Blog: Unimaginable Awareness of Awareness
Max Tegmark, in his book Life 3.0, wisely tells his readers that he has been careful not to step on anybody’s toes when it comes to the topic of consciousness. There are simply too many opinions about what it might or might not be. When watching the behavior of a squirrel digging holes in our garden, it dawned on me that you don’t really need it. As I approached the squirrel, it looked up in my direction and froze. When I then stopped moving, it continued digging. However, when I proceeded moving in its direction, it realized that it had to disappear. The squirrel, in other words, showed two levels of awareness: one that made it stop what it was doing to observe its surroundings and another that made its neuron behavior branch like a river and initiate an escape process. The inequality that the squirrel eventually responded to was in my continuing motion, which reduced its chances to escape.
Humans experience a similar two-level sense of awareness. When you drive a car while chatting with a passenger, it’s like a squirrel digging holes. As soon as you notice some unexpected movement on the road, you’d stop chatting to monitor the situation. If nothing happens, you’d continue chatting. However, if movement in the direction of your car perpetuates, your neuron behavior will branch like a river and initiate an escape process. The difference between you and a squirrel is in the broadness of your awareness as it cascades from one level to the next. The squirrel’s awareness is focused on digging holes while your awareness embraces the complex task of driving.
The population of algorithms that will shape “Homai sapiens” through their entangled behaviors is bound to bring “awareness of awareness” to unprecedented levels. The difference between Homai sapiens and us is that our awareness is limited to the capacity of an average person to concentrate on certain aspects of our world. Homai sapiens, instead, through the many fields that it covers through its algorithms, will have a much broader level of awareness. What’s more, as Nick Bostrom emphasizes in his book Super Intelligence, the thing that will really make a difference is processing speed. Neurons in the human brain facilitate a signal speed of about 120 meters per second. Electronic processes, on the other hand, can do so at the speed of light or 300 million meters per second. So, during the milliseconds or seconds that our thoughts need to arise, Homai sapiens can review all the possible options multiple times while evaluating there impact across many fields. In the mean time, no inequality will escape its attention.
This text is an excerpt from Homai Sapiens: Facing Up to Our Extinction