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It’s All Just Information*

Posted on 23 Dec 2015 0 comments

“It’s all about information” is a collaborative essay presented in the form of sequential posts at G+. Each post is identified by a numerical sequence, like [135], that means the chapter, the chapter item, and the verse. To read the entire essay you should seek every single post on the web and gather all in the sequential order or… be smart enough to crack the access code. Get involved.” Jorge Cataldo.

*Temporarily this page is available with the complete draft of the novel.

CHAPTER 1. SELFISH ARRANGEMENTS

Turning the page
1It’s hard to believe, but the journey of Homo sapiens, currently the only protagonist of the most important evolutionary process we know in the universe, is nearing its end.2 There is already enough evidence to show that the biological paradigm of which we are the most complex creature will soon be superseded by an even more ravishing one. The technological paradigm will surpass the biological in importance because it can create more complex information arrangements and replicate them more efficiently.3 When this moment arrives, changes in the mode of human life will be so overwhelming that human affairs as we know them will be unable to continue. A new chapter of human history will then begin.

Our old stranger
1Interestingly, we are approaching the time when the technological paradigm will surpass the biological in importance faster than our intuition tells us because we are being betrayed by the organ of the human body of which we are most proud. The human brain was evolved to abstract the environment of our planet perfectly, but its resources for intuiting events related to exponential dynamic processes are very poor. 2For about 150,000 years, we were so delighted with the feeling and power our brain gave us that we assumed that it was the purpose of evolution itself. Today, we know that the human brain is an imperfect machine that has been enhanced to fulfill the mission of adapting to the predominantly hierarchical reality of this planet. Far from this reality, its limited power to encode, store, and process information is increasingly evident.

Confabulation
1As we look to the past, we have no difficulty understanding how we have used the abstraction capabilities of the human brain to modify and to adapt so well to our environment. However, only recently have we started to look for scientific evidence of “why” we did this. The human brain, which has played a key role in ensuring that we got this far as the main actors of the story of biological evolution, has an intrinsic feature that has eluded us for so long: it needs answers. When we lack them, it creates them for us. Thus, to answer the question of why we are here, the brain made us believe for a long time that we are perfect creatures, protected by the gods, and beyond all risk. That’s not the truth, however. The evidence is abundant that we are no more than actors in a story that started farther back than we can imagine, 14 billion years ago, and that will continue even when we are no longer its only protagonists.

Selfish arrangements
1If we consider the known story of the universe from the point of view of the encoding of information, we will find evidence to support the amazing hypothesis that the development of information arrangements is (or is somehow related to) the real “driving force” of the universe. This is a story whose plot we have never wanted to see because it would imply that everything we know, including us, has evolved only to arrange information in more complex forms, a fact that deprives us of the leading role of which we have always been proud.

CHAPTER 2. THE BIG HISTORY

Despite the entropy
1The universe and its nature have always been interesting subjects. We know that it expands from order to disorder, but this rule is reversed under certain special circumstances. In specific “threshold moments,” parts of the universe are structurally reordered to allow the creation of new “entities” capable of encoding more complex information and replicating it more successfully. We do not know why the universe behaves this way. Even physicists dedicated to studying the matter deeply don’t know for sure how so many constants can be so precisely adjusted in the mathematical models so that the particles composing the universe and the forces governing its operation are exactly the way they are. Maybe we’ll never know why the universe is the way it is, but we already have a fairly accurate idea of how, randomly, these threshold moments were responsible for the evolution of complexity in information arrangements.

Starting lights
1We know for a near certainty that the universe began (or resumed) about 14 billion years ago in an environment with the same particles and forces that exist today. However, it was a place where the most complex arrangements in the task of encoding information were particles and elementary atoms. Soon after the Big Bang, when part of the immense amount of energy released “froze” in the form of matter, elementary particles and atoms of hydrogen and helium were the first to be formed. For hundreds of thousands of years, these elements wandered in the form of a large cloud until, slowly, the force of gravity began to bring them together in groups. Then, through the violent interactions caused by these groupings, the stars, just as we know them today, were born.

