Unconscious, Quantum Mechanics And PSI
Agent Human, A Summary
To Agent Human: Consciousness At The Service Of The Group
The book describes the development
of consciousness in animals and humans, demonstrating its causes and utility
in social behaviour, and particularly the group behaviour of primates
and Homo sapiens.
Human is the first book which combines a rigorous treatment of the biological
and behavioural underpinnings of consciousness with a comprehensive theory
of human agency, thus allowing robust predictions of the future both of
human society and of consciousness itself, the human species' greatest
Although the emergence of
consciousness is initially described at an anatomical and neural level,
supporting material is included to assist the general reader in understanding
the technical details.
The human group, with its
moral burden, was initially the means by which humans were able to develop
society and culture; the process culminated in the emergence of the State,
which is portrayed as a perversion of the natural, ethical 'groupishness'
of humans. But the book shows how the Internet and the globalization of
human society that it engenders will reclaim the moral high ground for
Individuality is seen as
a social tool –
self-awareness emerged to allow the 'Human Agent' to function effectively
in a group, social setting. But our felt conscious awareness is detached
from the workings of the underlying human psyche; at a conscious level,
we often deceive ourselves and others, for once valid evolutionary reasons.
By now this does more harm than good –
but there is a way out!
Our self-awareness allows
us to consider improving ourselves and the condition of the individual
in society; and technology presents multiple opportunities for this. The
book ends with an exploration of the future of consciousness, and by extension
the future of people.
are of course many books about consciousness, but they tend to focus on
particular aspects: Texts which describe the neurological basis of consciousness
– these are often impenetrable to the general reader; 'Dualist'
approaches to the social, ethical and even religious dimensions of consciousness
– these have largely been bypassed by cognitive science; Sociological
or philosophical treatments of the behaviour of human beings – these
hardly ever or never pay attention to the cognitive realities of the brain.
general, existing books on consciousness fail to treat of the causes and
purposes of consciousness, and so they are unable to construct a predictive
theory of the future for consciousness. There are some honourable exceptions,
but many of them were written years or even decades ago, and do not reflect
modern cognitive scientific achievement.
And The Human Group
In our evolutionary history,
individual separateness in a physical sense is of very long standing,
although some types of animal never developed it, or even abandoned it.
So also is the division of individuals into two kinds, male and female.
Other, physical distinctions exist among us, and play a role in mating
or in survival, such as eye or skin colour, strength, height, and so on.
Some mental attributes also go way back, perhaps, such as courage and
propensity to nurture kin (most often children). Such attributes can be
observed in many other species. But humans are unique among species in
having developed a wide range of 'social' emotions and behaviours which
are nonetheless genetically encoded just as much as height or eye colour.
Some of the more basic of
these social emotions or behaviours also evolved among other species,
such as ants or wolves, which are often termed 'social' species as a result;
but the range and depth of human social emotions and behaviours far outstrips
anything to be observed elsewhere, even among non-human primates, who
evidently set out on the road we humans later followed.
Among the characteristic
features of humans is also the set of cognitive abilities we call consciousness,
including the ability to report to each other about our current state
of mind through language. Conscious activity is a key contributor to the
'face' presented by an individual in a group. It is a major proposition
of the book that consciousness as we humans experience it is a product
of our social natures, perhaps even more epigenetic than genetic.
Many evolutionary biologists
believe that consciousness arose or at least gained greater salience as
a result of the demands posed by the group, accompanied by the emergence
of individual personality and complex inter-personal behaviours. Although
some primitive precursor of consciousness presumably originated way back
in animal evolution, there's no doubt that cognitive power, and consciousness
as part of that, expanded greatly with the arrival of social groups. Other
things that happened during the same period (roughly speaking between
2m and 250,000 years ago) were the arrival of bi-pedality, the rapid enlargement
of the human brain, and the development of communication techniques to
supplement and then largely replace physical grooming as a means of social
interaction, culminating in the development of language. All of these
innovations are tied together in a complex web of cause and effect, whose
details are much debated. But each one is eventually necessary to all
the others; that too is not disputed.
