Monday, May 30, 2011

THE FUEL IN THE SINGULARITY ENGINE: FEEDBACK LOOPS




          Kurzweil tackles the issue of singularity state and our migration towards it largely from the perspective of technology in his The Singularity is Near (the magnum opus for all “true believers.”) Rifkin, on the other hand, argues, without perhaps even realizing he’s doing so, for Singularity bread on increased human interactivity.  He details the nature of that New World Order in The European Dream, and The Empathic Civilization, citing terms like “the politics of empathy.”  


          Needless to say, they’re both right. Singularity will be brought forth through the mating of nexgen technologies with nexgen human consciousness.  These two forces shall be co-arising, moreover, and entirely interdependent on one another.  I want to be perfectly clear here:  One will not happen without the other.  Should it, Singularity will not be self-sustaining, but self-annihilating.

                But the real crux of the matter is heightened feedback.  We currently do not get enough feedback from our fellow humans or from the physical environment to sustain Singularity State – which can only be sustained by continuous and ongoing evolution in feedback mechanisms.  In fact, the “post-exponential rate of growth” cited by Kurzweil is less a symptom of Moore’s law as applied to computer chips and more a symptom of ongoing improvement in the feedback loops.  The better and higher the quality of the feedback, and the more of it there is, the more we are able to sustain Singularity State.

 
                From this, it follows that step one is to build out the web, not just “the smart grid” as techies understand it, and not just “the web of life” as Fritjof Capra understands it (blending a Rifkin-like focus on expanded human consciousness with expanded eco-consciousness).  It will require both.  

                Enter the Age of Ubiquitous Computing.  An age in which we are simply enmeshed in webs within webs of interactivity – and feedback mechanisms that evolve one another in complex ecosystems – all designed to help each and every one of us “get over ourselves” in the Zen sense of the term. 

                
              It will not be enough to talk to the refrigerator, saying something like, “Did you remember to order the milk, honey?  We were out last time I checked.”  Nor will it be enough to endure the condescending response, “Unlike, you, Dave, I have perfect memory, and instantaneous communication with all points globally.  It just so happens, I didn’t order the dairy milk, you so enjoy, but the soy milk, I know you need.  Because I’m monitoring that chip in your brain, and per our dialogue, it seems your testosterone is up, clouding your thinking, and leading to short temper.  Ergo, the soy milk, to help increase the estrogen in your body and balance you out. But since I know you’re not much on the taste, I went with the Silk brand, unsweetened, of course, because your brain chip and I are also worried about your waistline. I think it’s time we start watching our carbs, don’t you agree?”

                To wit, Dave takes a bat to the fridge, triggering the following response: “Per my titanium shielding, Dave, such outbursts will get you nowhere, other than to point up my argument, of course, that we really need to recalibrate your testosterone levels.  That said, a few more swings of the bat against my fa├žade should help your waistline.  You could use some more exercise.  So have at it.”

                Many chip makers are merely looking forward to the day when the fridge knows to order the milk on its own, without being told, automatically, as soon as the milk starts spoiling in the fridge, or the carton is depleted.  But it won’t stop there.  The fact is, that that level of feedback simply won’t do. Nor will the far more exaggerated version I detailed above.  Tomorrow, environmental feedback must be greater than what it is today, or we collapse out of Singularity State.  Period.  

So what is a person to do with this “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” dilemma? Moving too fast for words, and for comfort.  Not fast enough to sustain “The Best of All Possible Worlds” – as Leibniz would have it – for trust me, Singularity is the best of all possible worlds – because it alone can allow for any and all worlds to coexist peaceably (a subject for another later.)  Only from within Singularity will you not have to subject yourself to someone else’s take on the future, or nearly as bad, a “compromised” consensus take on the future, averaging together everyone’s likes and dislikes just well enough to piss off and alienate everyone. Only from within Singularity do you get to choose.


                First of all, to survive Singularity, indeed to thrive from within it, we have to think of ecosystems – not just isolated islands of intelligence, with a smart – and smart alecky fridge, and similar upstarts, the talking toaster, the meddling microwave, the sultry sun-tanning booth, the tempestuous toilet, the beckoning broom, the austere amplifier, the cagey can of tuna.  We must give every item in our smart-homes a personality of their own. And we must key them not just to one another, but to ourselves – with one ultimate aim – that’s right, for those of you not suffering from short term memory loss, of helping us to get over ourselves.  Because if we become stuck on who we are, we cease to evolve – far less evolve at ever-faster rates – a death knell to the Singularity state of mind.