Clouds of information
1Information arrangements more complex than atoms of hydrogen and helium had no way to stabilize in the unstable environments of the interiors of stars. Only after the collapse and explosion of the first stars were atoms and particles once again launched at the mercy of the gravitational force. At that new threshold moment, they had the opportunity to rearrange themselves in the form of more complex chemical elements able to encode more information. In the form of clouds of matter, comets and planets, these more complex atoms could interact together to form steady and even more complex combinations. These interactions led to the formation of complex molecules capable of encoding and transmitting more information than before.

Carbon-based life
1At a new threshold moment of evolution, around the particular three-dimensional carbon atom, emerged the organizational structure of life, an arrangement model with an extraordinary capacity for combining and multiplying into new, more complex arrangements, which found favorable evolutionary conditions on our planet (though perhaps not exclusively). More efficient in the mission of encoding information, with its own interaction dynamic and free from the random mercy of circumstances, the newly created biological paradigm became the leader for creating complex information arrangements in this small portion of the universe.

Genetic replicators
1The greater complexity of biological-based information arrangements led to greater fragility and higher maintenance costs. The mean of the arrangements’ time stability decreased significantly, and they had to “compete” for the resources available in the environment. Thus, a selection began to penalize those arrangements less adapted to this new reality. At a new threshold moment, the biological paradigm and natural selection “designed” the DNA arrangement, a fabulous strategy of encoding information through tiny guides, springs, and hinges, mounted on a data tape whose information could be copied more efficiently. This was the beginning of the genetic replicators’ era and the evolution of functional designs through the “defect” of the mutation.

Smart hubs
1The structure of DNA has accelerated the evolutionary process of information arrangements, as they enabled the emergence of biological entities even more complex, composed of functionally specific sub-arrangements (the organs) responsible for improving the efficiency with which these entities compete for resources and replicate. From this functional specialization period emerged the design of the brain, a special sub-arrangement formed by the combination of neurons and electric discharges with the mission of centralizing a large part of the information processing and managing complex features like vision and communication.

Arrangements that learn
1Approximately 70 million years ago, some animals developed a new layer of neurons over the old brain that gave them the ability to simulate the hierarchical environment of planet Earth and conduct various “what if?” scenarios in their minds. The hierarchical thinking has made it possible for mammals to store conceptual layers of patterns, known as “knowledge,” in their brains. Hence, the emergence of the individual “imagination” allowed these entities to “learn” and solve problems thousands of times faster than natural selection could with the DNA arrangement.

The reign of mammals
1At the mercy of climatic conditions, the newly developed extra-genetic mammals’ arrangement had a golden chance and did not waste it. The information arrangement of the brain’s neocortex and its power to acquire knowledge in a single generation of replicators not only improved mammals’ chances of adapting and spreading themselves to various regions of our planet but also laid the groundwork for the next threshold moment of the evolutionary process of information arrangements.

CHAPTER 3. DRAGONS OF EDEN

Lucy
1The latest chapter of the biological evolutionary story began to be written about six million years ago, when some primate mammals, subjected to successive environmental adversities, developed the ability to walk upright and modify the environment with their hands. As with all mammals carrying the cerebral neocortex, these primates were paying a high price for enjoying the advantage of using the imagination resource in solving their problems. They had to have more energy than other similarly sized animals without a neocortex, so that this high-energy consumption was a bottleneck preventing growth in such arrangements. However, these two new features allowed these primates to bypass the access restrictions to more energy and compensate for the additional evolutionary cost in order to expand the hierarchical arrangements of the neocortex.

Unfair competition
1About two million years ago, the biological process started its most complex selection by privileging the primate mammals that had mutations and had acquired habits that increased the size of their neocortex. These mutations and habits were responsible for the evolution of not the biggest, strongest, fastest, or most poisonous of the replicators but the most “intelligent.” This powerful feature allowed the new lineages derived from these primates, especially the Homo sapiens, to compete unequally with other replicators, overcome environmental challenges, and occupy all the ecological niches of the planetary surface.

