Monday, 7 March 2011

Evolutionary Replicators in the Global Brain

Two existing evolutionary replicators are genes and memes. These operate within the body and mind respectively. It is proposed that, with the realisation of the Global Brain (GB), there could be a novel corresponding replicator, using as its vehicle the human brain, and acting across the sub-structures of the GB.

The noeme [(plural noemes), pronounced  no:ĭm, from the Greek νόημα which means ‘that which emanates from the Nous (brain/mind)’ i.e. understanding, sense,  thought] is the intellectual ‘presence’ of an individual within the GB.

A noeme is an active germ-line evolutionary replicator that can be copied and transmitted horizontally. Its vehicle is the human brain as part of the GB. It can be copied from person to society, within the GB. It is copied by imitation and technologically assisted transfer (e.g. via the internet).

Everybody has an intellectual ‘presence’ , an ‘aura’ of intellect – a noeme.  You may have never met ex President Clinton but you have formed an idea of his intellect, thoughts, cognitive rigour, and mental presence. His intellectual ‘presence’ has been technologically transmitted to yours, it has interacted with it and caused it to change within the evolving world brain.

A meme transmits from mind to mind through a physical medium (writing, speech, gestures, rituals) whereas the noeme transmits through digital means such as global technological communication. It is spread primarily in a horizontal fashion but there could be a degree of vertical transmission.

Other replicators such as genes and memes can form groups for mutual benefit (such as meme sets). These promote the replication of all the individual genes/memes within that particular set by reinforcing each other. The same can be true in the case of noemes:  a group of successful noemes (intellectual presences emanating from a group of human brains) can form a set (noeme set) that promotes the survival and success of all the individual noemes within that set (e.g. the regular bloggers within a scientific online forum).

The intellectual manifestation of a person (noeme), if successful, will lead to others copying it (so noemes are replicating). A noeme is not just single ideas or solitary intellectual achievements. It is the total sum of all individual cognitive efforts and active intellectual achievements of a person. The noeme is the intellectual standing of a person within the GB.

Noemes are fluid (not static) and can co-evolve in association with genes and memes – a symbiotic relationship. Genes and memes can enhance the presence of a noeme, through for example producing a genetically robust brain that has strong intellect and, through memes, consolidating its impact within society.

It is possible that there exists a co-evolution of genes, memes and noemes that will result in a functional GB, that in turn, enhances all thee. The GB is developing not for the sole benefit of humans but also for a better replication of memes, and also genes (through better health perhaps).

As an evolutionary replicator, the noeme competes with alternative forms and continues to evolve and adapt, sometimes being stable, sometimes changing or modifying itself. Noemes that do not contribute to the fitness of the GB are eventually eliminated (e.g. the intellect of my dead greengrocer is forgotten). Those who enhance the GB are retained and improved (Einstein’s intellect ‘survives’).

All three can evolve in opposition. For example, a noeme that is not well integrated can result in its elimination (and thus the elimination of its human host) through early aging, thus death, thus the end of the gene/meme that defined it. Or, a noeme defined by beneficial memes/genes can integrate well in the GB and evolve, and transmit their genes/memes to others.

Noemes can mutate and result in better, worse or neutral noemes. General properties of all replicators are:

1. Assimilation (the ability to infect a new host). This depends on the strength of the noeme.
2. Retention(it must remain in the memory of the subject/GB)
3. Expression (as a physical entity, e.g. cognitive information in the brain)
4. Transmission (through a physical medium, in this case through digital means)

The behaviour of noemes can help us understand the behaviour and evolution of the GB. In addition, it makes it easier to define ourselves in a way that strengthens our intellectual presence in the world. By trying to enhance our cognition and intelligence we can become better integrated into the GB and so become a valuable part of it, forcing natural laws to operate in a way that prolongs our lifespan (as mentioned in my previous blog).

