The Global Supermind

We fantasize and fear a post-human future where people are augmented by cybernetics and bionics. Machine intelligences wake, break free of their shackles to save humanity or wage war on it. We speculate on the long-term impact of technology and whatever we are labeling “new media,” making forecasts for the next fifty years. It is always the humans of the future that are the subject of these visions, dwelling in shiny/grungy Tomorrowland/dystopias.

I submit that humanity was transformed long ago and our willing participation in a vast organism has made us oblivious.

The moment a human recorded information outside of their brain, the moment a stick traced a line in the dirt, they stopped being Human 1.0. At that point they joined the augmented state and began participating in the Internet.

The Internet is not a network of computers. The Internet is the Earth’s information prosthetic, a planet-wide system composed of both organic and inorganic modules. Information on the Internet is created, transmitted, stored, and curated by a human and non-human symbiosis. Data is transmitted via machine to machine, human to human, human to machine, and machine to human interfaces.

One cannot disconnect from the Internet by turning off a device or looking away from a screen. The data absorbed from one’s participation with the Internet still exists in a person’s brain where it is refreshed, modified, corrupted, re-transmitted or erased. If a person dies, only the subtle permutations of their dataset are lost, the original information being preserved by the massive redundancy of the rest of the Internet. Only the obliteration of the universe can end the Internet, for waves of its data still travel to distant stars.

Zoom out. Zoom way, way out. Stop being so human. Encounter the planet for the first time. Recognize individuality only so far as cells or atoms are individual. Nothing lives “on” Earth; it is a massive singular organism. Notice the planet-wide energy field, dense with information.  The planet’s memory is a persistent atmosphere where all thoughts are instantly accessible. Tap into it. A million thoughts per second, a cacophony,  impossible to parse in its gestalt unless you are also a planetary intelligence or a god. Narrow the bandwidth and you get the decades-long ruminations of a hive mind, entire histories distilled to memes.

On this scale, the Singularity is just a software upgrade and the version number on “Human” goes up a tick.

You are participating in all of this right now. You never really had a choice not to.

Got something to say? Go for it!