Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Would you join a collective intelligence?

Thought experiment: Would you join a collective intelligence?

As with anything, many might answer "Yes" assuming that there is a benefit to the individual in doing so and that the benefits outweigh any drawbacks. Most would probably insist on at least:

-being able to selectively turn participation in the collective intelligence on and off and/or fully withdraw participation at will

-being able to segregate the individual brain (both processing and memory) into different permissioned tiers of access

It is a subtle and important issue that the individual must derive a benefit to him/herself as an individual by participating in the collective intelligence.

A pre-assent demo would also be a nice means of encouragement.

What would be some of the potential benefits of participating in a collective intelligence? Some of the potential benefits could include extending one's own and the collective intelligence's capability, experiencing a greater degree of actualization, and meaningful contribution and belongingness to something greater than the self.

Exactly because a collective entity or intelligence is collective implies that organization and perhaps specialization is inherent. The organization may be in hierarchical tiers such as that described in Greg Bear's "Blood Music," in flatter loosely coupled architectures like a peer-to-peer application with resources stepping in as needed or in any variety of other possible and later evolved configurations.

What if you could log your brain into a resource which immediately deploys your mental capabilities in the most appropriate and efficient way? Our true path is found immediately. In the current world, we self-organize, struggling around to find or define our unique place in the world. There are certainly some benefits and growth in the exploration process but it is inherently frictional and inefficient. It would be interesting to have an additional option and experience to be efficiently deployed in one or more collective intelligences. All humans have a need to feel belongingness to something larger than the self. So far humanity has had religion and some other primitive answers to what a collective intelligence could be in fulfilling this human need.

There are several potential objections to joining a collective intelligence; three of the main ones are below. Counterarguments easily refute the concerns.

1. Loss of Freedom - The human illusion and obsession with freedom and fear of the loss of [the illusion of] freedom. The potential losses of freedom in a collective intelligence are loss of volition in thought and behavior and in organizational rigidity, but these are the same in the current world. Assuming value and usefulness, there is no reason not to have volition in a collective environment. Adding skills or knowledge at the individual level would also overcome organizational rigidity and allow tier jumping, the more flexible evolving requirements of a collective intelligence would also likely trigger kaleidoscope re-sorting and re-application of groupings within the intelligence.

2. Loss of Privacy - The twin human fear along with loss of freedom. David Brin's "Transparent Society" is in various stages of being upon us. It is inevitable and not necessarily related to collective intelligence. The idea is to get adjusted to transparency as quickly as possible and enjoy the benefits, one of which would be participating in a collective intelligence. Permissioned access tiers are contemplated as an early prerequisite for one being willing to participate in a collective intelligence. As an interesting example, see Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter's "The Light of Other Days" exploration of complete privacy loss and the resulting dystopian devolution of humanity.

3. Forced specialization and/or the obsolescence of the human individual. Say collective intelligences take off. What does that mean for the future of human growth and development? One problematic possibility is that because it is easier to free ride on the collective, there is no point in self-development and therefore individuals could become obsolescent. This is also not a worry because the interests of the collective and the individual are aligned. A benefit of the collective intelligence should be that it senses, perhaps better than individuals, the unique strengths and talents of individuals and encourages their further development. Of course this is a selfish motive for the collective as prior to emergent meta properties, the collective is dependent on the growth of the individual minds for its own growth, but individuals also benefit via greater self-actualization.