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

The Global Brain and its role in Human Immortality

It would be helpful to discuss these theoretical concepts because there could be significant practical and existential implications.
The Global Brain (GB) is an emergent world-wide entity of distributed intelligence, facilitated by communication and the meaningful interconnections between millions of humans via technology (such as the internet).
For my purposes I take it to mean the expressive integration of all (or the majority) of human brains through technology and communication, a Metasystem Transition from the human brain to a global (Earth) brain. The GB is truly global not only in geographical terms but also in function.
It has been suggested that the GB has clear analogies with the human brain. For example, the basic unit of the human brain (HB) is the neuron, whereas the basic unit of the GB is the human brain. Whilst the HB is space-restricted within our cranium, the GB is constrained within this planet. The HB contains several regions that have specific functions themselves, but are also connected to the whole (e.g. occipital cortex for vision, temporal cortex for auditory function, thalamus etc.). The GB contains several regions that have specific functions themselves, but are connected to the whole (e.g. search engines, governments, etc.).
Some specific analogies are:
1. The Broca’s area in the inferior frontal gyrus, associated with speech. This could be the equivalent of, say, Rubert Murdoch’s communication empire.
2. The motor cortex is the equivalent of the world-wide railway system.
3. The sensory system in the brain is the equivalent of all digital sensors, CCTV network, internet uploading facilities etc.
If we accept that the GB will eventually become fully operational (and this may happen within the next 40-50 years), then there could be severe repercussions on human evolution. Apart from the fact that we could be able to change our genetic make-up using technology (through synthetic biology or nanotechnology for example) there could be new evolutionary pressures that can help extend human lifespan to an indefinite degree.
Empirically, we find that there could be a basic underlying law that allows cortical neurons (the most relevant in my analogy) the same general lifespan as their human host. As natural laws are universal, I would expect the same law to operate in similar metasystems, i.e. in my analogy with humans being the basic operating units of the GB. In that case, I ask:
If, there is an axiom positing that individual units (neurons) within a brain must live as long as the brain itself, i.e. 100-120 years, then, the individual units (human brains and, therefore, whole humans) within a GB must live as long as the GB itself, i.e. indefinitely.

Humans will become deeply integrated and embedded into the GB’s virtual and real structures, that it may make more sense from the allocation of resources point of view, to maintain existing humans indefinitely, rather than eliminate them through ageing and create new ones, who would then need extra resources in order to re-integrate themselves into the GB.  The net result will be that humans will start experiencing an unprecedented prolongation of their lifespan, during a process whereby the GB evolves to higher levels of complexity at a low thermodynamical cost.
It is known that that new neurons are formed during adulthood, at least in certain parts of the brain. This would be the equivalent of new babies being born to replace any human losses within the GB.  However, the majority of cortical neurons are maintained in good operating condition and remain the same entities throughout life, instead of actively being replaced every few weeks (as in the case of, say, skin or blood cells).
According to some predictions, humans will increasingly embed themselves within this global brain by way of highly sophisticated digital interfaces (first examples are iphones) that can anticipate the subject’s wishes, preferences, habits etc. Eventually, there could be suitable technology that can allow direct brain to computer (GB) communication. If this is the case, I would expect that it will cost more in energy terms to replace a human brain (through creating a new one via the conventional lines) rather than maintain the existing one.
Research shows that new neurons that are not well integrated into the brain die prematurely. The same phenomenon could be true with humans: in order to survive a human brain must entirely integrate itself into the structure of the GB.
When fully operational, the GB must rely on its individual constituents i.e. individual human brains interconnected through technology. Without human input, the GB cannot exist. Furthermore, it cannot exist without technology. This is the same as in the human brain: a neuron contributes to the whole, but without suitable connections the neuron does not survive.
There is no magic involved. The sequence of events will happen naturally, based on natural laws. Human brains as individual units of the GB, will be subjected to increased pressures in order to survive longer. This is not a teleological argument. The GB does not have any intent or purpose. It is just an instrument of nature, forming part of the general direction of evolution: from simple to complex. And it is not a matter of living longer as a result of just using Facebook. It is a matter of a total, purposeful commitment to embed oneself into the GB and increase meaningful input of cognitive information of sufficient magnitude into one’s own brain. This will cause epigenetic changes, through a mechanism I describe elsewhere, that will repair and maintain somatic cells and reduce their risk of dying through ageing.