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A Biosphere of Minds

By - December 29, 2008

From the wonderful Kevin Kelly:

While we have not yet made anything as complex as a human mind, we are trying to. The question is, what would be more complex than a human mind? What would we make if we could? What would such a thing do? In the story of technological evolution – or even biological evolution – what comes after minds?

The usual response to “what comes after a human mind” is better, faster, bigger minds. The same thing only more. That is probably true – we might be able to make or evolve bigger faster minds — but as pictured they are still minds.

A more recent response, one that I have been championing, is that what comes after minds may be a biosphere of minds, an ecological network of many minds and many types of minds – sort of like rainforest of minds – that would have its own meta-level behavior and consequences. Just as a biological rainforest processes nutrients, energy, and diversity, this system of intelligences would process problems, memories, anticipations, data and knowledge. This rainforest of minds would contain all the human minds connected to it, as well as various artificial intelligences, as well as billions of semi-smart things linked up into a sprawling ecosystem of intelligences. Vegetable intelligences, insect intelligences, primate intelligences and human intelligences and maybe superhuman intelligences, all interacting in one seething network. As in any ecosystem, different agents have different capabilities and different roles. Some would cooperate, some would compete. The whole complex would be a dynamic beast, constantly in flux.

Make you think of anything?

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7 thoughts on “A Biosphere of Minds

  1. He’s been thinking about it for a while. The first time i got in touch with his thoughts on the future of knowledge was at his Ted Talk (

    But it still puzzles me how we can guarantee a level of individuality that both benefits and produces to the rain forest of minds.

    Machines are just one side of the reality, and the hope will remain on more cognitive tasks such as creativity and meditation. Overall, as we outsource to machines most of our tasks, we’ll be entering a new dawn. Not in a new age kind of way, rather a more Philip K.dick 🙂 way.

  2. Tom Crowl says:

    This is a great image. A rainforest of minds… a fertile, interlinked conscious ecology. A cacaphony of life.

    And what does it make me think of?

    I ran across an interesting concept recently arising from computational biology. (Now there’s a hot field!)

    In investigating the networks and sub-networks within a cell and the patterns of gene activation that keep it alive they found out that these systems, for best health must be neither orderly nor chaotic, but must operate at a balancing point between the two called “criticality”.

    Too much order and the living system can’t react to change. Too much chaos and it reacts inappropriately or not at all and collapses.

    So what’s all that mean?

    Life is messy… but it beats all the alternatives.

    And abandon ideologies that strive for some utopian order. You’ll never find one… and shouldn’t!

    And then there’s this question…

    Will consciousness flow into any system to the degree that system is capable of containing it?

    If not, why not?
    Is so, is the universe conscious?

  3. Tom Crowl says:

    I love this kind of stuff!

    So a P.S.

    If free will is a product of the indetermanancy of fundamental reality (the quantum fluctuation)

    And, as some have suggested, the ‘purpose’ of the evolution of consciousness is to expand until the universe itself is conscious…

    What does it do when it gets there?

    An answer for late-nite debate:

    It either creates the universe which is itself… or it does not! (remember that time is rolled up in the same ball)

    And THAT IS the ultimate question we face every moment from now till then.

    To be or not to be…

  4. Tom Crowl says:

    Oh Lordy, Lordy…

    I’m not at all religious but I just realized what my previous post means!

    Shroedinger doens’t have a cat in that box.

    He’s got GOD in there!

    So God IS dead!
    And alive too…

    What was that question?

  5. JG says:

    A more recent response, one that I have been championing, is that what comes after minds may be a biosphere of minds, an ecological network of many minds and many types of minds – sort of like rainforest of minds – that would have its own meta-level behavior and consequences.

    What does that make me think of? Has nobody here read Douglas Adams? Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy? Interdimensional beings building a giant computer (“Deep Thought”) to calculate the ultimate answer to life, the universe and everything. Deep Thought gets the answer: 42. But then everyone realizes that they don’t know what the actual question was. So the build another, even bigger computer: The Earth itself, and its ecological interconnected rainforest of minds, to compute the question.

    Seriously? Is Kevin Kelly just paraphrasing the late, great Douglas Adams?

  6. Kevin needs to think about the history of evolution. Bigger, faster, better, more of the same is not always what comes next. We didn’t get bigger, faster, better dinosaurs. We got no dinosaurs.

    Maybe what comes next is less but more targeted.

  7. Tom Crowl says:

    That old film Colossus: The Forbin Project was anticipating interesting questions.

    At what points does intelligence become consciousness? And then self-consciousness?

    And perhaps even more importantly, what are the implications?

    Our experience with other systems capable of information gathering and analysis combined with an ability to act upon the world (often defined as LIFE)…

    Is that motivations are inherent (SURVIVAL).

    And without that fundamental motivation a truly INDEPENDENT system will simply cease to operate.

    I’m not so sure a survival algorithm requires human modeling any more than the same motivation in a bacteria required such modeling. BTW, nor is self-awareness required EXCEPT for basic self-identification).

    SO the question…

    What is… and from Where… will be derived self-motivation for “independent ai”

    And then…

    How do you define and expand the level of identification (that organism which itself defines as itself and requiring health and persistance) for a coming “New Kind of Mind”

    Final Question then:

    Is Survival Motivation an INHERENT product of Consciousness?

    Or, another way to put it… Can independent intelligence exist without its own motivation for survival?