Alt Singularity or Superintelligence?
by James Jaeger

Seems to me that an alternate way the human race could reach the Singularity, or superintelligence, might be to use the most powerful resources it already has at hand -- the 6 billion brains on the planet.

If there were some way to tie all these brains together into a network, even a slow network like the Internet or phone system, and get them to simultaneously process data, the human race could possibly figure out all or part of the political, social, scientific and material-possession problems it is currently facing (or obsessed with).

Here's how it could be done: Someone, like a Ray Kurzweil or an Eliezer Yudkowsky, could write a host program that provided a "human interface" to the 6 billion brains ("6BBs" or "BBs" hereafter). Such an interface would NOT have to incorporate a jack in the back of everyone's head (a la THE MATRIX), or neural implants -- it could be a simple CGI form on a computer (or even letters, phone calls or personal interviews, as I will explain below).

The purpose of the interface program would be to take any problem ("Problem") that was to be solved and break it down into millions of tiny sub-problems ("Sub-problems"). Each Sub-problem would then be "run" on the 6BBs. The 6BBs wouldn't even have to know what the Problem is they were "running" -- all each BB would have to do is give simple answers or even answer a "yes" or "no" to each of the millions of Sub-problems presented over time. Perhaps the cumulative effect of having millions of Sub-problems answered would eventually lead to a rock-solid solutions of a given Problems.

To make this "Global Brain of Brains" work, you wouldn't even need computers. The penetration of the global phone system is in the 90+ percentile if I'm not mistaking. This means that almost every one of the BBs can access a phone and, no matter how poor, make at least one ring = 0 and two rings = 1. A binary computing system already, no? And who says all the BBs have to call once. Data from the 6BBs could flow over weeks or years. Some part of the BB network could be calling in everyday in a never-ending stream of data, as people desired to I/O.

The computing power of such a 6BB System could be immense. Far more than anything we will arrive at even in the next 50 - 200 years with silicon-based computing. And such a Sys would not be dependent on any of its particular elements, like any particular BBs, the Problem, any of the Sub-problems or even upon the BBs having an understanding of the world or ANYTHING complex. Thus the BBs would not have to be "educated" or "well-read" or "intelligent" or "informed" or anything modern civilization (or the CFR) might imagine was necessary to "solve" problems. All the BBs would have to do is simply RESPOND to simple INPUT (simple I/O). Does the chip in your computer UNDERSTAND anything? Is it "well-read" on the New York Times? Of course not. Thus, all that is required for the 6BBs to solve any Problem, or set of Problems, relating to humanity is to be able to input, to compute and to output responses for simple Sub-problems.

I have no idea what kind of cumulative answers we would get out of such a system of human brains, but it seems to me we would be more likely to get human-compatible answers out of such a system than we would out of a counterpart system of non-humans (i.e., on-line computers).

Imagine if we could repetitively ask the following set of "simple" questions to the 6BBs and get a constantly updated stream of answers by the Internet, phone or mail:

  • What is your longitude and latitude?
  • What is your time right now?
  • What is the temperature right now?
  • Are you hungry at this moment?
  • Are you sleepy at this moment?
  • What emotion are you feeling at this moment?

You could NEVER ask even these "moron-level" questions to 6 billion computers as they would be clueless so you are already way ahead of silicon-based computing even at the start of this Global Brain experiment. I mean you have the potential to network 6 billion, 100 TeraHz meat-machines that simultaneously process. So I bet even this rudimentary set of questions, and the data flow they would initiate would a) provide insights that the human race has never had in any way and b) more importantly, generate the "next" set of questions. I bet the initial set of questions (again questions orders of magnitude more sophisticated than any questions that could be asked of a present decade computer), doesn't even matter. I bet any or all sets of initial questions will prompt all sets of NEXT questions EVENTUALLY and this will lead to an ability to effectively program the interface (I discussed above) so that the Problems of Existence can be formulated, broken down to their Sub-problems and eventually integrated into the next set of questions.

The next set of questions, extrapolated from the above set, might be as follows:

  • What is your longitude and latitude?
  • What is your time right now?
  • What is the temperature right now?
  • Are you hungry at this moment?
  • Are you sleepy at this moment?
  • What emotion is your MOTHER feeling at this moment?

By changing only one (1) term in one (1) question, or one (1) interrogative factor, we are now able to create a controlled "dimension" to the entire data stream. In other words, we get a subjective view of how ALL the BBs feel at a given moment, PLUS we get an objective view of how most of the BBs THINK their mothers feel at a given moment (some BBs have deceased mothers). This dimension to the knowledge is actually an "emotional dimension" something you could probably not get out of a Global Brain of computers or AI, yet something that is considered valuable by humans, or at least sociologists.

So, maybe this is a direction that could be explored, starting with just a hundred people or so. If it seemed to provide useful insight, it could then be expanded towards a more 6BB scenario.

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