Of course it
seems to make sense that a wide repertoire of facial expressions (only
humans have such complex facial muscles), emotional displays and meaningful
sounds would have developed as part of living in a larger group of people,
and especially so as that group began to display co-operative social behaviours
such as those of the 'hunter-gatherer'. The larger group also saw the
emergence of reciprocal altriusm and intentionality (an understanding
of the 'otherness' of others), something which is the sine qua non
of a human social group, and the emergence of 'social' emotions such as
empathy, shame and love. Finally, a developing awareness of self (full-blown
consciousness, in fact) allowed the individual to plan and undertake social
interactions as an autonomous agent. This all meant increased cognitive
demands on the brain, including the storage of massive quantities of information
about other members of the group and interactions with them. Eventually
there was some sort of limit on group size at around 150 individuals,
thought to be linked to the cognitive capacity of the brain, which could
no longer become bigger given the constraints of the birth canal in human
females and the brain's own energetic requirements.
co-operative group was already effective enough for humans to compete
successfully against rivals and enemies, both animal and Neanderthal.
Nature was not tamed, but could be lived with. And with the development
of the human social group came the emergence of morality as we now understand
it. Neumann (Depth Psychology and a New Ethic)
paints consciousness as being at the centre of the process by which the
collective (the group in its most general sense) applies an ethical (moral)
structure to its members.
do not in fact in the normal course of life make conscious distinctions
between the origins of the rules they adhere to; this is a process that
is carried out unconsciously, and it has a great deal to do with internal
knowledge of group membership. There can be conflicts between group memberships,
each with its distinct set of moral imperatives, and these sometimes require
a conscious decision to be made between conflicting rules, or at least
conscious awareness of a decision that has, perhaps, been made unconsciously.
Such conflicts are rare, however. For the most part, people do accept
sets of rules that are presented to them as the writ of the group, whether
consciously or unconsciously, without enquiring too deeply into their
legitimacy. This tendency to conform has evolutionary fitness, emerging
as hierarchical group-centred living became the norm.
Up to this point,
there is perhaps little for most people to disagree with; it is the next
step that has some people sucking their teeth (facial emotional display).
And the next step is to assert that human individuality as it is experienced
by modern humans could not have existed (and could not have been perceived
either by the individual or others) until the battery of group-centred
human social attributes, often termed the social calculus, had emerged.
It might be more accurate to call them 'cognitive' attributes, but in
this group-oriented book they are treated as if they are indissolubly
linked to social situations.
Social situations are of
course not limited to those that might have existed during the evolution
of early Homo sapiens, and the later history of human societies
encompasses a host of 'cultural' innovations which are to be thought of
as being passed from generation to generation through education or by
being recorded outside the brain, in books, paintings or nowadays on the
The thesis of the book is
that those genetically encoded human attributes that are expressed through
individual personality evolved largely in a group environment, and that
human individuality as it is experienced by a person has to be understood,
and can mostly be described, in terms of group memberships. Put in another
and more blatant way, individual personality and self-awareness are tools
of groupishness (or groupedness) and developed because they had adaptive
Is A Group Anyway?
In Agent Human,
the word 'group' is frequently used to define a collection of people,
each of whom can say, we XyXyXy-ers . . . They belong to the XyXyXy group.
Evidently, this excludes animals, in the sense that a dog cannot say (and
may or may not be able to think): 'We dogs like bones'.
is not possible to deny the existence of groups among non-human organisms;
they clearly exist, and were necessary precursors of the human group as
it finally emerged. Groups pre-existed humans, and the early stages of
the development of the human group took place among earlier types of organism.
A group in the
human sense is a mental concept; it is something that a person feels that
she belongs to, or, equally important, does not belong to. It isn't possible
to talk about groups without accepting their exclusiveness alongside their
inclusiveness. This feature of groups is an essential clue to their origins,
and also arose among precursor species.
Given that the
idea of 'groupedness' is very central to and deeply embedded in the human
psyche, it is not surprising that there is an extensive range of dimensions
on which humans can plot their affiliations. Men are a group. Women are
a group. People are a group. Man-hating women are a group. Women-hating
men are a group. Cat-lovers are a group. Chinese chefs are a group.
There are a lot of groups,
and we all belong to lots of them. How many groups do you belong to? What
part of you doesn't belong to a group? Ah, stop! You are a unique individual.
