub-, human only when technological advances and popular attitudes are appropriately aligned.
    The next big step in human capability will be a socio-psychological as well as a technological singularity.

    Explanation:

    PART 1

    Whilst many tools - sticks - grow our concrete selves, many aspects of our selves - particularly those which give us influence within societal structures - are now situated beyond the reach of our bodies (brains - and sticks - included). A simple example: I arrive at a party and the doorman checks his list. "You're not an invited guest, sir. Your name's not down." My ability or inability to enter the party - the ability defined socially by the accepted notion of a party (and not dependent on my size relative to the doorman) - is bestowed by data about myself in the informational realm. Specifically, I must be represented on the doorman's list.

    Since it has been decided that only invited guests may enter, and that the guest-list will be the means to identify invited guests, I must be recorded as being an invited guest. The fact that the host walked to my house and invited me in person is not directly relevant now. It is the corresponding residue of my invitation on the record that grants me entry. At a small party, the record might be in the host's memory, which will be jogged when he answers the door to me. However, to save himself that duty at a busy do, his memory has been replaced (in this role) by the list. The list takes its worth from its faithfulness to his memory, but it in fact supersedes his memory in practical terms. So now that a tool has been used to deposit the data in a manageable form, the data is one more step away from the reality it represents.

    In the list, we have created an informational entity vested with power over the more obviously real world of exclusive parties to which I cannot gain entry. My presence or absence in an informational space determines the scope of my capabilities. (Unfortunately, this doesn't convince the doorman.)



    This should all sound familiar, but why should we think that we are present in the list, rather than that we are simply using a list? Well, the list is a simple case, but larger, more powerful administrative systems are more usually treated as if facts about the data they contain are identical to - and not just representations of - facts about the people described. For example, your being permitted to drive a motor-vehicle is a result of you having been deemed permissible by an examiner. However, the fact that you have been examined and passed is itself worth nothing once the matter has been recorded. From that point on, the record is a manifestation of your ability to drive unfettered, and that manifestation, being manifest, presents many advantages for administration over the more unwieldy abstract fact that you have been judged able to drive. Records can be manipulated, managed, and communicated more than people can - and far more than such fiddly aspects of people as their abilities and permissions. So they hold a part of us: facts about the records are treated whole-heartedly as facts about us even though they are not strictly the same.

    However, these cases show the passage only of parts of people into the informational realm. (Or, perhaps more accurately, the passage only of things about people.) How - and in what circumstances - could a person exist in the informational realm?

    Continued in Part 2.

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