Thursday, September 22, 2005

Words, Worlds, and Freedom of Movement

This is gonna be one of those theoretical posts I'm sure everyone has grown to love.

I've mentioned before that almost everything revolves around communication. In this universe, nothing is more powerful than communication. It can be said that for each rung up from a basic virus, life's growing complexity, size, and universe-manipulating abilities stem from improved communication.

Humans are the first and thus far only creature to master extending our communicative reach. That is probably our only real advantage. Even as grunting cavemen, our depth and breadth of communication was miles beyond even the smartest chimpanzee. Once we started painting animals with spears through them on our walls, well, we left everything else so far behind it was laughable. Our communication was not only deep and wide: it was permanent.

Our history has been nothing more than a long list of communication advances and their results. That's pushing it, but think. Rome's extraordinary feature was its extraordinary roads and localized management structure. Both are communication-efficators. Genghis Khan's strength was in his speed and unpredictability - both methods of controlling communication. Japan's repeated growth spurts are largely due to the level of cohesion in their populace - again, something based around communication.

Some people talk about a societal "singularity". Nobody is exactly sure what form it will take, but the basic idea is that progress will reach such a peak that, essentially, nobody will even be able to tell what progress is being made. They'll just be walking down the street (or virtual avenue, or space lane) and look over and say, "Holy shit, there's a real android! Why didn't I hear about this, and where can I get one?"

In more familiar terms, the singularity is where communication becomes so easy and fluid that it wraps right back around and becomes hopelessly chaotic.

I've said that a "shadow geography" of self-imposed "willing blindness" will keep societies stable - but that doesn't preclude the singularity! All the singularity needs is that all the smart people interested in a given topic can work together with an extremely low overhead. The day I can work with anyone, anywhere in the world, on anything - that's the day singularity is real.

How far are we from that?

Ask anyone who inhabits a virtual world.


Textual Harassment said...

If you are living in a time rich, information poor environment, you can absorb all the information available--read the entire paper or visit all the cave paintings withing walking distance. Up until recently the technological challenge has been getting more information to people. But now we have more information that we have time to learn it. What we value now is filters--search engines, news aggregators, spam filters, smart people or smart AI to tell us what is important to know.

It really forces you to decide what you are interested in, doesn't it? So if you

Textual Harassment said...

(continued; accidently hit post)

...So if you are that guy who would like to know about androids, you either need a system that knows that and will let you know when robots come on the market, or that will at least be able to intelligently answer the question, "Why didn't I hear about this, and where can I get one?"

On the web, our favorite things are those that organize information and save time, like helpful message boards, search engines, smart people, good blogs... And our least favorite are those which add useless information and take up time: spam, advertisements, idiots asking stupid questions.

Craig Perko said...

Sounds like you understand completely. I generally call all our self-imposed communication limitations and filters "shadow geography", but there's almost certainly a better name for it. :)