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The Hivemind Singularity -- The Death of the Individual

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The Hivemind Singularity -- The Death of the Individual

Postby grndslm » Tue Jul 17, 2012 4:44 pm

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/a ... ty/259861/
The Hivemind Singularity
By Alan Jacobs

Jul 16 2012, 11:52 AM ET 7

In a near-future science fiction novel, human intelligence evolves into a hivemind that makes people the violent cells of a collective being.
slimemoldnetwork.jpg


New Model Army, a 2010 novel by the English writer Adam Roberts, concerns itself with many things: the intimacy shared by soldiers at war, the motivating powers of memory and love, the rival merits of hierarchical and anarchic social structures, the legitimacy of the polity known as Great Britain, the question of European identity. Also giants. (Roberts has a history of interest in giants -- they feature prominently in his imaginative and highly excremental novel Swiftly -- and, more generally, in the scale of being: how very small, very large, and in-between-sized beings experience the world differently. This is also a theme in his recent digital-only story "Anticopernicus".) But New Model Army is perhaps above all an immensely stimulating inquiry into what we light-heartedly call the "hive mind." And it raises a set of discomfiting questions: Are our electronic technologies on the verge of enabling truly collective human intelligence? And if that happens, will we like the results?

The title New Model Army derives from the English Civil War in the mid-seventeenth century, when Oliver Cromwell led armies raised by Parliament against supporters of King Charles. The New Model Army that arose at that time was "new" especially in that its soldiers were full-time professionals, ready to be deployed anywhere they were needed, even in Scotland or Ireland, whereas previous English armies had been little more than local militias. These soldiers were also deeply devoted to fairly extreme forms of Protestantism and despised the established Church of England.

With this background in mind, Adam Roberts asks us to imagine a near future when electronic communications technologies enable groups of people to communicate with one another instantaneously, and on secure private networks invulnerable, or nearly so, to outside snooping. Imagine that such groups arise -- not created but self-organized and (at first) self-funding -- and are devoted not to radical Protestant Christianity but rather to radical democracy. And imagine one more thing: that such New Model Armies (NMAs) arm themselves and fight on behalf of those who pay them. In short, imagine groups arising that resemble Anonymous, whose extemporaneous self-organizing projects have recently been brilliantly chronicled by Quinn Norton, but with better communications and an interest, not in hacking websites, but in fighting and killing for money. It's noteworthy that New Model Army was written just as Anonymous arrived in the public consciousness: Roberts's story therefore now seems like it could happen tomorrow, rather than twenty-five years from now (which is when the book is set).

All this would be fascinating enough, but Roberts takes the implications of the NMAs a step further than the reader expects. Again, each NMA organizes itself and makes decisions collectively: no commander establishes strategy and gives orders, but instead all members of the NMA communicate with what amounts to an advanced audio form of the IRC protocol, debate their next step, and vote. Results of a vote are shared to all immediately and automatically, at which point the soldiers start doing what they voted to do. Those who cannot accept group decisions tend to drift out of the NMA, but Roberts shows convincingly how powerfully group identity links the soldiers to one another -- how readily they accept the absorption of individual consciousness into a far greater one. They are proud of their shared identity, and tend to smirk when officers of more traditional armies want to know who their "ringleaders" are. They have no ringleaders; they don't even have specialists: everyone tends the wounded, not just some designated medical corps, and when they need to negotiate, the negotiating team is chosen by army vote. Each soldier does what needs to be done, with need determined by the NMA which each has freely joined. They take pride in fighting freely, as opposed to the soldiers in the British Army, whom they see as slaves to a feudal system.


The narrator of the story insists from the beginning that he is not the story's protagonist: that would be Pantagral, the NMA he belongs to, whose name echoes one of the giants in Rabelais's great sixteenth-century satire, Gargantua and Pantagruel. The really fascinating and, to the British Army, disturbing thing about Pantagral is its ability to change its shape and extent at will. Its soldiers can form into one enormous mass in order to attack a city -- acting for the time much like a traditional army -- but then at need dissolve into mist. Soldiers just go away and find shelter somewhere, bunking with friends or in abandoned buildings. They stay in touch with one another and when Pantagral decides to reform, they rise up to strike once more.

