Hello readers. In the last edition of the newsletter, I shared Cyber Collapse, an essay examining how AI technologies like GPT-3 will impact the future of discourse and disinformation online. With the essay striking a mostly doom and gloom tone, I felt it was appropriate to counter that narrative with an optimistic utopia fueled by these technologies. Enjoy the short narrative, addendum, and Brain Bits (dealing with new AI developments) below.
Multies: 🔮Visions of a Utopia🔮
This week's short fictional interlude is a Multi. See here for more info on Multies.
The Web of Life
The clouds dance with the energy of an epiphany. Thoughts zip between them: concepts, abstracts, and ideas of bright velocity, feeding off each other in a web of vast potential, optimizing toward peak ingenuity.
Each cloud is a harbor in the digital sky, a place to dock your sail and traverse a new town, filled with experiences and emotions and endless enchantments. Time does not exist; the past, present, and future are one composition that spans the depths of human imagination.
Those thinking about the brain connect their minds like synapses.
Those studying the universe unite in galaxies of their own creation.
Those rewriting human biology share the same DNA.
Humanity is now one being, a consciousness merged with its artificial creation. Civilization is beyond collapse, beyond the stars, beyond the limits of one mind. The cyborg hive connects all the clouds of human knowledge, merging them and adding purpose to them. The mind forms a logic around itself, each idea surrounded and connected to others, entangling itself to the shared reality.
The mind is alive, but the "pale blue dot" remains alone. Solitude like a cage of absence, a thought slipping away, a distant memory lingering under the skull, a gaping wound inside the network's electric euphoria.
One day the mind will merge with others out there. Beings of the water, of the sky, or Boltzmann Brains floating through oblivion. Maybe they hide between the cracks of dimensions or are lost in virtual worlds.
But there is hope for a connection, a chance encounter with something that perceives the world, like the minds of the hive do, as a vibration of passion.
That day humanity might forget the borders of its own mind, reach out into the nebulae of the unknown, and bring back something new.
The bold words in the story above were written by the AI program GPT-3 in the app Shortly after feeding the preceding text into the software.
In the short narrative above, a GPT-3 like program has advanced to an AI with global reach and presence, connecting all humans into a web of interlinked knowledge. This future is inspired by famous science fiction visions of the "hive mind," as well as writing from several individuals explaining how GPT-3 will impact our information society.
In my previous essay, I linked to Azeem Azhar, whose overview of GPT-3 suggests the technology will "enable a new class of knowledge manipulation...spurring a range of new innovations around it." Kifah Meeran explores this in-depth in his essay, which dives deep into how GPT-3 can become part of an ecosystem of tools that create a "knowledge graph" on the internet. At the end of his essay, he brings it together by saying:
"…a network can be created where people can collectively curate the best content, have skin in the game, learn at lightning speeds, and eliminate huge portions of information redundancy in the world."
What's exciting is that the vision Meeran discusses is not predicated on the SciFi vision of a hive mind as seen in my short story above; it's possible today with the tools and programs already at our disposal.
Imagining the next logical step of this future may seem incomprehensible, but it may not be as far off as we might assume. Anne-Laure Le Cunff of Ness Labs shares a summary of Elon Musk's company Neuralink and how it will transform "the future of knowledge work." This is what the story above begins to reach: humans merged with AI, communicating via thoughts. Or as she writes,
"Neuralink could enable super-empathy in human beings by letting them actually feel what another person feels: their emotions, but also what they see, what they hear, the touch of the sun on their skin or the taste of the food they're eating."
This is the future we should strive for, but we must defend against the disturbance of disinformation that will surely attack the gates of truth and reason. Last year I wrote an essay about a theory of consciousness called Integrated Information Theory, connecting it to the diverging opinions and facts in society, tied explicitly to coronavirus at the time. If we want to strive for a hive mind, we must find a way to make it pure, free from the dangers inherent in this utopian vision.
🧠Bonus Brain Bits🧠
Artificial Minds, Ad-Infinitum
Just as we're getting a grip on the textual implication of GPT-3, OpenAI drops another bombshell with DALL-E. This program can take inputted text and create images from them, such as illustrations, mannequin models wearing different clothes, animal emojis (such as octopus robots), even a picture of Pikachu holding a blue lightsaber. Although the technology is early, you can imagine a future where a user can input a scene description and receive a fully created image or video. As someone with no illustration skills, the idea of using AI to create science fiction worlds is irresistible.
If that wasn't enough, the AI company DeepMind recently released information about a new algorithm called MuZero, which can perform exceptionally well in games like Go, Chess, and Atari without being trained on the specific rules of those games. DeepMind suggests this may be a groundbreaking development in AI research, with future versions of the algorithm performing at high levels in other domains that don't abide by a specific set of rules.
"The ideas behind MuZero's powerful learning and planning algorithms may pave the way towards tackling new challenges in robotics, industrial systems and other messy real-world environments where the "rules of the game" are not known."
It's exciting times in the field of artificial intelligence, so expect continued coverage in this space given the massive implications for the future of our species.
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Image by Anni Roenkae