Sunday, January 20, 2008

Pooled consciousness

There could be a future where individuals opt to pool all or parts of their consciousness, memory and processing power with those of others or in a central repository. Access could be permissioned only to select groups like family, friends or project teams, or to society as a whole. Pooling could be real-time or with a time lag (e.g.; initially people may prefer the increased privacy of uploading thoughts after several years). Pooled consciousness could lead to an interesting future in many ways, for example, consider the Freedom of Information Act extending to the thoughts of politicians while in office.

Greatest Benefit
There would be many benefits and risks to pooled consciousness, but perhaps the biggest advance would be having a repository of collective experience and perception knowledge, a library of experience, perception and analysis. As fact-based data revolutionized human progress, so too would measurable, manipulatable, researchable, aggregatable human experiences.

A small example of the value of pooling would be all of the witnesses to a traffic accident providing their mindfile excerpts of the situation to supplement the facts supplied by street, car and personal life cams with perception, understanding and analysis of the event. In addition to the basic functionality requirements, anonymizing and aggregation techniques, relevance filters and security would be key technical issues in implementing pooled consciousness.

The first phase of pooled consciousness would most likely be transmitting discrete experiences, memories or thoughts to others. It is hard to imagine permissioning one’s full consciousness stream, although before long some people will probably be offering a full neural RSS feed from their blogs or virtual world sims. A funny result could be that people subscribing to other people’s sex thought feeds might be substantially underwhelmed.

What are the benefits of pooled consciousness to society and individuals?

  • more accurate and fully-represented history
  • more representative democracy, inclusion of all views
  • more efficiency, more progress, elephants in the room can not be ignored
  • sociological data for real-time application and academic study
  • rich AI training ground
  • individuals feel acknowledged and heard
  • the long-tail can meet, small groups of similar people can find each other
  • productivity improvement - people stop worrying about what they think others are thinking, because they know what others are thinking
  • learning, training and entertainment applications of experiencing another’s experience
What are the risks of pooled consciousness to society and individuals?
  • possibility of groupthink, diminished diversity of thought
  • spying, loss of personal liberty
  • too much information, not wanting to really know
  • thought shaping and management through legal and social pressure
  • advent of thought crime (everyone is a Minority Report precog)
  • people become slaves to public opinion, behave, have experiences because of what will go in their neural feed (already see this behavior in Facebook)