Victus Spiritus


Imagine Our Mind Without Bounds

28 May 2009


Neural Interfaces May Teach Us More About Consciousness

The key to our consciousness may not be the brain itself, but the waves that continually travel throughout the structure.  Much like highways, our complex neural networks are simply infrastructure for our electromagnetic (and chemical) thought waves to traverse and interact.  By focusing our learning about brain waves, neural interface devices will help us understand what gives us a sense of consciousness.  In addition the potential for replicating artificial infrastructure exterior to our bodies, but accessible to our conscious minds could be possible.  Yeah I know, it's a far out idea but consider our brain's division.  It is composed of two main hemispheres and multiple clusters, and there is somewhat redundant data storage in various portions of our mind.  Yet with all these interacting clusters, we have one consciousness.

Mind Outside of Body

As our body functions via gene regulatory networks, our consciousness emerges from an incredible complex network of signals. If network signals are the source of our sense of consciousness, what does this imply about the restriction on where our minds can dwell?  While imagining this thought experiment, I considered potential requirements for a functioning external environment that the mind could spread to. Any extension to our mind would require similar brain-like infrastructure to our own physical brain:

The complexity of our brains is staggering.  We are just beginning to understand some of the building blocks, small clusters of neurons, and the enormous network of connections that host our conscious thought. In order to even consider extensions to our minds, we will first need to become experts on the states of mind, the intricacies of  information flow and storage within our brains, and how the sum total of all brain structures and mind signals results in a single consciousness, a single voice.  Both technology and neuroscience (amongst other scientific disciplines) will be tasked with tremendous technological obstacles if expanding our minds is to become reality.

Even if a mind can be extended beyond the physical bounds it was created with, huge new avenues of research would be opened.  Artificial Intelligences could be given the spark of life using the same techniques that would allow for mind extension.  If full knowledge of mind is achieved, near identical duplicates could be replicated (or stored as backups in case of loss).  What difference would there be from artificial minds to naturally initiated minds?  We could design new aspects to our consciousness through specialized constructions (stronger curiosity).

How may expanded minds communicate and share?  Could they copy information directly and what interfaces may allow for huge amounts of information transmission. Can minds share the same infrastructure and coexist?  Imagine the concept of crowd sourcing or social design with many minds co-located and analyzing incredibly challenging problems from thousands of views simultaneously.   What would identify and associate each thought on a single infrastructure back to a single consciousness?

Imagine in the far future, extended perception throughout massive distances, minds may duplicated over light years by transmission of state.  Our minds could potentially exist throughout the cosmos, ubiquitous in many places at once yet all acting with a single will.  Our perspective would be forever altered, no longer small and selfish but collective and considerate of broader and deeper issues.  Limited resources will always force us to make decisions to allow for innovation.  New minds will need to be allotted enough structure to grow and flourish.  Older minds will need to expand outward or follow the natural life cycle of death and rebirth.

Thanks to Kevin Kelly for Infinite in Some Directions and Evidence of a Global SuperOrganism for opening my mind to new potential paths that technology may develop in.