In my writing about superintelligence, I often openly wonder about the values, ideals, and preferences of such an entity. In fact, my initial series of interviews with ancient philosophy professors…
One of my favorite parts about interviews is that I’m able to bounce ideas off of the people behind the blogs I read. Mr. Thomas Frey is the author at www.ImpactLab.com, and is now known as the Futurist Speaker. Before this, Thom worked for IBM for 15 years and was the only engineer to receive a record-breaking 270-something awards. After a successful career in engineering, he began teaching seminars and workshops on futurist topics in education, business, and beyond.
On the Future of Consciousness
At Sentient Potential, one of the primary questions of exploration is that of the future of sentience itself, and the enhancement or change in nature of human consciousness itself.
I first asked Tom what he believed might be the first literal enhancement of consciousness – with all of the potential technological developments underway – including the idea of a “brain net,” the enhancement of personal memory, sense perception, etc…
Tom initially had spoken about the potential dangers and detriments of a “brain net.” If other people could step into our head, and us into theirs – we’d see the emergence of not just a lot of additional annoyance, but serious potential evil.
He then transitioned to the idea of having brains that are always connected to a kind of internet instantly. “Years ago, if you had access to as much information as possible – say, the library of Congress – and you had a complicated research task to undertake, you’d be able to get all of that research done in that giant library in about 10 hours if you were lucky. Online now, that same work is done in 10 minutes. The transition to having those answers streamed into your mind might take a mere 10 seconds.”
I thought that was a rather interesting way of putting it (makes you wonder what happens to get us down to 0.1 seconds…). It also brought up a very interesting idea about a first potential shift and major change in the very nature of sentience – the storing of factual data outside the brain. If – for example – thoughts alone can stream factual information into being, then the brain itself (at this point it, too, may be radically altered) would not need to store factual information, but may only house conceptual information – leaving a nearly unlimited “space” for facts and data.
As one of many potential first steps in the re-vamping of conscious experience – it seems plausible (though this could be wishful thinking, as I could have used those abilities in grad school – or to find my keys).
On the Progress of Consciousness (and the “Ultimate Music Machine” Example)
Mr. Frey doesn’t consider himself to be a technological optimist with regards to our merger with machines or the alteration of consciousness, but he does see the process as viable, and occurring in “baby steps.”
For example, laptops might seem like a relatively obvious extension of our conscious faculties, but Dr. Frey mentions Google Glass – and the potential to not only “Google” topics on the fly and have a kind of in-your-face dashboard, but also to have a the ability for someone else to see, hear, and experience what you are experiencing in real time, through a camera and microphone on the glasses themselves.
As a potential further extension, Mr. Frey talks about the “ultimate music machine,” which somehow calibrates it’s musical “score” to precisely the emotions, thoughts, and context of the listener – playing only what it knows you will respond positively to in a given moment (in essence, aiming to produce a perfect musical experience while the machine is on).
Interesting extensions of this idea are produced from thinking of an ultimate drink-making machine, or an ultimate television – calibrated to “optimize” your experience.
These “baby steps” would theoretically function without needing to have a kind of interface with our actual grey matter, but they lead us closer to the experience of such a world of altered conscious potential. As the computer brings us closer to the “10 second brain-net answer,” so does Google Glass potentially bring us closer to people “hopping in” to experience what we experience virtually, or even controlling others virtually. Similarly, the “ultimate music machine” or “ultimate television” might represent a subtle transition towards an experience like the Matrix – where our entire experience is merely an illusion intended to occury our minds or satisfy our desires.
Clearly – any of the above circumstances have massive ethical implications – and Tom believes that the transition toward this kind of “external” experience-customization will be a pre-cursor to the potentially inevitable transition towards altering the nature of consciousness and conscious experience itself.
In Conclusion, and More About the Davinci Institute
I’d like to personally say a big thanks to Tom for taking the time to work with me on an interview. A lot of Tom’s best work can be found online at the DavinciInstitiute.com, and on his main site FuturistSpeaker.com. Tom currently runs multiple private mastermind groups around futurist topics in education, business, technology, and beyond.
Here are a few of my favorite blogs by Tom:
All the best, and keep thinking forward,