Monday, 22 July 2013

A couple of thoughts on the hive mind

Hive mind or better communication?

I put to myself today the argument that the root cause of the problems we have in society are not the result of separate individuals with their own separate agendas and motivations, but of the inadequacy of the communication between them, and perhaps to an extent the ability of those individuals to empathise/care when the information is passed to them.

The first of these problems is readily observable: our language is crude and we get nowhere close to communicating to one another the true nature of our experiences. There is also an interesting philosophical point on our ability to experience the experiences of others (see qualia for further information on subjectivity of experience). If we can improve communication, will we also need to improve empathy? Is the reason that the person watching the advert on TV raising money for famine victims in Africa who is not moved to act a problem of communication (the fact that the person is not truly experiencing the experience of the famine victims), or is it one of detached uncaring?

If it is a question of better communication, can this problem be addressed? Perhaps we are already addressing it. The world is better connected than it used to be thanks to communication technologies such as mobile phones and the Internet. But then much of the communication on texts and tweets is arguably not the deep interpersonal connection that we need to forge a better world.

The next paradigm in communications is brain-to-machine. And with it brain-to-machine-to-brain. We will have the potential to share our experiences directly. Such understanding of the perspectives of others that we will be able to get will profoundly shape the way we organise the world.

Where does the hyper-connected collection of individuals stop and the hive mind start?

The concept of the hive mind is to me about conformity. A singular intelligence acting in unison with no dissent. A top-down strategy. But do we begin to see the properties of the hive mind in the absence of top-down authority, just through the hyper-connectedness of individuals?

"No", in the sense that individuals still have the freedom to act. But potentially "yes" in the sense that each individual will potentially be able to know how an action will be judged by every other person in advance of the action, and hence will conform if the potential action is seen in a negative light.

Diversity in a hive mind

If we end up as a top-down hive mind, we will be at risk of a monoculture-of-the-mind that does not have the diversity of perspective to adapt to unforeseen events. How can this be addressed? It is possible that the hive mind can create intellectual sandboxes within itself, where such sandboxes have the ability to explore lines of thinking (and irrationality) that would be impossible within the core of the hive mind.

Are such sandboxes enough to benefit from the inherent qualities of diversity?

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