Absolutely. You believe it, I believe it, everyone believes it. Of course.
But again, what part of you doesn't belong to a group?
You are a Canadian (group)
woman (group) and you are married (group) with children (group). You drive
a car (group) but you also have a bicycle (group) and sometimes you even
walk on the sidewalk (group). You have pets (group), you play netball
(group), you are a lawyer (group), your family came from Kiev (group),
you are a fan of Eminem (group), you are a lapsed (group) Orthodox Christian
(group), you paint water-colours (group). You have a summer house (group)
and it is on the lake (group).
But you are unique.
It's true that nobody else
has exactly the same combination of group memberships as you do, you can
easily agree, but of course that has got nothing to do with uniqueness.
It is more a question of personality, perhaps, or of other, less definable
characteristics. Eventually, for many people, it is a matter of 'soul'.
From an evolutionary point
of view, however, there is no reason to suppose that individuals with
distinct personalities would have any reason to exist in the absence of
a forum in which individuality has value, meaning, that it somehow increases
the 'inclusive fitness' (jargon for evolutionary adaptiveness) of its
possessor. That was as true when the first sexual differentiation occurred
among primitive worms as it is true today of the contribution made by
the infinite gradations of the human personality to our complex society.
It is the task of the book,
therefore, to chart the development of human individuality, itself deeply
interwoven with the idea of the 'self' and of consciousness, but at every
stage to insist on understanding the purposes of the gradual accretions
of social complexity and cognitive power that have marked our progress,
if such it is.
In fact, as seen from the
perspective of a believer in the central importance of groups to human
individuality, the message of the book is an immensely hopeful one for
humans, because it provides both an explanation of the anomie or social
divisiveness that is the curse of modern society and at the same time
provides a cure for this social disease.
The book has a number of
interlocking purposes and themes:
- To describe the dominant
influence of group membership ('groupishness') and the demands of social
existence on the genetic evolution and more latterly the epigenetic
development of the human psyche;
- To track the development
from earliest times of the cognitive assemblage we call consciousness
and its anatomical basis in the brain, largely by means of a summary
of state of the art research;
- To present the evidence
from evolutionary biology and other disciplines supporting the idea
that human consciousness and 'selfhood' developed to support the role
of individuals in groups, based by all means on previous cognitive and
neural developments that allowed higher animals to plan and to behave
appropriately with conspecifics.
- To describe the development
of modern society, its moral basis and the consciousness of its citizens
from a 'groupish' perspective;
- To speculate on the future
of human consciousness in the context of advanced forms of 'machine'
intelligence and the oncoming ability of humans to re-engineer their
Future For Human Consciousness
at her laptop while on holiday in the Cayman Islands, today's (or tomorrow's)
economic actor can communicate with a group of the other members of an
international share-buying club specializing in feminine health and beauty
companies; can organize the participation of one of her children in a
summer music camp in New England; can continue an extensive e-mail discussion
with a group of intellectual property lawyers (our actor is one such,
herself) aimed at influencing the next meeting of a sub-Committee of WIPO
to change the wording of a proposed 'fair-use' exemption clause; can visit
a user discussion forum to help a decision about whether to change her
health insurance scheme; and, exhausted, can close down the miserable
machine and thankfully join the rest of her family on the beach, her global
credentials well and truly burnished for the day. Of course, she will
still have her Blackberry with her, just in case . . .
does the nation state feature in this admittedly very partial list of
one individual's social and professional involvements. Every one of them
is centred around a group of people making their own arrangements within
global organizational and cultural structures. But this prescription for
added groupishness a la Durkheim does not resolve the impasse
caused by the confrontation between modern society and the unconscious,
tethered to its collective roots. Spiritually, the lady on the beach is
For the moment
skirting around the possibility that humans may eventually be able to
choose types of psyche which are different from the one we now have (but
see below), the options open to a member of contemporary society to resolve
this dilemma might be listed as follows:
- Accept the agenda of the
individual versus the State;
- Return to groupishness;
- Fully inhabit individuality
The first of these leads
to lack of moral basis in life, due to the unsatisfactory moral leadership
given by the State (it demands moral hegemony, but then behaves completely
amorally in relation to its citizens, and fails to provide satisfactory
models or moral teaching). The result is hoodies and the rest.
