|7 Mar 2004 @ 22:13, by ashanti|
Thanks to Ming, I recently became aware of a new weblog called FutureHi. It explores a whole range of thought that is quite new to me, and one which is fascinating, cutting edge, and thought provoking. Specifically, I am intrigued by the Singularity, and Uploading. I immediately wondered how on earth this could be relevant for Africa, and the rest of the developing world. In one future scenario, Africa is written off as sinking into total chaos and destruction, which disturbed me greatly. If the most vital, innovative and creative scientific minds see Africa in this way, then it looks like a major polarization is going to increase.
My grasp of the overall concepts are now sufficient to put together some preliminary thoughts on these concepts in relation to Africa.
The first thing I did was simplify and de-jargonise the ideas for fellow African colleagues, and bounce the ideas off them. Those working within organized religion found the idea to be an abomination. Those working within social services were interested to the extent of what solutions these concepts could provide for poverty, hunger and illness. Certainly, removal of consciousness from the organic body would eliminate all the organic pre-occupations that currently dominate Africa. Hunger and illness would no longer be an issue. However, the social workers found the idea of life in a non-organic environment to be a nightmare of hellish proportions. Those working in political office immediately asked how one could control individual consciousness units if they were in a virtual environment. Could programmes be devised to keep the individuals in line? (That one amused me greatly, it seems that working in government breeds the idea of the need to control people. This need to control was also reflected in the recent World Summit on the Information Society where alarmingly, most of the Third World countries wanted to control the Internet, and restrict or deny access for their citizens.).
My preliminary and informal survey concluded, I then pondered these reactions and realised that in Africa, there is an overall mind-set, which appears to be incompatible with exploring concepts like the Singularity and Uploading. While Africa is ravaged because of First World exploitation of their resources, there is no doubt that African governments are largely complicit in the plunder, for their own benefit, and at the expense of their people. My further thoughts on this thus eliminate governments as participants in these possibilities, and I look only at what benefit could be derived for the People.
To me, the nature of consciousness is essential in these future scenarios. If a mind is damaged because of the environment it evolved in, and carries notions of fear, violence and anger as reactive responses to everything, then what would happen if a mind like this was Uploaded? The meme of violence as a survival mechanism would be brought into the Virtual World, and it is a meme that spreads, just like a virus. Which heads us towards that dangerous territory. Who decides when a mind is “fit” to be Uploaded? Who has that right? And by what authority?
Then, there is the other possibility. A mind can only evolve in relation to the stimulus it is exposed to. In Africa, the environment is dominated mostly by poverty, hunger, illness, violence, cruelty, lack of access to basic facilities, and pollution. African governments do very well for themselves, and their politicians have the advantage of exposure to other environments where the mind-set is different, and there are better living conditions for ordinary people. By and large, people born in poverty do not have access to other benchmarks, and it seems that governments want to keep it that way (as manifested by their desire to limit access to the Internet for their people). This is where technology could help indeed. Without Uploading fully, ordinary people could have test-drives of other possible environments, and experience the stimuli that accompanies a virtual experience. By broadening their vision into the range of life experiences possible, this could result in the mind-shift which seems to be a necessary precursor to full Uploading. The greatest problem in Africa is not the range of symptomatic problems I have listed, which manifest in the physical world, but the mind-set which is conditioned to a very limited life experience and expectation. It is a self-limitation which is inherited from the colonization of Africa, and is perpetuated by governments which essentially are parasites on their People, keeping them down, keeping them limited. The violence in Africa is a natural expression of rage at the limitation, the lack of choices, the lack of ability to live a life of full expression and self-actualisation.
In summary, what I would really like to see is the creation of Virtual Reality environments where everyone has a chance to “test” and experience a whole range of life possibilities, thus expanding their ability to make informed choices. The unexplored danger is that governments will find some way to control the Virtual Environments to keep people under control. Governments mostly are in Fear of the idea of a society of free, educated, adult and ethical people who can make their own choices and decisions based on the greatest good for the greatest number of life-forms. Perhaps those in government who are so afraid of their people being free could experience virtual simulations of a society of free and informed people, and then realise there is nothing to fear. Then, we could get them on board, too.
These are preliminary thoughts, I still need to ponder more fully, and research more, the notion of the Singularity, and full Uploading. These future scenario events have possibilities which make them definitely worth exploring, but the possible implications need to be fully fleshed out and considered. For a variety of reasons, I cannot see them happening suddenly, all at once. I think implementation will occur in stages. Like the Internet. Probably tested out within a small group of scientists, and then exported out further, after which they will gain momentum. I can see that Africa and other developing countries could be left out altogether, and this is of concern. Hence my layperson’s exploration into this new territory.
My future ponderings will be again on the nature of consciousness to be uploaded – if we have not solved our problems at the current level, can we really leap into the next? Should we not be cautious about expecting a shift to a new life form to resolve the problems (mostly mental – intolerance, prejudice, conflict, greed, lack of ethics) that we have not solved at our current level? And again – who decides what consciousness units are to be Uploaded? Can nanotechnology cure AIDS? Questions, questions, questions.