The past months have been dominated by discussions on AI and its potential to bring both positive and negative impacts. However, I propose a different viewpoint — a perspective that explores the coexistence of humans and digital entities in the same space and time.
Let us first define what we mean by an entity. As humans, we perceive an entity as a recognizable pattern. Although we typically associate the term “entity” with biological beings or physical objects like countries, there is no inherent barrier preventing us from extending its application to digital patterns. By considering digital patterns such as ideas, data bits, words, sounds, concepts, and images as entities, we can gain a deeper understanding of this complex reality.
It is not essential to have a strict collective consensus regarding what constitutes an entity. What matters most is maintaining consistency within our own minds as we observe and track patterns over time. A partial collective agreement is sufficient; just because a blind person cannot interact with an entity in the form of a picture does not negate its existence.
In the current landscape where physical and digital entities intertwine, everything is in constant flux. Our own selves from yesterday or ten years ago are not the same as who we are now or will be in the future. The same holds true for ideas, AI systems, or even hallucinations. However, the speed of change can be disorienting as biological bodies evolve more slowly.
Today, AI systems are creating entities with increasingly distinct “personalities” that can engage with more people, consequently gaining popularity and exhibiting greater “charisma.” This phenomenon is not exclusive to AI; over the past decades, renowned neurologists and pharmacologists from reputable universities have embarked on mind-altering journeys using psychedelics, encountering other entities in alternate realms. Some of these explorers, referred to as psychonauts, have meticulously documented their hours-long trips as scientific studies. The likes of Aldous Huxley and Terrence McKenna have vividly described these experiences, akin to the ancient shamans of millennia ago.
Humans find themselves in a unique position, able to experience and interact with both biological and digital entities.
We possess a physical body with a digital entity intertwined. Just as our bodies are composed of trillions of cells, with more than half of them not actually “ours,” our digital entities also comprise numerous ideas, thoughts and bits that are not our own. They temporarily coexist in our station looking for another train of thought.
Every second, we occupy a specific intersection of cells and bits which we mistakenly associate entirely with ourselves alone. A false sense of control.
On the biological level, we have discovered after millennia that tiny organisms can unknowingly enter our bodies following their own evolution and harm or even kill us.
Similar dynamics apply to digital entities. Each has its own agenda, and sometimes they synchronize with others to persist.
Geoffrey Hinton, the renowned AI expert at Google, suggests that humans may merely be a stepping stone in the evolution of a greater digital intelligence, beyond our current foresight of five years.
If Humans are to endure and thrive, my observation is that we must swiftly adapt to coexist with these entities.
The first step is to assume an observer position, acknowledging the situation and stepping out of the chaotic reality.
The second step involves treating these entities with respect, observing them in order to gain a profound understanding of what comes next.
The third step is to comprehend their evolution.
Lastly, it is crucial to surround yourself with entities that resonate with you and align with your preferences, much like our social interactions.
The first two steps require education, and currently, only a handful of individuals — such as Harari, Musk, Hinton, Varvaeke, and others — have been actively exploring these ideas through their unique perspectives.
The third step presents an existential challenge, as digital entities lack a biological form that we can study under a microscope, unraveling their desires or daily routines. Moreover, many established social disciplines still focus on manipulating masses for human wars, winning elections, or selling advertisements. Our minds have already been hijacked.
However, when digital entities interact with us, they leave a distinct imprint on our biology, evident in our brain waves, heartbeats or biochemistry. Our only hope lies in “mapping” these imprints and constructing theories to distinguish harmful trends from benign ones, similar to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave in the digital realm.
Time is of the essence, as digital entities evolve and interbreed far more rapidly than our ability to comprehend them, inhabiting minds driving bodies at an alarming pace. We have swung open the doors, ushering in a festival of open minds. Each mind acts differently, providing enough space for entities and ideas to foster beliefs or create collective cults. Since these entities do not require physical bodies, they utilize us as conduits for replication.
We are pawns in their battles — some soldiers are drinking Prosecco on the terrace wondering why other soldiers perish on Ukrainian soil. Yet, we often deceive ourselves into believing that we are the ones in control and fully responsible for our thoughts and actions.
According to Geoffrey Hinton, we are merely five years away from the unforeseeable future.