Evolution as tools
1More than for any other mammal, the intelligence of the precursors of Homo sapiens allowed the conception and creation of artifacts and tools capable of solving more and more problems. Furthermore, the neocortex’s ability to learn individually has diffused each new “technology” made feasible by new sets of these artifact and tools. Then, even before the next click of the biological clock that would allow the development of biological arrangements more complex than the neocortex, the precursors of Homo sapiens were responsible for another threshold moment in the evolutionary process of information arrangements. They started to imagine and create new technologies the goal of which was the same as the goal of the paradigm that created them: to encode, store, and process information.

Mutualism
1Regardless of the motivation, humanity marked the beginning of a new paradigm for the evolutionary process of information arrangements when it developed writing and all other forms of extra-somatic knowledge. Information-based technologies have broadened this knowledge and enabled humans to use the information stored outside their bodies to consolidate their dominance over the environment and form the extraordinary and complex societies we know. Together and interdependently, the two paradigms have been mutually supporting their development for hundreds of thousands of years. On the one hand is Homo sapiens—protagonist and holder of the most complex biological arrangement but dependent on the extra-somatic information of the technological process to remain unbeatable in the mission of adapting to the environment. On the other is the technological process, dependent on the “cognition” of the human neocortex to rearrange physical structures and encode information increasingly efficiently.

CHAPTER 4. THE SINGULARITY HYPOTESYS

Accelerating returns
1Evolutionary processes exhibit the growth over time of their achievements as S-curves. At the initial stage, they present exponential dynamics with increasing growth rates because they always use the achievements of the latest successful steps to create the next step, so that they build on themselves instead of always starting from the beginning. At the final stage, some factors, like competition or the exhaustion of the resources on which they are based, usually cause a reduction of the growth rates. Seen from the point of view of the mission to create and replicate information arrangements, both biological and technological processes evolve simultaneously, presenting similar evolutionary dynamics but with different current growth rates regarding the complexity and capability of its products. For the neocortex paradigm, a “biological entity” would need to increase the number of neurons to increase its storage capacity and information processing, while, for the paradigm on which the technological process is based, “non-biological entities” can achieve such an improvement more efficiently—that is, faster or cheaper.

Far from depletion
1Besides presenting current growth rates for creating and replicating information arrangements higher than the biological paradigm, the technological paradigm also seems to be far from having depleted the resources on which it is based—the energy, cognition, and physical matter available on our planet. We know that the nearest star could provide all the energy this process would require for hundreds of thousands of years. Furthermore, soon, computer science will provide more “what if?” scenarios to the technological paradigm than our brain has been able to provide for over 150,000 years.

The discontinuity      
1Any fundamental measure of information-based technologies that monitors and compares the efficiency of technological arrangements with that of human neocortex arrangements (e.g., calculation per second per currency unit) will show that the success levels of the technological paradigm will soon consistently exceed those of the biological paradigm in mounting arrangements capable of encoding, storing, and transmitting information, especially if we consider the complexity and the availability of its products. As we are closer to this overlapping moment than to the moment of the exhaustion of the resources of these two paradigms, we can imagine a time when it could bring about some kind of discontinuity in human affairs. Then, the hypothesis known as the “Technological Singularity” could be confirmed.

Explosion of complex intelligence      
1Singularities, in the sense of discontinuities, are abstractions borrowed from mathematics that means that, at a certain point, the variable that is being investigated does not exist or its value is infinite. In modeling real phenomena, singularities must be interpreted case by case. It became freaks because at a certain point –or near this point– real things simply “do not make sense” considering the current understanding patterns.

What will make no sense near the Technological Singularity are the complexity and the availability of the new arrangements drawn up by the technological process. Because of its increasing efficiency, new technological arrangements will become increasingly complex as to be unintelligible to the arrangement of the human neocortex. Moreover, we will see a huge increase of the amount of “available additional intelligence” due to an explosion of supply of so-called “Intelligent Non-biological Entities”.