The second is very successful
for those individuals who do it, but fails to address the pressing questions
that are posed by humanity's progress. Examples of communities that have
retreated to (or stayed in) past folkish social models are the Hutterites
and the Amish. 'Revivalist' US religious communities probably fall into
this bracket, as do activist organizations such as Al Quaede. Scientologists,
nuns and monks are other examples of communities that solve the problems
of modern society by ignoring them.
The third path seems to be
the only possible one for an individual who wishes to be 'saved' from
the moral desert of the modern world, while continuing to be a part of
that world. It doesn't absolutely require a conscious decision to follow
such a path, but is probably much more difficult without awareness of
what is going on. It is difficult because it requires acceptance of the
unconscious, group-based nature of one's psyche, which cannot easily be
accessed by the enquiring conscious mind, but which informs the whole
of the structure of the personality, especially as regards social dealings
with the outside world.
The 'groupish' unconsciousness
carries with it the moral burden of all the groups to which an individual
belongs, even if part of this may have been contributed from external
sources (from the 10 Commandments to the Code of Practice for Futures
Traders to the rules of your golf club). In order for an individual to
construct her own independent yet 'groupish' universe, it is necessary
for the conscious mind, including the superego, to accept the body of
these rules as a real and forceful part of the psyche. In history, few
people have achieved this; but it is becoming easier because of better
understanding of the workings of the mind and society. Nowadays a reasonably
well-educated person is already a few steps up the ladder before they
It needs to become the goal
of society that all its members should fit this specification, unless
they wish to follow the second path. The cop-out, the first path, should
not be a permitted option, because that is what will lead to a permanent
underclass, and nightmare visions like H G Wells's Eloi and Morlocks.
It is quite surprising how many science fiction writers have imagined
a 2-layer society of this kind; it is indeed one of the greatest dangers
facing humans, but it can be avoided fairly easily as long as an inclusive
agenda is adopted by those people who are in a position to influence the
choices of individuals and their organizations.
This is not to say that lager
and Little Britain are to be banned in favour of a diet of Chateau Petrus
and The Art of Fugue. It is not necessary to be elitist in order to understand
and participate in collective, 'groupish' activities and mind-sets.
The development of technologies
permitting intensified communication between people, as outlined below,
will also bring a need for improvement, in this case at the cognitive
level. Internet-inspired collaborations affecting many aspects of life,
some of them currently under nation state control, and the development
of direct brain-to-brain or brain-to-robot communication, perhaps in shared
cognitive spaces, will generate demand for faster and broader psychological
performance. The development of the brain is guided by an intricate interaction
between the genome and a child's environment, but beyond question, there
will be ways in which dna can be changed to favour desired outcomes.
change themselves not just because they can, although that on its own
makes it certain that they will, but because evolution hasn't finished
with us, and never will, while we exist; because we seem unable to secure
the good bits of human nature against the bad bits; because we may destroy
ourselves if we don't change; and because we have allowed the Church and
the State to relieve our 'souls' – for want of a better word –
of moral responsibility.
It may be supposed that,
towards the middle of the century, as improved medical techniques increasingly
offer life chances to everyone regardless of genetic and environmental
factors, Darwinian evolution will become less of a factor in pure 'survival
of the fittest' terms. There is unlikely to be any cultural resistance
to this trend.
Within the lifetime
of today's children, there will be no part of the body which cannot be
replaced or improved by a bionic or artificial biological or bio-electronic
device; and some human faculties will routinely be enhanced by implants
shortly after birth – hearing is the most obvious example with major
improvements in the perceived frequency range and spatial discrimination.
Direct manipulation of the genome will have removed the great majority
of genetically-transmitted diseases; and babies will be 'designed' to
an extent which would have seemed unacceptable even 20 years ago.
The future for Darwinian
evolution of human cognitive faculties is a tougher nut to crack. There
certainly is a premium on cognitive ability in the modern world, as there
has been for thousands of years if not much longer, and on the conforming,
cooperative and communicative behaviours that are required for group success.
