Imagine a world where everybody’s mind is in connection with everyone else’s mind. All your thoughts are shared with every human being in existence and you yourself can access anyone’s opinion on anything they have ever encountered or thought about. What kind of world would that be? If you are given a choice right now to embrace everybody’s thoughts in exchange for sharing all thoughts of your own, would you proceed with that choice?
There are many things to consider here, as well as many implications both foreseen and unforeseen. Let us explore some of those; we should, however, explore some of the problems that we may encounter on our way to collective intelligence. Let us take the idea of communication for example. It is likely, that communication as we know it cease to exist. Furthermore, communication will be much richer than ever before.
There will be little if any need for language. Indeed, language is too restrictive to convey what we can when thought exchange becomes possible. Now, instead of reading a book and interpreting what the author was writing about, everyone can access author’s own mind and live through the experience of the story of that book. This experience would be much more overwhelming than language can possibly convey. Now, you can see, hear, taste, touch, smell and feel simultaneously to the tiniest detail every single aspect of the author’s view of the world where the story develops. You would be able to receive unique experiences and life choices that inspired the author to imagine the story.
Day to day communication would be likely to change drastically. No one would ever be alone and distance would not play any part in communication. You would be able to connect to anyone you know, and create conversations between millions of people known and unknown to you at the same time. There would be no need to be in one place to exchange the entire spectrum of feelings.
Science would possibly thrive through its greatest moments. With all the knowledge being available to everyone, there will be no restriction whether by censorship or by language barriers. All the experiments will be seen and interpreted by billions of caring eyes and ears to evaluate the possible outcomes. Collaborations will become much easier, bringing like-minded people together, pulling necessary knowledge and recourses to perform groundbreaking new experiments. The most difficult concepts will be conveyed in their entirety with ease across minds, borders and languages.
Or will there be a totally different picture? If all people exchange their experiences right now, will it not cause massive disruptions, wars and quarrels among people of different opinions, religions, views? Will it not cause total paralysis and shock to realize that the world is so much more than any single observer can ever conceive? Or maybe, it will cause global suicide, as everyone will experience millions of people dying at every given moment. Will governments exist? Is there a way to hold any particular law or order if everyone knows everything other people know and think? Will art exist in physical form? Or will we only need basic food and shelter for survival, constantly living in the global pool of everyone’s dreams, exploring other minds, which might be so much more interesting than the world outside?
The moment of transition from “one mind” to “all mind” is of much importance, as it is likely to determine what kind of picture we will get. Other technicalities also need our close attention as they will determine, for example, privacy of thought or how much information we can process at any given moment. To my mind, our brain will not be capable to process information from every other mind instantaneously. Furthermore, human lifetime might end up being too short to comprehend even a thousand of ever changing minds of other people, never mind person’s own thoughts and feelings. The whole process of comprehension would add to the information pool, making it even more difficult to follow.
A solution to this is apparent if we use the internet as an analogy of everyone’s mind. No single computer holds the entirety of the internet -- the amount of data is too big to hold it in any single location (among other difficulties). On the other hand, anybody with access to the internet can view any internet source that is available. I would like to propose that same idea for the transition between “one mind” and ”all minds”-- the access is granted, but every person can pick and choose what they want to see/feel/experience.
The idea of privacy of thought is another issue. Two major concerns are clear to me, immediately: one is intellectual rights, that is whether or not my thoughts are uniquely identified with me and whether I will receive any credit for them; the second one being emotional content-- whether I am allowed to hide experiences which can potentially hurt other people or severe my relationships with them.
Intellectual rights are an important topic, because in this vast pool of everybody’s thoughts, you might want to pick only those views that are coming from a certain person, and not from another. Say, I prefer information about an earthquake from people who are experiencing it and from those who are monitoring it, not from somebody on the other side of the planet, who just thinks that earthquakes are good/bad in general. Same might go for religions – some people might want to know positive thoughts about their particular religion, not the haters’ views on it. As I am limited to process only a finite amount of data (as I stated above), I cannot gather the overall average opinion of certain event; unless, of course, there is a mechanism that does that automatically for me. Average might not even be enough for me to know, despite the “wisdom of crowds” phenomenon. I would have to choose the sources that I trust.
The downside of such an identification is anonymity. What if I do want to voice my opinion, but I do not want to be tracked back by it? This may or may not be implemented, depending on how we want the whole idea of mind exchange to work. Will we need a mind police to track down people with extreme views that do not agree to the majority? Or will we have to invent certain machinery which will segregate certain thoughts for us in a convenient way whether or not they reflect the opinion of the majority?
Another of the whole question of intellectual rights is whether I will receive any credit for my inventions. What if my mind was the first to solve some global problem like AIDS of world hunger? Should I be allowed to close off such information and demand something for it if I choose to?
Emotional content is one of the more “touchy” subjects in this view of the “all mind” world. Suppose, I have a friend, whom I do not particularly like for some traits of his/her personality, but like them for something else? It will be up to them to decide whether to get upset about me disliking them or embrace it and move on. If emotional content is allowed to be accessed by everybody, will it severe my relationships with my friends, family, and associates? Will it offend someone, who follows a different creed or political view? Will we not be judged by how we feel towards others? Will this not be the only form of judgments?
We do not need to look far into future to see the examples of collective intelligence. The Internet allowed unprecedented levels of collaboration in our lifetime, and it moves towards more interactivity, integrity and user friendly interface for everyone to enjoy and share others views, opinions and discoveries. Huge collaborative projects like Wikipedia allow everyone to participate to collect the world’s knowledge on a single platform. Social networks allow us to communicate, whilst staying thousands of kilometers away from one another, as well as search for like-minded people. Information organized in digital form allows us to embark on a journey that other people have created and followed through space and time.
There are many issues to resolve, before the exchange can take place from intelligent rights to the structure of society after the exchange. That said, I believe, we are moving towards such integrity, comprising the world, where everyone can have thousands of keen eyes and ears, ready to hear, see, feel, and experience something that no one has ever experienced before.
The Philosophy Takeaway Newsletter 46 'Open Topic'