In short, they behave like a slime mold, which changes size, splits and combines, according to need, in such a way that it's hard to say whether the slime mold is one big thing or a bunch of little things. Slime molds and social insects behave with an intelligence that ought to be impossible for such apparently simple organisms, but, as Steven Johnson points out in his fascinating book Emergence, simple organisms obeying simple rules can collectively manifest astonishingly complex behavior.

New Model Army presents us with a question: What happens when human beings, not just slime molds or ants, submit themselves to collective will and become part of an immense shared intelligence? If complex behavior can simply "emerge" through the simple decisions of simple creatures, what might happen if much more complex creatures become absorbed into a collectivity?

The first answer that science-fiction fans are likely to give is: The Borg. Which is to say, the prospect of any single human intelligence being lost in a collective mind fills us with fear. We fear that the transcending of human intelligence will also mark the transcending of human feeling, that all of our familiar and deeply-treasured ideas about what constitutes human flourishing will be simply cast aside by a superior intelligence that has other and supposedly greater concerns.

New Model Army is not reassuring on this score. Roberts shows that we are fascinated by giants because they are more powerful than we are, and can do things that we but dream of doing; and yet we also know that when a certain degree of size-difference is exceeded, we lose perceptual contact. The Brobdingnagians of Gulliver's Travels would not know that the Lilliputians even existed, and could blindly crush their tiny cities. A minor character in New Model Army asks why people only fold themselves into a hive mind in order to pursue violence or other forms of destruction, and never to pick up litter. A provocative enough question; but differences in scale can enable wholly unwitting destruction. The Brobdingnagians could eliminate the Lilliputians while playing some giant's game.

What if this is the Singularity? Not simply our machines becoming smarter than we are, but the machines we use to communicate with one another enabling our own translation to a supposedly "higher" sphere of being? What if the "posthuman" isn't being a cyborg but instead being a cell in a giant's body, helping to enable a vast consciousness that you're never aware of and that is never aware of you? What if the price exacted by the Singularity is the elimination of human individuality altogether, either voluntarily or, if you happen to have retained your individuality at the moment when the playful giants come through, involuntarily? We tend to talk easily and happily about crowdsourcing, the wisdom of crowds, the hive mind. New Model Army makes me think that we could benefit from a little more uneasiness.
A lawyer cannot claim that you have rights. -- U.S. v. Johnson, 76 F. Supp. 538

"When Tyranny becomes Law, Rebellion becomes Duty." -- Someone from the Confederacy, circa 1860
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Re: The Hivemind Singularity -- The Death of the Individual

Postby lostandfound » Wed Jul 18, 2012 8:54 am

From a book i learned a lot from as a teenager soooo looong agooo......... :lol:


Yet, throughout all history, down to and including
modem times, few adult persons have ever discovered
that they are really free.

An Ancient Superstition

Most human beings cling to the ancient superstition that
they are not self-controlling and not responsible for their
own acts. For thousands of years, the majority has always
believed that men are passive objects controlled by some
superhuman or superindividual authority - and for thousands
of years, people have gone hungry.

One of the oldest, if not the oldest, form of pagan wor
ship is based on the idea that human destiny is controlled
by the over-all will-of-the-tribe, rather than by the initiative
and free will of the individual persons who make
up the tribe. It is true that human beings must exchange
mutual aid with each other on this inhospitable and dangerous
planet. Perhaps from a dim sense of this natural
kinship - the brotherhood of man - savages in prehistoric
times came to believe that they were governed by the
spirit of Demos, a superindividual will of the "mass,"
endowed with omnipotent power and authority.

The welfare of this mystic being is called "the common
good," which is supposed to be more important than
the good of the individual - just as the health of a human
body is more important than the life of any cell in it. It
is in this concept that we find the origin of human sacrifice
to the pagan gods. No one hesitates to destroy the
cells of the hair on his head nor of the nails on his fingers
or toes. They are not important in themselves. Their only
value is their use to the body as a whole. Thus, for that
"common good" they are sacrificed without a moment's
thought or pity.