And no-one could pretend for a moment that the modern world is anything
but more complex and more demanding cognitively than it used to be. The
cult of individuality might be thought to work in the opposite direction,
but that is a superficial view. At almost all points, the individual interacts
with the modern world through the agency of groups: at school, in the
office, in the army, in sport, in the pub. Even a person working in an
intensely individual way, say, a top golfer, cannot succeed without her
groupish 'support team', the approbation of her peers, and her fan club.
And as pointed out in previous chapters, globalization and the Internet
will increase, not reduce the opportunities for people to form like-minded
All of this social complexity
could be expected to work for greater cognitive social skills, although
its impact on marriage and reproductive chances may be lessened by programmes
aimed at reducing social disparities.
Bionic and genetic techniques
to improve (artificially – whatever that means) cognitive performance
may also tend to reduce the role of 'natural' Darwinian selection, although
in terms of genetic results it may be hard to tell the difference between
an improvement in neuronal memory functioning brought about by genetic
manipulation and one brought about by failure to breed on the part of
people whose memory skills are too poor to allow them to perform successfully
in the world.
One particularly intriguing
area is the access of consciousness to 'groupish' segments of the brain,
that is the parts of the brain which hold knowledge of group memberships,
relationships with other group members, and the sets of rules which govern
those relationships. Many researchers have supposed that the enormous
volume of this information was one of the main causes of increasing brain-size
in early hominids. Although some of this information is available to consciousness,
some of the time, most of it is hidden, although of course it is used
all the time by the unconscious decision-making cognitive apparatus.
These and other re-engineerings
of the internal workings of the brain are likely to be technically feasible
by 2050, if not before, and alongside them will be opportunities for enlargement
of a human's cognitive space through access to external electronic cognition.
External memory (data-bases) was mentioned above, in the sense of a static
store of information that would be available to the existing brain through
wireless, magnetic or even cable communication.
Two-way communication between
the human brain and external devices (and, indeed, other human brains)
in a way that bypasses existing sensory channels seems a near-certainty
within twenty years at the very outside, and probably much sooner. Once
a human can communicate directly with the cognitive space of a quasi-human
external device, or with other human psyches, immense possibilities open
up for enhanced group activity. Humans are already well equipped by evolution
to handle collective planning, analysis and behaviour; it will no doubt
be a stretch for our current brains to encompass a dramatically wider
set of cognitive inputs, enabling and even requiring faster mental processing,
but there is no reason to suppose that we cannot learn and improve in
this direction, as we have done in the past in other respects.
Self-deception is perhaps
another matter. Although there evidently were benefits from the interlocking
roles of consciousness and deception in the historical context of human
social development, it is not clear that it is necessary or desirable
for the situation to continue as it is. Humans seem to be born ready to
deceive rather than ready to trust, and each individual goes through a
long and difficult process of socialization and personal self-development
in order to attain a reasonable level of openness, transparency and honesty
in social dealings. Many people, perhaps most, never do.
It would arguably
be an improvement to the human psyche to arrange better access for consciousness
to those parts of the brain it cannot currently access, and to the processes
that take place in them. That could include some parts of what we currently
term the 'unconscious'. There may be occasions on which a more sentient
human being might still choose to be deceptive – but many people
might think it an improvement if hypocrisy, bigotry, snobbery and the
like played a much less prominent role in human affairs, which is the
likely result if people could be aware of the unconscious processes that
cause them to dissemble – both to others and to themselves.
Future For Human Brains
By, say, 2030, the functional
cognitive structure of the human brain will be well understood, although
some 'wiring diagrams' will not yet be mapped, not least because they
are dynamic. The issue of the extent to which words are stored in terms
of related images or non-linguistic patterns will have been resolved,
and appropriate results will have followed in terms of robotic and bionic
cognitive devices, and the control of them. The main lines of the cognitive
structure of 'human-friendly' robots (ie robots which need to communicate
in more than a superficial way with humans) will have been laid out.
During the period from 2030
to 2050, it is to be expected that humans will become able to communicate
with quasi-human robotic intelligences using wireless or magnetic technologies,
or just using a cable link, by-passing their normal sensory channels.
