Monday, December 12, 2005

Entities becoming conscious?

Is it accurate or anthropomorphic to attribute the possibility of eventual self-awareness and consciousness to multi-agent entities such as corporations, governments and mountain ranges? Anthills and beehives have not-fully explained collective behaviors, but after years of evolution, the only place they become conscious is in sci fi.

Conscious entities are one flavor of FutureFear, not only the possibility that computers (AIs) become conscious and potentially take over the world but also that large currently (as far as we know) non-self-aware entities become self-aware and conscious and potentially take over the world. There is the further complication that humans may not be able to perceive other higher forms of consciousness, and that it possibly goes unnoticed for sometime until the physical structure of the visible world changes and is controlled by something else, analogous in a basic way to the ape's eye-view of human evolution.

The logic is the evolutionary lens that produced axons and synapses that alone are not self-aware, but together are, will continue expanding and evolving consciousness, possibly jumping to occupy other substrates. Culture is a key evolutionary differential component initially developed by humans. Culture is continually evolving. If memes not genes are the basis for competitive transmission and survival then the speed of cultural evolution is superseding human evolution and more complex collective organizations of groups of people and potentially other entities may indeed "wake-up" and become self-aware and conscious. As life is an emergent property of chemicals, and consciousness is an emergent property of life, there may be no end to the meta levels up; it is hard to argue to the contrary.

If this were to be the case in the instance of corporations and governments, for example, initially (like we see now for meme transmission) there must be a symbiosis, or really a dependence of the meme, government or corporation on the human substrate. Memes can evolve to having a machine-based substrate as AIs emerge (and of course conscious entities as another substrate), corporations can evolve to having electronic markets and true drone robots as their primary substrate, governments are an interesting case but the substrate could be machine/virtually based with people still as the governed.

If they wanted to continue to participate in a society of human individuals as would be wise initially, these entities, like AIs and the genetically enhanced apes of some sci fi stories, would start arguing that they are self-aware, self-organizing, self-replicating, evolving, living, conscious entities and demand the pursuant legal rights.