Peter Watts: Conscious Ants & Human Hives (video)

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Francis Buck

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« on: December 10, 2018, 11:24:52 pm »
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v4uwaw_5Q3I&feature=share


This a must watch for anyone with even a passing interest in consciousness, future technology, etc.

Awesome talk done by marine biologist-turned-science fiction author Peter Watts, best known for Blindsight and short stories such as The Things (both of which are available online for free, along with several other of his novels and numerous shorts - links below for the uninitiated). Some of it -- maybe a lot of it -- will be old hat for a few of you, but I think anyone would be hard pressed to find another example that squeezes so much mind-blowing (possibly soul-shattering) ideas on consciousness, hiveminds, technology, and the scarily not-too-distant-future of just one little way it might all come crashing together, all in one 45 minute video.

There were several scientific papers/studies/experiments referenced here that caused me to immediately google and save them for later reading just because they were so fascinating/horrifying (admittedly, one of them in particular is the only instance I've seen that takes a serious look at what's probably the most conspiracy-theory whack-jobbish of my own pet theory/opinions on the potential ubiquity of consciousness - confirmation bias achieved!).

If you're interested in some of the stuff RSB talks about on his blog but have trouble with the accessibility of it (or lack-there-of, at least for one such as myself), this treads some very similar ground and is much more digestible -- even if a lot the actual ideas themselves remain firmly counterintuitive and outlandish (and all the more wonderful/troubling for it, given that the scientific evidence backing the main concepts at hand).

As mentioned, some links to Watts' hard-as-nails, ultra grimdark science fiction:

Blindsight - https://rifters.com/real/Blindsight.htm

The Things - http://clarkesworldmagazine.com/watts_01_10/

TaoHorror

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« Reply #1 on: December 11, 2018, 03:10:53 am »
Man, I was memorized watching this.
May your death be soon, slow and painful

SmilerLoki

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« Reply #2 on: December 11, 2018, 03:54:11 am »
Man, I was memorized watching this.
Mesmerized? Otherwise it sounds kinda ominous.

Francis Buck

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« Reply #3 on: December 11, 2018, 04:59:24 am »
Man, I was memorized watching this.

I know it's just a typo but this legit made laugh out loud, given the subject matter.

Even so, I too was quite ensnared by the video. For one thing, I already love Peter Watts (both as an author and as a generally cool/smart person -- his AMA's and blog are great) but I can't recall ever seeing him "live". He has a pretty strong stage presence though and seems well-equipped for delivering some pretty wild seeming shit to a fairly casual audience.

It's a shame how little views this has, it seems to me that there is far, far too few people in the world who are discussing these sort of bleeding-edge topics that otherwise get a little airtime, short of a token Elon Musk quote here and there (and like most of the big voices that even come close to this stuff, he's nowhere nearly troubled enough about the ramifications of mankind fucking with our own consciousness before we even know what the hell consciousness is).

Watts is much like RSB in this regard. These guys are both talking about the same broad issue(s), even if their focal points are different -- RSB has his BBT obsession and is obviously more laser focused to subject matter surrounding that, but the subject matter itself is essentially the same sorts of things Watts touches on in his storytelling, and certainly in this talk. I would love to see these two just having a back-and-forth for an hour (or three), waxing about science and the possible looming disasters of the near future (at least, a future near enough that folks should be at least a teensy bit more aware of it).

I hope PW does more of this, or a damn T.E.D. talk or something! 

SmilerLoki

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« Reply #4 on: December 11, 2018, 11:41:14 am »
I've now seen the video and can absolutely recommend it. If anything, it's way more entertaining than a lot of movies I've watched in the past few years.

TaoHorror

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« Reply #5 on: December 11, 2018, 11:47:38 am »
I've now seen the video and can absolutely recommend it. If anything, it's way more entertaining than a lot of movies I've watched in the past few years.
+1 ... and yes, I meant mesmerized  :D

But you're right, my misspelling may be more relevant than what I meant. Always wanted to be a tape worm, looks like I've been one all along  :D
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H

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« Reply #6 on: December 11, 2018, 01:55:44 pm »
+1 ... and yes, I meant mesmerized  :D

But you're right, my misspelling may be more relevant than what I meant. Always wanted to be a tape worm, looks like I've been one all along  :D

Well, I'm not buying the "tape worm" explanation.  Rather, consciousness is more akin to a UI, a user interface.  Not just a front-end though, but one that can feed back to the sensory system.  That is, an ant is not capable of modifying it's own behavior to the same extent that a human can.  That is a possible role for our "expanded" consciousness.  Note, that consciousness is limited, which makes perfect sense in this case, or else we'd be in a never-ending feedback loop.
“I am a warrior of ages, Anasūrimbor . . . ages. I have dipped my nimil in a thousand hearts. I have ridden both against and for the No-God in the great wars that authored this wilderness. I have scaled the ramparts of great Golgotterath, watched the hearts of High Kings break for fury.” -Cet’ingira

SmilerLoki

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« Reply #7 on: December 12, 2018, 12:31:43 am »
Well, I'm not buying the "tape worm" explanation.  Rather, consciousness is more akin to a UI, a user interface.  Not just a front-end though, but one that can feed back to the sensory system.  That is, an ant is not capable of modifying it's own behavior to the same extent that a human can.  That is a possible role for our "expanded" consciousness.  Note, that consciousness is limited, which makes perfect sense in this case, or else we'd be in a never-ending feedback loop.
That was the first refutation I had in regards to the main idea of Blindsight.