It will probably be possible for a human to 'inhabit' a robot's psyche,
using its consciousness, its cognitive tools and its sensory equipment
as if they were her own. This probably sounds too visionary; but consider
for a moment the experience of a surgeon remotely inspecting the inside
of a coronary artery with an intelligent micro-camera. This already happens,
and it is not such a major step to add further sensory equipment to the
camera (heat sensors, say, haptic and olfactory antennae) and then cognitive
facilities that would allow the instrument to begin to make its own decisions
and carry out its own motor actions within limits set by the surgeon.
In fact it is already commonplace
to view through the sensory apparatus of robotic devices. Houston inspects
the shuttle for damage through remote cameras or through cameras held
by astronauts; pilots have 'head-up' displays of telemetry or targets.
The crucial step forward will be for such sensory information (not just
visual) to be received directly by the brain. Experimental control of
prosthetic limbs by thought processes has already been demonstrated, with
a combination of nerve signals and electronic sensors; it is only a matter
of time before the brain will be able to receive and work with information
transmitted from remote sources – say, 2020. Shortly after that a
human will be able to control a robot as if it was an organic extension
of the human body; and by adding quasi-human cognitive abilities to the
robot, an individual will be able to work in a sentient partnership with
the robot. The robot at that point has in a real sense become a partial
cognitive clone of the human, and many aspects of a human's daily life
could be lived through such surrogate devices. The avoidance of physical
risk is one obvious benefit, but there are many others, including that
people would no longer need to travel.
It is more or less straightforward,
if you are a believer, to imagine how parts of sensory awareness and certain
types of cognitive activity (accessing a lexicon, for instance) could
be migrated to an external device, but it requires a further leap of imagination
to think that consciousness, based as it is on very deeply rooted representations,
could be so migrated. But if sensory processing can be carried out in
a remote device, why should not the representations (Edelman's global
mappings, for instance) also migrate? Thus, bit by bit, the lower levels
of consciousness (somatic responsiveness, categorizing responsiveness,
etc, all as described in the early chapters of this book), could be reconstituted
remotely and used by the human brain to construct the 'upper' levels of
consciousness, culminating in self-awareness. Or it might be that the
step-by-step building process might not be needed, and that elegant short
cuts might be found towards the re-creation of self-awareness. For the
purposes of this chapter, it is not even relevant: what matters is that
the creation of remote, communicable, reportable self-awareness will happen;
and that is the subject of the final section of the book.
Migrating Consciousness Into External Environments
Whether or not it does become
possible for humans to migrate part or all of their cognitive and sensory
apparatus (including levels of consciousness as described in this book),
there are difficulties in reaching satisfactory names for such 'remote
cognitive representations'. Conventionally they have been called robots;
but the more 'human' they become, the less satisfactory that term comes
to seem. The word 'avatar' is also not too satisfactory, since it carries
with it the sense of being an artificial construct, whereas in most situations
what is wanted, and will be provided, is a more or less faithful (if partial)
version of the original. The word clone is also overlaid with a lot of
extraneous meanings by now. So in Agent Human the term Remote Cognitive
Representation (abbreviated to RCR) is used to describe a device or construct
which faithfully represents all or part of an individual in a 'real' or
It is important to see that
Remote Cognitive Representations (RCRs) will become the preferred method
of interacting with other people (other RCRs no doubt) in a wide variety
of situations, and to distinguish them from avatars as used in gaming
or other imaginary (and often deceptive) situations. Right here we will
skip over the difficulties of identification that will be raised by Remote
Cognitive Representations. These are not different in kind from those
that already exist as regards people, and they will be solved by the same
types of method.
Apart their use in Virtual
Internet Communities (VICs), Remote Cognitive Representations will be
useful for business meetings between robots or in virtual 'rooms', for
queuing, for attending conferences, if such still exist, for going to
art galleries, concerts, plays, sporting events (and possibly for competing
in some of them), for attending educational classrooms or lecture theatres.
It will be seen that the Virtual Internet Community is in fact not to
be thought of as just a playful Internet social environment – as
RCRs become more powerful, the VIC will become the norm for many types
of human private or business forum.