It was precisely in that spirit that the ancient Aztec
priest thrust a knife into the human victim on the altar
and, with holy incantations, tore out the bleeding heart.
In that same spirit, the Cretans sacrificed their loveliest
daughters to the Minoan bull, and the Carthaginians
burned their living babies to placate the great god,
Moloch.

Some insects actually do seem to be controlled by an
authority outside themselves. The honeybee, for example,
appears to be wholly lacking in self-faith and individuaI
initiative. A will-of-the-swarm seems to control it. The
bee's life is exhausted in selfless, changeless toil for the
common good. The swarm itself seems to be the living
creature. If the queen is taken away, a hundred thousand
bees die, just as a headless body dies.

Man versus Bee

The collectivists, ancient and modern, contend that
human society should be set up like the beehive. In a
way, it is an appealing concept - at least to the theorists,
including the majority of professional writers. It is much
simpler to assume that human beings "stay put" or that
there should be some overriding authority that would
make them stay put. But to think that way is to think like
a bee - if a bee really thinks.

The plain fact of the matter is that human beings,
with their hopes and aspirations and the faculty for reasoning,
are very different from bees. Man combines conscious
curiosity with the lessons of experience and, when
permitted to do so, makes the combination pay continuous
dividends. In contrast to the lower animals, he includes
himself and his social affairs within the scope of
his curiosity.

Bees, down through the ages, continue to act like automatons
and keep on building the same little cells of
wax. But human society is made up of unpredictable relationships
between individual persons. It is boy meeting
girl, Mrs. Jones telephoning Mrs. Smith, Robinson buying
a cigar, the motorist stopping for gas, the minister
making his round of calls, the postman delivering mail,
the lobbyist tipping the bellboy and meeting a congressman,
the school child bargaining for bubble gum, the
dentist saying, 'Wider, please!" Society is the innumerable
relationships of persons in their infinite variety in
space and in time.

The Purpose of Society

And what is the one constant element in all these relationships?
Why does one person want to meet another
person? What is the human purpose in society?

It is to exchange one good for another good more desired.
Putting it on a personal basis, it is a matter of
benefiting yourself by getting something you desire from
another person who, at the same time, benefits himself
by getting something that he desires from you. The object
of such contacts is the peaceful exchange of benefits,
mutual aid, co-operation -for each person's gain. The incalculable
sum of all these meetings is human society,
which is simply all the individual human actions that
express the brotherhood of man.

To discuss the welfare and responsibilities of society
as an abstract whole, as if it were like a bee swarm, is an
oversimplification and a fantasy. The real human world
is made by persons, not by societies. The only human development
is the self-development of the individual person.
There is no short cut!

But even today, many civilized persons - nice people,
cultured, gentle, and kind, our friends and our neighbors,
almost all of us at some time or another - have harbored
the pagan belief that the sacrifice of the individual person
serves a higher good. The superstition lingers in the
false ideal of selflessness -which emphasizes conformity
to the will-of-the-mass -as against the Christian virtues
of self-reliance, self-improvement, self-faith, self-respect,
self-discipline, and a recognition of one's duties as well
as one's rights.

Such thinking is promoted under the banner of social
reform, but it gives rise to the tyrants of "do-goodism"-
the fiihrers, the dictators, the overlords - who slaughter
their own subjects, the very people who look to them
for the more abundant life and for protection against
harm.

Today such killings are called "liquidation," "blood
purge," "social engineering"; but they are defended on
the basis of pagan barbarism-a sacrifice of the individual
under the alibi of what is claimed to be the "common
good."

The Humanitarian with the Guillotine

In her discerning book, The God of the Machine, Isabel
Paterson draws important distinctions between Christian
kindliness directed toward the relief of distress, and the
misguided efforts of those who would make it a vehicle
for self-aggrandizement.

