The promise of collective consciousness is typically one of great power but at a great cost. Let’s consider the Borg (“resistance is futile”).
A Comment from Amber Fundytus,
Kate Restivo, and Brooke Windsor:
“Resistance is futile” Contemplations on the Realities
of Post-Literacy via Science-Fiction
The Borg requires assimilation; it is the death of the individual to gain the power of the collective. The price of knowledge is the self. Will humanity willingly renounce individuality for collective understanding? Arguably, our sense of self is a construct of literacy (oral cultures are typically collective and communal).
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, in his concept of the noosphere (the mind sphere), has a different perspective on this. The collective realm is not about the loss of individuality but rather a diversification and specialization that add depth and capacity while retaining self. “Evolution is an ascent towards consciousness,” a journey from single celled organisms to more complex life forms (Teilhard, The Phenomenon of Man, 1963). This is Teihard’s “omega point”, a view of evolution that is more spiritually based but similar to the singularity of Kurzweil (The Singularity Is Near, 2005).
In “From Noosphere to Theosphere” (2002), Ingrid Shafer links Telihard’s thinking to the emergent consciousness of the Internet. Is the Internet a manifestation of the omega point? Echoing the Borg, Chorost in the World Wide Mind welcomes the integration of the Internet and the mind, and celebrates (boasts?) that “the Internet will not assimilate us. We will assimilate it.”
Trying to understand if such a collective consciousness exists at all is the objective of the Global Consciousness Project is just that. It is designed “to explore whether the construct of interconnected consciousness can be scientifically validated through objective measurement.” Roger Smith, the director of the project, makes the point that “consciousness is a provider of information, a source … it isn’t random.” In trying to bring a scientific analysis to global consciousness, the project has data which demonstrates that “my consciousness and yours extend out into the world and intermix.”
Are mirror neurons a piece of this? Mirror neurons are activated in one person while observing those actions in another. If you wave at me, the neurons firing in your brain to enable you to wave are now firing in my brain (whether I actually wave back or not). This is widely believed to be the physiological basis for empathy. As Christian Keysers, Professor for the Social Brain at the University Medical Center Groningen, says:
“These brain circuits keep us from seeing other individuals as something ‘out there.’ Indeed, we are able to feel their actions, sensation, and emotions inside us, as if we were in their shoes. Other have become us.” (“Mirror Neurons: Are We Ethical by Nature?” In Brockman, What’s Next? Dispatches on the Future of Science, 2009)
Or as Jason Mitchell observes:
“the human mind naturally attempts to engage in the same kinds of information processing as neighboring minds – that our brains prefer to be in register with the brains around us. (“Watching Minds Interact” in Brockman, 2009)
This interconnectedness and this depth of awareness of each other, perhaps across vast distances, is corroborated by quantum mechanics. Is the hive mind realized in the quantum mind?
A Comment from Laurie Near:
Cross Species Communication