It is also clear that VICs
allow an individual to become far more efficient, since she can be represented
in multiple social settings simultaneously. The RCR which 'powers' the
individual in the VIC can of course be given an amount of autonomy appropriate
to a particular setting, so that the 'owner' becomes aware of the RCR's
sensory and cognitive states only in pre-determined circumstances (quite
like consciousness!), or of course at the behest of the owner. 95% of
shopping, for instance, does not require a decision process from the owner
and could easily be multi-tracked with other activities (child-minding,
So far, the RCR has been
discussed as if its capabilities merely reflect a sub-set of its owner's
chacteristics; but in reality the RCR will soon come to be capable of
more, for instance by holding sets of data which cannot be accommodated
in (or are not needed by) the owner's 'home' cognitive space. RCRs will
also come to be able to pool the experience of groups of other owners
and/or their RCRs. For this type of unit, the expression Remote Cognitive
Collective (abbreviated RCC) is employed.
One way or another, the collective
psyche which currently exists among groups of individuals at an unconscious
level, as described by Jung and Neumann, will come to exist more transparently
in the Remote Cognitive Collective. It's not possible to know, at present,
whether Jung's 'collective unconscious' just means an understanding shared
by a number of group members, or whether it refers to some sort of buried
telepathic ability which humans have lost during the development of speech
and visual, especially facial communication. Probably this question will
be answered, along with many others, by neuroscientists during the next
It is fascinating to speculate
on the protocols which would be necessary to govern the awareness by individuals
of the state of a Remote Cognitive Collective, and the rules to govern
their active participation in what we must still call a meeting, although
it wouldn't seem much like a meeting in the 'real world'. From one point
of view it would be easier to communicate with the mental states of one's
peers in such a meeting, since the RCC would hold data about the current
cognitive state of participants in highly organised forms.
Remote Cognitive Collectives
might develop as purely passive fora, to be inhabited as occasion demands
by multiple individuals; but they will also probably come to have initiative
and even perhaps personality on their own account. We could call this
an 'active RCC', with autonomous tasks ranging from simple activities
such as data collection to the representation of the collective will of
the group as a quasi-human actor in relationships with other Remote Cognitive
Representations, RCCs or individuals.
There are no theoretical
limits to the 'size' of an RCC, and at the extreme it would be –
will be – possible for large numbers of people to express their will
(vote, for instance) through an RCC. External cognitive devices with which
humans will learn to communicate will include robots, domestic control
systems, teaching computers, electronic 'rooms' for group use in, eg,
business activity, clubs of all kinds, and family forums.
will have defences against infiltration, but in addition there will also
be rogue RCCs, the equivalent of criminal gangs, formed for the purpose
of terrorism or plain robbery and which disguise themselves as legitimate
RCCs. However, the same techniques that human groups have developed through
genetic and social evolution to maintain personal and group integrity
will allow society to combat deception even in the very different circumstances
of an electronic world.
is changing so fast that it is more vulnerable to fraud, deceit and pure
destructiveness than an established technology such as telephone communication.
In virtual reality, even with sensory contact, there are multiple ways
to be deceived, robbed or killed. Given that direct connection with a
Remote Cognitive Representation implies open-ness to any opportunistic
virus which has already infiltrated the RCR, protecting oneself against
damage is clearly going to be a major issue. A counterfeit thought can't
perhaps do organic damage simply by masquerading as a piece of permitted
sensory input – or can it? If it cloaks a biochemical recipe for
neural poison, then one has subverted the blood/brain barrier, and organic
brain death could be instant.
are scary; but in truth they are no more scary than blood transfusion,
organ implantation, inoculation, and a host of other widely practiced
invasive medical techniques which could have carried (and in many cases
did carry) with them mortal dangers until they were fully understood.
will delay but not stop implementation of direct sensory communication
and the use of RCRs or RCCs. Perhaps initially such possibly dangerous
and ethically challenging technologies will be used therapeutically in
life-threatening or other extreme situations, and only afterwards for
more frivolous purposes. But there will always be an individual mad enough
to want to try the next thing: once it has worked for Sir Richard Branson,
it is OK for you!