She points out that most of the major ills of the world
have been caused by well-meaning people who ignored
the principle of individual freedom, except as applied to
themselves, and who were obsessed with fanatical zeal to
improve the lot of mankind-in-the-mass through some pet
formula of their own. "It is at this point," she says, "that
the humanitarian sets up the guillotine.

Although prompted by good intentions, such a program
is usually the outgrowth of egomania fanned by
self-hypnotism. As stated before, it is based on this idea:
"I am right. Those who disagree are wrong. If they can't
be forced into line, they must be destroyed."

Egoism, a natural human trait, is constructive when
kept within bounds. But it is highly presumptuous of any
mortal man to assume that he is endowed with such fantastic
ability that he can run the affairs of all his fellowmen
better than they, as individuals, can name their own
personal affairs.

As Miss Paterson observes, the harm done by ordinary
criminals, murderers, gangsters, and thieves is negligible
in comparison with the agony inflicted upon human beings
by the professional "do-gooders," who attempt to set
themselves up as gods on earth and who would ruthlessly
force their views on all others - with the abiding assurance
that the end justifies the means.

But it is a mistake to assume that the do-gooders are
insincere. The danger lies in the fact that their faith is
just as devout and just as ardent as that of the ancient
Aztec priest.

Chapter 5
SOCIALISM AND/OR COMMUNISM


The nearest approach to the bee swarm is found in socialism
or communism - whichever term you care to use.
There is not much choice between the two; they both
aim at world collectivism. The only difference is a variation
of viewpoint as to what tactics and procedures
should be used to bring it about.

Up to 1917, the words socialism and communism were
used as synonymous and interchangeable terms. But incident
to the Russian Revolution, they began to be used to
distinguish between the Second Intenational and the
Third International.

Perhaps we had better go back a little and briefly review
the events that led to the present-day confusion. In
the middle of the 19th century, a German named Karl
Heinrich Marx, with the support of the wealthy Friedrich
Engels, presented the ancient will-of-the-swarm superstition
in moden dress, embellished with pseudo-scientific
theories. His voluminous writings include The Communist
Manifesto ( 1848) and Das Kapital (1867).

This was during the period when the so-called Industial
Revolution was just beginning to make headway in
lifting the burden of heavy labor from the back of mankind.
But Marx misinterpreted the trend. He mistook the
new tools of freedom as being tools of further oppression.

Continue> pg 42,43. http://mises.org/books/mainspring.pdf



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"None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free. The truth has been kept from the depth of their minds by masters who rule them with lies. They feed them on falsehoods till wrongs look like right in their eyes." ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face, forever.
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Re: The Hivemind Singularity -- The Death of the Individual

Postby quasimodo » Wed Jul 18, 2012 1:20 pm

The word "individual" (as in, "The Death of the Individual") is a misnomer commonly miss applied to men. If you buy a box of mason jars you can open the box to see all of the "individual" jars in the box. All are identical, therefore a single jar is an individual jar, indistinguishable from the rest. I am unique. You are unique. Therefore it is not possible for any one of us to be an "individual" because of our unique qualities. I am not an individual, I am me. Unique in every way. I may have 2 legs just like you but my legs are different from yours. LOL They're about 4 feet longer.
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Re: The Hivemind Singularity -- The Death of the Individual

Postby lostandfound » Tue Mar 04, 2014 5:59 pm

The 2014 Google tracker—Everything we know Google is working on this year

Google's plans for Android, gaming, smart homes, healthcare, robots, and much, much more. Five pages read it!


http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2014/02/ ... this-year/


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xCWIjgnG8DI
"None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free. The truth has been kept from the depth of their minds by masters who rule them with lies. They feed them on falsehoods till wrongs look like right in their eyes." ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face, forever.
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Re: The Hivemind Singularity -- The Death of the Individual

Postby lostandfound » Tue Jan 10, 2017 3:49 pm

"None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free. The truth has been kept from the depth of their minds by masters who rule them with lies. They feed them on falsehoods till wrongs look like right in their eyes." ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face, forever.
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