I was reading about the concept of “programmable matter” and came upon this gem:
…we’ve become adept at engineering molecules that have the properties we need to prepare for the time when computing performance depends more on chemical bonds than it does on etched features.
I’m probably not going to be able to encapsulate it today, but there’s something down in there that is very important, and I’ll try.
There will come a time when when we exploit the physical chemistry of atoms and molecules, in reaction, to perform our computations.
You may think that that is all a bit abstract. Too “unembodied”. Yay, faster processors from Intel?
But it is the precise opposite, which is what is so interesting. We use computers like the witch in Snow White uses her magical mirror. We pose questions to a flat surface upon which the answer is displayed. Even if we try to think of different ways to use computers, we end up with flat-surface computers inside cars, or inside robot bodies with some tendril of copper to trigger the mechanism. We have this homunculus conception of mind, as well. A naive Babushka doll model of mind for ourselves. That within our body is our mind and within our mind is a soul, that is really us, or something.
Descartes’ is known for asserting: “I think therefore I am”. But he is also famously known for asserting the fundamental distinction between “res extensa” and “res cogitans”. Basically, he felt that there was a difference between thoughts and phsyical substances that can be measured. Physical substances “extend” out into the world, whereas thoughts are only subjectively accessible. This is interesting to me because, according to modern research, he is basically doubly wrong. Thinking has very little to do with “being” and thought is a product of the substantial brain.
There will come a day where our physical bodies will exist within a computer. But that sentence is naive. The words will have all subtly shifted by then. Our bodies will already be different and computers will have sprung from the Pandora’s box-of-a-surface (2 dimensional central processing units) we’ve had to keep it to to understand it. These days, thought requires arms to act on the physical world. Coming soon (50-100 yrs) to physical substrate near you: no arms required.
Not magic. Just let a diffuse fuzz of a molecular computer ecosystem grow throughout the surface of the planet. There could probably several distinct “networks” coexisting. They’d be alive.
It makes me wonder how much longer things can continue as they are, without a central organization to the research of humanity. Puts me in the mind of Daniel Suarez, Influx. Not that my freedom-loving mind has any affinity for control systems, especially around research and discovery. However, the simple fact is that technology unleashes power and only a fool leaves uninsulated live electric wires hanging around common areas (or anywhere, really). We can see this play out at the international level, already, concerning nuclear weapon research. But nukes are just the tip of the iceberg – there are far more dangerous and subversive technologies possible. Things more targeted at human nature.
Most people don’t even really get what is happening around them as the world rebuilds itself in front of our eyes unseen. All these technologies and physical theories we research are the roilings within the moment of conception of the distributed organism that the culture of our minds is impregnating the body of our desire with.
Religious fundamentalists are often naive. They’ll reject the idea of “evolution” because it isn’t explicitly written in the book or because only 7 days were allotted, etc. I always felt, if one wanted to accept both the book and the facts of scientific reality, that it would be easy to see the book’s description of Genesis as being a broad-stroke kind of sketch. That within that period of time, the creatures evolved according to the logic of the architect. But just differently than we’d expect, since the architect would have had his Logos wind to blow the forms through time directedly. The picture so formed would be the Jeopardy clue to the question-answer: “What do the thoughts of God look like while they’re still forming?”
Mutatis mutandis for how the global human economy/culture is creating a superorganism that will become our governing body.