And if Agent
Human is right in supposing that technology will permit a great expansion
of human inter-connectedness through the creation of shared or collective
cognitive spaces, then that will force a rapid evolution of the necessary
cognitive skills in which Darwinian and 'artificial' influences may be
hard to disentangle.
Abandoning The Collective . . . . In Favour Of .
. . . The Collective
that have been sketched above evidently imply a far greater degree of
trust and open communication between individuals than is now or ever has
been the case; and this will have substantial implications for the organization
of society, in ways which we can hardly begin to imagine. Some directions
may be guessed at, though.
something which was given a name in Poland as long ago as 1985, will become
a forceful reality within the next fifty years. By 2050 it will be a rare
event for a national or even an international organisation to be able
to take a view which is significantly different from the prevailing, informed
and instantly, even continuously available opinion of its constituent
members. The logical extension of this is the introduction of real-time,
continuous global issue voting using direct brain-to-RCC communication,
bringing about the world's first ever truly democratic society.
There will be
a ferocious argument over the issue of whether the individual consciousness
should preserve its isolation from the deep-rooted collective unconscious
when individuals began to take part in collective cognitive activity,
or whether it is better to create pathways to the unconscious so that
a fuller and more explicit version of each individual psyche could play
its part in the collective experience. The issue of deception will play
a major role, and the majority opinion will perhaps be that there is little
point in recreating the highly deceptive social behaviours that characterize
most human social groups in new fora designed to allow closer cooperation
between people. It seems likely that a limited set of additional neural
pathways, allowing conscious access to major parts of the unconscious,
will be incorporated into the standard model of the human brain.
There will be
an equally ferocious argument over whether the 'groupishness' of the human
brain should be copied over into external brain representations in RCRs.
Again, the likely outcome will perhaps be a general understanding that
almost all of human society had been built on the basis of 'groupish'
psychological mechanisms, and that therefore we should not try to tamper
with the collective underpinnings of our psyches. Once it becomes clear
that there aren't any technological limits to what a human can become,
that immortality is available (at a price), and that people can make choices
as to their life-style, appearance, location and psyche virtually at will
throughout their lives (all of these things are likely to be true by say
2060), there will come to seem little point in tampering too much with
the 'people' we are already familiar with. It will be widely agreed that
it is just much safer to stick with what we already know, apart from the
modifications to consciousness and some genetic 'tweaking' to reduce the
incidence of anti-social and psychotic behaviour. Thus, the set of group-oriented
social skills and behaviours which evolved in the early history of hominids,
and which this book has constantly insisted lie at the core of our existence,
will be preserved.
Within inevitable regulatory
constraints, a world of RCRs and RCCs will offer a wild variety of different
ways forward for humans, including:
of bodies altogether. Evidently, this amounts to immortality, if indeed
by then it has not been achieved in physical terms.
- Abandonment of individuality
in favour of collectivities.
- Abandonment of multiple
collectivities in favour of one collectivity.
- The living of multiple
simultaneous lives by one individual.
- The creation of alternative
psychical forms and bodies or societies to accommodate them (let's be
a tiger today).
One of the easiest
predictions is that people as individuals will continue to want to have
fun, meaning that on-line gaming and social Virtual Internet Communities
(VICs) will continue to test the boundaries of what is permissible. Once
it is possible for an individual to be a tiger in a virtual jungle, to
inflict and suffer injury, to hunt and kill (usually virtual) prey, and
even to be (virtually) killed, is there any doubt that sites will provide
such experiences? It is already there, in fact, at today's primitive level
of technology. What is currently missing is the direct sensory link between
the avatar (RCR) doing the experiencing and the owner's mind; and of course
the fully-understood wiring diagram for a tiger's mind, or at least the
parts of it that are needed for a hunt in the jungle.
also presumably be highly reluctant to give up the mating process, although
it may come to be rationed in terms of population growth, if economics
doesn't get there first, as seems more likely. Collective mating is not
a very attractive thought; so we can expect to see the wooing and mating
process become (in fact, remain) a prominent feature of VICs. The difference,
evidently, will be that physical meeting will not be necessary in order
to experience the various stages of a relationship; in fact, it would
be possible to explore alternative personalities, not necessarily human,
either, before finally adopting a particular personality (or physical
form) for a permanent relationship.