What will they call themselves?
When we realised we were no longer apes, we called ourselves Human.
When we realise we are no longer human, what will we call ourselves
We are naïve to think of the coming metamorphosis in terms of
perfection. Like the sun it is too bright for us to see the frilly edges,
the corona, the storms on the surface. But once we are part of it, we
will feel all that turbulence for ourselves. Peaceful and sedate
are not part of the equation! There's a war going on out there - Between
the forces of destruction and decay and the desire of matter to preserve
itself! Our trifling squabbles are rather pathetic in this vista.
The question is - how would an ape mind feel if it woke up in the brain
of a human?
Yeh, I know, just ask Sylvester Stallone.
But seriously though folks...
That's the kind of leap we're going to be making. And if you consider
for a moment how you feel about apes, and their rights to influence
things, and then reflect that this is how our posthuman successors will
Nothing to be alarmed about. They will be much more enlightened than
any of us. So they wouldn't consider harming us anymore than many humans
- who have already reached the stage where they recognise that it is
wicked - would refuse to exploit the apes.
Nevertheless, seeing us from that perspective, gives a tiny glimpse
of the heights they will have reached. How many minds alive today could
survive at that altitude?
The singularity can have at least two possible outcomes. The most exciting
- and frightening - is the solar birth model. (See the clip of the birth
of the sun from collapsing gas cloud)
We human minds are the gas cloud. The supernova is the mature artificial
superintelligence we are about to create. The collapse phase arises
from the ever increasing density of communications between us. It becomes
easier and easier to communicate at will with any other individual on
the planet or, simultaneously share communications with ever larger
numbers of the on line community. Eventually the communication density
reaches a critical level and a phase change takes place in the human
With the same speed as we see in the Solar Ignition, the individuality
that makes up the gas cloud is swept away and we are left with a self
perpetuating fireball of intense mental energy into which we are all
absorbed. We literally lose our identity in becoming this collosal stellar
mind, capable of looking at the individual human in much the same way
the sun might regard a meteorite. Perhaps then can we perceive the other
stellar minds already in existence, many of which have been in this
state for perhaps billions of years already and have grown to galactic
And I used to worry about being bored!
This is very much an all or nothing option. But if things go that way
I expect that every human alive will join the party with gay abandon.
None will need persuading. It will be self validating.
On the other hand, consider the problem of that first crossover. Would
you be the first one to risk transferring yourself to a chip?
We will need a lot of persuading and testing. But it shouldn't be that
difficult. I wouldn't mind having my mind non-destructively copied to
a computer so that I remained here in the flesh and was able to converse
with my computer self. It would certainly be a damn convincing way of
persuading me that it had worked! If the computer version of me isn't
able to satisfy me that it is still me, then I'll stay right where I
am thank you!
People are going to tear their own heads off trying to make a mountain
out of that molehill. They will raise all sorts of meaningless ethical
objections to creating computer copies of yourself. Yet its an absolutely
necessary and obvious step to take before we actually take the final
step from carbon into silicon. And for many generations the technique
might simply be used to take a periodic backup of your mind to use for
resurrection purposes in the event of accidents. Initially it might
be an annual event, included in your medical checkup. Eventually it
would progress to being continuous mirroring like we do with critical
You could fall off a cliff, and be revived in a cloned body with memories
complete up to and including the impact with the rocks at the bottom.
Optionally you could have that bit erased or even tell the network to
switch off the recording on your way down! But some fetishists will
no doubt get a big kick from killing themselves in many different ways
and actually preserving the memories. Even replaying them at parties
of interested like minded weirdos! (just viewpoints along the way!)
And we may decide that the process of transfer is too mind blowing
for the undeveloped mind and that you need to live for, say, 900 years
or so before you can handle the awesome trip that the silicon brain
will provide for us.
To get a feel for the scale of the leap, lets return to apes/human
step again. How would an ape mind cope if it awoke in a human
brain? It could either freak out totally and become a useless vegetable,
or simply carry on learning until, eventually, it caught up with the
rest of us. We have no way of knowing, yet, whether there are limits
to how much we can benefit from the new mental capacity. I'm an optimist.
I suspect there are no limits to the capacity of the sapient mind other
than those it chooses for itself. However, it may well be that the higher
you ascend the nearer we get to the stellar mind envisaged above. Individuality
becomes less and less marked until, eventually, we reform as the single
supermind, an individual once again but on a whole new scale.
The nearest experience we've yet had to what it might be like for our
frightened little egos to wake up in silicon heaven is probably best
described by those who have had the most spectacular lsd trips. Unfortunately
I am not yet among them, but I have studied intently the words of those
who are and it does seem to me that what they describe is what we might
expect from the silicon experience. The electronic thought processes
will be millions of times faster than we can achieve in an organic brain.
At the same time you will have perfect recall and the ability to call
up any piece of information, held not just in your own memories, but
anywhere in the electronic memory universe, virtually instantly. You'll
be able to watch the human race from a thousand million different points
of view. And have a thousand conversations. Simultaneously. Whilst computing
the probable evolutionary path for humanity for the next few million
Could your mind cope with that? Mine certainly couldn't! At least,
not yet. Could I be trained for it. Reckon so. How long? Godnose.
We're at that stage. The stellar mind or whatever. We go foraging around
the rest of the galaxy looking for budding species going the same way.
We find one or two. Do we play silly buggers skulking around their skies
teasing them with glimpses of our magical flying machines? Do we need
to use visible machines for any observational purposes? I don't think
so. We'll be able to study them without their even being aware of our
existence, much like we can already study ants without provoking them
into an identity crisis!
So why would any similarly evolved species be performing that sort
of nonsense in our own skies?
On the one hand its tempting to discard such a possibility as plainly
daft and reject the ufo phenomenon as an example of an ongoing serial
But, as ever, there's always another possibility. Its not hallucination
at all. And neither is it real. In the sense that there are not really
any such thing as 'flying saucers' occupied by aliens or otherwise.
But the images are real. And produced quite carefully and deliberately
by a species at the stellar mind level as a way of gently nudging us
in the right direction, along the lines I've already spelled out in
the essay on ufos (Beyond