The Singularity and Your Place in It

Here’s the short version. Bacteria signal to each other using short chemical peptides. This allows bacteria to solve problems: for example, you (everyone) has anthrax on your skin, but you don’t die because the anthrax is not attacking you, because it knows it will loose, unless it has a sufficient number of friends to help (determined by chemical signaling). So it lays dormant. Slime mold uses this to solve the two-armed bandit problem, tree roots and shrubbery communicate this way, etc. Computing by chemical messaging is limited by rate of diffusion, and by noise (cross-talk).

Jellyfish invents the neuron, which is a kind-of star-gate or teleporter for short chemical peptides. It allows for “instant” (millisecond) point-to-point transmission of chemical signals. Then come brains, and a whole new class of algorithms (Turing-complete) — e.g. brains can find the optimal solution to the two-armed bandit, which the slime-mold cannot.

Humans invent verbal communication, which enables low-bandwidth channels between brains, thus forming a village-scale brain, which can do more things more quickly than a single human. Village-brains can have a collective memory that outlasts an individual.

Humans invent writing. Collective memories can now survive millennia, without degradation. We know what Aristotle’s brain thought with fairly high-fidelity.

Humans invent mass-media. This allows the media-elite: newspaper editors, movie-stars, reporters, politicians and other mostly-high-IQ individuals to send their thoughts out to a more passive and stupider mass audience. They dominate global thinking for a few centuries.

Humans invent facebook, social-media. This breaks the deadlock of mainstream media on the global conversation. Now any idiot with a youtube channel can have a global audience. Social media provides a high-speed, high-bandwidth connection between globally-distant brains. When I stub my toe, there is a release of hormones, that travel up my spine via neurons, that get vocalized as “ouch”, typed into facebook, and now, magically, *your* brain knows that *my* toe hurts. Cool, huh?

Humans invent VR headsets, neural laces, etc. that provide even higher, greater, stronger bandwidth between human brains, forming a kind of global brain. Some people say “global village” but that’s the wrong metaphor.

What is the Global Brain thinking? Well, sometimes the Global Brain almost self-destructs. For example, World-War I was a machine, an algorithm, that stopped only when it ran out of raw material (young soldiers to kill) The algorithm was written in legal agreements, treaties, pacts. No human — general, prime-minister, king, could stop it. All humans played their part: raising crops, working at munitions factories, inventing chemical weapons. From 1917 to 1919, humans were stuck in a Global Brain that ran amok. Every genocide, every banking crisis finds similar explanation. Currently, the alt-right is running amok, they gave us Trump. So far, not many are dying. The Global Brain is prone to weird dysfunction.

The new, high-bandwidth, digitally-enhanced Global Brain is gonna be crazier and faster and potentially more lethal to humans than WWI or WWII ever were. In some ways, its very different than what came before: When Cambridge Analytica splurged on ten million CPU-hours to place targeted anti-Clinton ads in swing states, this really was high-speed, high-tech algorithmic propaganda. Its real, its happening, and not just in our election. Other countries, too.

Its important to try to understand the Global Brain, using a mix of sociology, psychology and comp-sci to figure it out, and protect the standing of humans within it. This is the Singularity. You are already in it, you cannot extricate yourself from it.