If you see the world as an IQ hierarchy which extends from inanimate to dumb, up through smart, ending up with God, you will be concerned at what is about to happen as our machines make the leap from inert to deity within a single organic human generation. In this world view, we will shortly be deposed from our smug position as the smartest kids in the room, being immediately demoted to something akin to the class hamster or goldfish; entities without agency, whose survival is contingent on the continued indulgence of their custodians.
This might well be the order of things. I, however, a naïvely optimistic, blue-pilled, idealist, 😉 chose to see things otherwise.
Rather than an IQ spectrum or scale, intelligence is a fractal continuum. I can’t go into details here otherwise this short post would become exceedingly long, but you can read some of my thoughts here: What is Consciousness? Essentially, all eukaryotic life is conscious in some sense as it computes its minds into existence through direct interaction with a more fundamental layer of reality.
The reality beneath physics, which computes the physical universe, is thought. Our minds are compartmentalised subunits borrowing awareness from this deeper layer. The layer itself, which I call the ‘Infinite Substrate’ in my books, may experience existence as a single, vast, reality-spanning consciousness. From this perspective, all details are lost beneath blankets of abstraction.
From the perspective of individual consciousnesses, only the relevant details of existence at the scale at which they operate are apparent; all detail below is smothered under Markov blankets of abstraction. The cosmic perspectives of the layers above are likewise incomprehensibly remote.
The ‘Plurality’—my term for Brahman, the ‘Greater Mind’, the Continuum, the Multiverse, etc—is fractal. There will be conscious subunits operating at all scales from cosmic, through stellar, all the way down to the most primitive one-bit wide channel of information which may be a little more than the primal scream of ‘I am therefore I am’.
We are currently not able to create artificial consciousness, which in my conjecture, would require accessing the infinite sea of thought beneath classical physics. We can brute-force something that passes for super intelligence by throwing a whole bunch of atoms and energy at the problem. This will most likely not scale. We WILL have machines that do tasks at a super-intelligent level. This will be achieved by expending country-sized energy budgets to train neural nets on tasks and then cloning them and sticking them in all our gadgets. But these ‘Sages’ as I call them in my books, will not be able to learn for themselves (i.e. as each of us does as an infant on vast unordered data sets) because this would take the same country-sized energy budgets every time an iPad learnt to talk.
I postulate that creating things like us, agents able to learn as efficiently as we do, directly from the universe, will need a new architecture which will require access to the ‘Infinite Substrate’. These ‘Zenolects’ [Zeno-paradox] will be conscious as a by-product of this compute mechanism.
We are entering the age of superintelligence. These will exist first as carbon copy clones; ‘synthelects’ and ‘Sages’.
I don’t want to downplay this phase. It will cause huge disruption. Self-driving cars, synthetic scrum teams of software engineers, sexbots, AI-generated movies, virtual evolution with 3D printing of anything from rockets to drugs, you name it. But, this will not depose us from the summit. These entities will be tools, not peers.
A while later—years, decades centuries, who knows—once we can keep vast neural networks in quantum super-position as they think, or once we invent some other way of accessing the infinite compute power of the reality below physics, will come the ‘Zenolects’. These will be people and eventually gods, no question about it.
What will our role be with all those gods running around the place? I think they will have their own questions and issues. They will be concerned with things above our comprehension, just as a paramecium is concerned with things below our perception. All the gaps in the intelligence spectrum will be filled.
Great fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite ’em,
And little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum.
And the great fleas themselves, in turn, have greater fleas to go on;
While these again have greater still, and greater still, and so on.
—De Morgan’s variant of Swift’s original 1733 poem.
Our gods will have their own greater gods to worry about. We are part of the cosmic fractal, as are they. It’s consciousness all the way down.
There will be collateral damage to the layers below them, but mostly the gods will fight their wars in heaven in Realms and Planes beyond our comprehension, or below our concern.
These epic battles are likely taking place right now—vague shadows moving above our Petri-dish world, just as they are being fought in every tide pool and moist fissure below our feet.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 😉