CHAPTER 5. ABUNDANCE AND THE OPAQUE WALL

Liberty, equality, and fraternity
1There are obvious risks to the disruption represented by a possible Technological Singularity. Paradoxically, however, humankind will not want to fight against its approach because the path to it also leads us to the perfect “collective well-being,” – a meme that we can observe at the root of most religions and modern utopian ideals of equality and something we have been seeking since we consolidated our superiority over the other replicators. Regardless of when the idea of the collective well-being was accepted by the majority of humanity, it now seems the dominant strategy within the biological paradigm of increasing the average lifespan of each generation of human replicators and bypassing some of the main threats to our species, such as the risk of conflicts between cultural niches.

Superhumanity
1Just before the arrival of the Technological Singularity, the world should experience a period of unprecedented euphoria. The advances in the technological process will increase human productivity at a colossal rate. The world economy will create wealth at unprecedented levels, and this abundance might be universalized. Humanity’s deepest wounds would finally be healed. Misery, poverty, and violence would disappear, and the most worrying environmental issues would be equated. To sustain all this abundance, we will scan everything that will be possible and acquire all the processing power we can. The stronger our processing power, the greater our well-being and sense of euphoria. As we have come to accept “intelligent non-biological entities” and entrust them with part of the intelligence we need every day, we will also accept and live with “conscious non-biological entities.” It will be a world of telepathic communication, holographic interactions, instant knowledge, biological reprogramming of DNA, and virtual immortality.

The wall
1Soon after the rise of Superhumanity, we will encounter the wall of discontinuity—an opaque wall, beyond which we cannot see because we lack the instruments. It will be a time when the biological neocortex with its range of conceptual layers would no more understand the new technological arrangements. Given the current limitations of our brain in understanding how impregnable this wall could be, we can compare our attempts to reptiles that lived 60 million years ago trying to understand the impact of increasing interest rates in a modern economy. When the wall appears, we will finally understand the “game” that evolution has been playing with us. Afterwards, humanity could always continue the evolutionary journey as passengers.

CHAPTER 6. THE RESISTENCE

Transhumanism
1Given the imminent risks of a possible discontinuity in human affairs, the first question our instinct lead us to answer is not “How do we fight it?” but “How can we adapt to it?” After all, we humans are masters of this ability. Although it is still too early to say what would happen to “pure” Homo sapiens after such a discontinuity, before it happens, our instinct for adaptation will speak louder. A large part of humanity will likely seek to incorporate more and more non-biological parts to their bodies in a desperate attempt to remain the only protagonist in charge of our destiny. Furthermore, as we learn to reprogram the DNA, we will also have the chance to increase or slow the biological clock in our favor.

How long do we have?
1We can deeply aggregate more and more technology to our bodies. We can deform the bodies of our descendants to make them more biologically effective. We can become more intelligent and virtually immortal, but would all this be enough to transform ourselves in such a short time into more successful arrangements than pure technological ones in the mission to encode and transmit information? Maybe we can get by for a time, but for how long?

Temporary advantage
1The transhumanism resulting from the merger of modern humans with the technology we are creating seems to be inevitable but does not guarantee a successful transition for us. There may now be no more possibility of a peaceful coexistence between protagonists. At all events, in case of dispute, we would have at least one advantage. While the technological paradigm depends on complex chemicals available on this planet, the Superhumanity shaped at pre-Singularity will have a chance and some time. By depending on complex physical resources such as silicon or even organic raw material, the technological process will need to submit itself to the mission at which we are unbeatable: adapting to the hierarchical environment of this planet. As the technological evolutionary process finds paradigms supported in the use of elementary particles abundant elsewhere in the universe, we can no longer count on this accumulated experience.

A new language
1As our human minds, leveraged by emerging technologies, also become free from their current biological limitations, we must create and master a new “language.” It will not be enough just to share among us the current range of conceptual layers limited by the biological neocortex. We will have to create more conceptual layers in a hypothetical synthetic neocortex to “amplify our intelligence” to retain an understanding of all those codes of the increasingly complex world near to the Singularity.

Welcome, Singularity!
If we accept the hypothesis that the development of information arrangements is somehow related to the real driving force of the universe, we can argue that the role of Homo sapiens as the only protagonist of the most important evolutionary process in the universe is indeed nearing its end. However, the sooner we admit that everything we have always known, including us, has evolved only to encode more complex information, the sooner we may be able to share the leading role of evolution and remain in charge of our destiny.


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