Possible psychology of a Matrioshka Brain + Possible architectures of group minds

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Possible Psychology of a Matrioshka Brain

EXCERPT: Enclose the sun inside a layered nest of thin spherical computers. Have the inmost sphere harvest the sun's radiation to drive computational processes, emitting waste heat out its backside. Use this waste heat as the energy input for the computational processes of a second, larger and cooler sphere that encloses the first. Use the waste heat of the second sphere to drive the computational processes of a third. Keep adding spheres until you have an outmost sphere that operates near the background temperature of interstellar space. Congratulations, you've built a Matrioshka Brain! It consumes the entire power output of its star and produces many orders of magnitude more computation per microsecond than all of the current computers on Earth do per year.

A common theme in discussions of super-duper-superintelligence is that we can have no idea what such a being would think about -- that a being so super-duper would be at least as cognitively different from us as we are from earthworms, and thus entirely beyond our ken. But I'd suggest (with Nick Bostrom, Eric Steinhart, and Susan Schneider) that we can think about the psychology of vast supercomputers. Unlike earthworms, we know some general principles of mentality; and, unlike earthworms, we can speculate, at least tentatively, about how these principles might apply to entities with computational power that far exceeds our own. So...

Possible Architectures of Group Minds: Perception

EXCERPT: My favorite animal is the human. My favorite planet is Earth. But it's interesting to think, once in a while, about other possible advanced psychologies. Over the course of a few related posts, I'll consider various possible architectures for superhuman group minds. Such minds regularly appear in science fiction -- e.g., Star Trek's Borg and the starships in Ann Leckie's Ancillary series -- but rarely do these fictions make the architecture entirely clear. One cool thing about group minds is that they have the potential to be spatially distributed. The Borg can send an away team in a ship. A starship can send the ancillaries of which it is partly composed down to different parts of the planet's surface. We normally think of social groups as having separate minds in separate places, which communicate with each other. But if mentality (instead or also) happens at the group level, then we should probably think of it as a case of a mind with spatially distributed sensory receptors. So how might perception work, in a group mind?...

Possible Architectures of Group Minds: Memory

EXCERPT: Suppose you have 200 bodies. "You"? Well, maybe not exactly you! Some hypothetical science fictional group intelligence. How might memory work? For concreteness, let's assume a broadly Ann Leckie "ancillary" setup: two hundred humanoid bodies on a planet's surface, each with an AI brain remotely connected to a central processor on an orbiting starship. For simplicity, we will start by assuming a storage and retrieval representational architecture for memory....

If Materialism Is True, the United States Is Probably Conscious

ABSTRACT: If you’re a materialist, you probably think that rabbits are conscious. And you ought to think that. After all, rabbits are a lot like us, biologically and neurophysiologically. If you’re a materialist, you probably also think that conscious experience would be present in a wide range of alien beings behaviorally very similar to us even if they are physiologically very different. And you ought to think that. After all, to deny it seems insupportable Earthly chauvinism. But a materialist who accepts consciousness in weirdly formed aliens ought also to accept consciousness in spatially distributed group entities. If she then also accepts rabbit consciousness, she ought to accept the possibility of consciousness even in rather dumb group entities. Finally, the United States would seem to be a rather dumb group entity of the relevant sort. If we set aside our morphological prejudices against spatially distributed group entities, we can see that the United States has all the types of properties that materialists tend to regard as characteristic of conscious beings....

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