  
                But as it turns out, we only get stressed when the pace of evolution outstrips our capacity for coping.  That’s where continuous feedback loops come in; and why they themselves must keep evolving. Gurdjeff tried to procure Zen masters the only way they could be procured at the time, in a Big Brother reality tv show kind of way, by locking them up under one roof, making sure they couldn’t escape one another, and then dialing up the pressure.  As I’ve discussed elsewhere (namely in “The Right Stuff”) in the absence of this pressure cooker atmosphere the human mind will sink into a lower energy state. There won’t be enough available energy for self-transcendence.  In fact, in that lower energy state, habits of mind reassert themselves, by now grown self-destructive, reinforcing our mis-fit with our environment instead of our right-fit.

                But there are not enough Gurdjief’s to go around. And even if there were, no human is going to babysit you the livelong day.  And if you’re lucky enough to have a team (in fact, teams within teams nested within the corporate organizational structure) of people all focused on your getting over yourself for the greater corporate good – as is becoming the case throughout the corporate world (see my post “The Corporate Brain on Steroids”on http://thetelcomstrategist.blogspot.com), this too is less than ideal. Because you have to go home.  You’re not under 24/7 surveillance and pressure. The heightened interactivity stops the instant you step out the door.


                But what if it never stopped? What if it was 24/7?  For that you need the world of Ubiquitous Computing.  You need, upon arriving at home, to find a constellation of artificial intelligences all ready to continue the work that started at work.  

                Will we have more artificial friends than human friends, soon enough?  No doubt. But that’s hardly the point. As all our friends – if they are to be friends – if they are to have any value add at all – will have to be playing the same game with us, and we with them – of assisting one another to “get over ourselves.”  Maintaining the trans-human state – defined as this ability to stand in the fire like the Phoenix without burning, and with continually renewing ourselves… this, ever-better feedback loops, and they alone, can procure. 

                Meditation alone won’t do it.  The best meditators in the world wouldn’t survive five minutes of Singularity.  We cannot do it in isolation.  We are forever more entirely interdependent on one another.  

                Does this mean feeling like we’re being poked and prodded all the time?  Does it mean a constant state of discomfiture?  I believe feeling at un-ease with getting over ourselves, merely signals sinking into a lower energy state of ego-attachment.  From the higher energy state that hyper-feedback environments permit, dis-ease along with un-ease melts away.  In its place is a state of endless joy.  Of ubiquitous laughter.  For that is our primal state.  That is in essence who we truly are.  Once the tarnish has been removed – the buildup of traumatic life events that left us scarred, that left us fixated on notions about ourselves that have long outgrown their usefulness – the truth comes out. And the truth is that the God-self requires no maintenance.  For I AM THAT I AM.  The lies we keep telling ourselves, on the other hand, with nothing other to show for it but various states of depression, dis-ease, and feeling stuck in our lives – that requires all kinds of daily hygiene.  As the tendency is for such silliness to burn off that close to the burning sun of our true natures.  But the mind will simply keep creating more debilitating illusions to cocoon itself in if you are not constantly reminded of who you are. This is why the future can only be co-created.  That is why Singularity is required to ignite and sustain the trans-human state of consciousness.  

                Note, this is leading without a center.  No one is any more important than any other.  Some “higher forms of consciousness” may indeed serve as “nodes” in the network, helping to catalyze reactions in those around them like the suns to their own solar systems.  But this too is but a transient state.  For we are each a sun in someone else’s universe.  That is how it is. That is how it must be.

                So, is there a natural sequence of events that can be ascertained from within this renaissance, defined by the co-arising of artificial and biological lifeforms?  Such a notion would appear on the surface of things to be an oxymoron.  Because within Singularity State, time itself is no more.  Everything happens at once.  Time gives way to an eternal present.  It must be so as we shift our center from ego-based consciousness to one that lives outside of time – the Witness state.  


                On the other hand, it may be more helpful to think of Singularity as a peculiar kind of Rubik’s cube.  There are infinite configurations of this cube.  And it is “solved” the more jumbled the cube is – the more “out of alignment” it appears to be.  Each one of those squares on each face of the cube is an alternate reality that is sustained with relation to all the others.  At first we may enter each one of those alternate realities solely through video games and the like. But eventually reality and the virtual world start to mix.  Until we are each of us living in a world entirely of our own.  And yet, we are each capable of entering the unique worlds we each inhabit by a kind of enhanced telepathy via nexgen technology’s ability to enhance feedback between our minds.  


