The Future of Mind: AI, Consciousness, and Human Potential

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A quick thought piece, pulling together threads on:

  • Developing AI, in particular AGI.
  • Transhumanist perspectives on ‘uploading mind’.
  • What consciousness is – in particular, the bodily basis of self.

It appears to me that what we’ve developed thus far with deep learning are extremely sophisticated, black box, algorithms that work on the basis of some approximation of a neural network. Although these are an incredible technological achievement, they are fundamentally different from the make up of our brains in terms of architecture and dynamics (see recent paper). For one, the brain is wetware, relying on neurons and others cells, as well as a cascading cacophony of near infinite complexity with other cell types and bacteria. This is not to mention how these biological factors interface with our embededness in ecological and cultural niches (see Sapolsky’s Behave and Determined). Our complexity is baffling even when looked at in comparison to our most advanced technology.

Tracking all of these factors to model the self in order to upload ourselves would thus likely rely on huge advances in quantum computing, infinite energy sources and biotech. It may be that factors are converging and at some point this may all be possible, but for now it feels like a pipe dream.

At best, the current Large Language Models (LLMs) and other forms of AI can be used as tools for outsourcing routine and some creative aspects of our current working and societal lives. This is my hope, that we can cut out dehumanising aspects of work further as we have done in previous technological revolutions. Nobody now looks back to the age of the plough and backbreaking agricultural work and longs for a time without automated machinery. I imagine we will look back on the knowledge worker era in much the same way – why would we want to sit in front of a computer, manipulating data when a machine can do it much more effectively ?

Of course, this then leads to questions around what we will do for work in the future, or more broadly, how we will spend our lives. For me this is extremely exciting for creatives, entrepreneurs and intellectuals – we need visions for what is possible and what is preferable based on and analysis of what is deeply human. To connect, to create, to love, to be embodied.

The final irony is that much of the naval gazing around artificial consciousness may be a dud, or at least a long way off, and instead we will be thinking about what is more classically human in terms of fulfilment. A vision of advanced machines taking away the toil of modern work, liberating us to pursue the true , the good and the beautiful. A familiar story and one that has not yet come to fruition, but one that we should be pushing for.

Of course, there is much in the way of existential threat that is opened up with these new technological advances, as well as job displacement and corrupt incentives in our current systems, but we should also be hopeful and inspire a vision of freedom to live more meaningful lives. After all, what do people regret on their deathbeds?

Not spending enough time with loved ones, working too much and not pursuing what they believe in.