This is how we come to have a reality in which “everything happens at once” and yet “everything is as it always was.”  We can perceive not just time occurring, but we can move in and out of any timeline we desire, some moving faster than others.  The eternal present is built up of innumerable alternate realities.  

In this way Singularity is the gateway to the multiverse.  Initially it is only “in a manner of speaking.”  But over time, the power of mind generated from within Singularity – of a global consciousness continually evolving itself at ever faster rates – creates sufficient mind power to alter the underlying physics.  

Singularity State – as an amalgamation of human and technological consciousness literally migrates into a world between worlds, into a space where all physical laws break down, into true Singularity proper, as physicists understand it.  

                This may in turn explain why “there’s no one out there.”  It may explain Seti’s inability to find much by way of extra-terrestrial lifeforms of orders of consciousness equal to or greater than our own. It is highly likely that sufficiently advanced civilizations cannot long avoid migrating into Singularity State – as much of a phenomenon of physics as it is of social evolution.  So they “blip” out of space-time as we know it.  

                At the same time, this “best of all possible worlds” that is, in effect, the gateway to the multiverse – there is no other way to reach THE ALL, except by way of Singularity; to collapse out of Singularity is to settle for one or another of innumerable alternate realities instead of having access to them all – does offer an explanation for those “strange sightings” over various parts of the globe of ETs and their accompanying craft.  

If Singularity is the gateway to the multiverse – then it would also grant access to space travel into any and all alternate realities – by any and all means imaginable. Whether this in turn creates new timelines – ones in which aliens visit, versus ones in which they do not – is a matter for another article.  For our purposes, as God has both a “becoming” and a “being” aspect – I am comfortable with the idea that the multiverse too is evolving, co-arising, with ever more alternate futures to offer up.  

                We’ve come far from our initial ruminations. As mind-blowing as many of these concepts are, the most salient point to take away is none of it is possible without ever-evolving feedback loops and mechanisms.  Singularity is sustained by feedback loops that aren’t passive, but that learn from us, from one another, and co-create the multiverse with us.  Our own brain creates ideas through innumerable feedback loops we are embedded in within the natural world – long before we bring increased intelligence to everything, every speck of sand.  

                So, don’t strain your brain on how Singularity will come about; the details of it, the what comes first, on its mind-blowing nature.  On its innumerable paradoxes – not the least of which is that the most unsustainable future of all – turns out to be the one sustainable future.  

Concentrate solely on creating better feedback loops, ecosystems full of them, and let the rest take care of itself.  At that point, the universe becomes self-organizing, and self-accelerating into the heart of Singularity.

                But what will be the initial impulse to create better feedback loops, you say?  What else, but mounting crises globally?  Crises in the supply chain from farm to our dining tables such that we can’t tell the difference between organic and chemically contaminated foods due to mislabeling.  You can bet electronic sensors are being created for every step in that supply chain to squeeze out any doubt about a food’s origin or its quality, because in the absence of that, we go the path of Rome, and permit our citizens to succumb to lead poisoning, until, also reminiscent of Beluga whales, our heavy-metal toxicity is so great, no medical explanation can be given for how we function, and why we aren’t dead; for we have become mobile landfills.

                A failure of trust in the global economic order will drive a new age of hyper-trust with these electronic intermediaries to keep us all honest.  

Concerned the car salesman is trying to snooker you?  The car itself will tell you what it’s made of via dialoguing with any number of its onboard computers – by way perhaps of your cell phone, or that chip in your brain. All of the participants in said dialogue, moreover, will in turn be connected to the internet, the global mind, possibly then grown fully sentient in its own right.   But even an unconscious internet will be damned daunting in the above scenario as intel flies from all corners of the globe to help you make the most informed decision you can make on that car purchase.  

                 
            A world forever at the brink due to ever more crises, but that never quite falls into the abyss, will require ever more self-correcting mechanisms in real time, ever-more solutions to problems well ahead of unupgraded human nervous systems to procure.  From where the solution to this madness? Except by way of the smart grid – by then built out to cover virtually every grain of sand – and by way of the endless feedback loops within feedback loops that allow infinite problems to be solved in real time. And what could describe this state, honestly?  What but entry into the fractal mind of God, which we are now building from the ground up.  

                So let’s not wear ourselves out chasing after ever more crises than any sovereign can handle, than any smartly connected wi-fi region can handle, than even massive trading blocs like The European Union can handle.  Just design the better feedback mechanisms that allow God’s mind to interpenetrate the physical realm. And leave to God what is God’s to oversee.