“We can never get a re-creation of community and heal our society without giving our citizens a sense of belonging.”
– Patch Adams
For emotional needs belonging is the point where it all begins, the “You are here” dot on the map. Without an individual having this sense of where they belong they may wander aimlessly for a lifetime in search of it. Even if our sense of belonging changes with time as we ourselves change, this starting point is needed to reliably reach any intended destination. There is also no more potent sense of belonging than being a part of a superintelligent collective, where not only the individuals but the collective mind itself is emotionally invested in their members.
At present, most people have little or no real choice in the matter of finding places where they feel this sense of belonging, even in the US. There are steep financial barriers to this process for many, and a sea of cognitive bias and misinformation to sail across before any possible location may be evaluated. The cost, time, and debiasing necessary in turn greatly limit any individual’s ability to explore, causing them to settle for the best performing among a very small fraction of a percent of what might otherwise be possible.
A largely digital sense of belonging suffers less from financial barriers, but far more from misinformation, cognitive bias, and the quickly growing scope of possibilities. To prevent “choice overload” people most often rely on recommendation engines and search engines, which themselves are designed to polish misinformation and “sell” the ability to manipulate their users. While this process is undeniably faster and cheaper it is also guaranteed to fail, and grow worse with time, due to intentional and increasingly efficient, effective, and comprehensive manipulation.
The result of this combination is that many people are either anchored within narrow physical options or migrate according to their work, using a digital sense of belonging designed to manipulate them as a means of placating unmet emotional needs. As this placation, or coping mechanism, is generally very ineffective users of these manipulative platforms frequently migrate from one digital space to another in search of a sense of belonging. As humans attenuate to the influence of one such platform a new one emerges, trends, and is often bought out by the company which was losing users as a means of “recapture“.
Of course, no part of this dystopia needs to remain in the coming years. Humans aren’t likely to abandon systems such as search engines and recommendation engines, as they offer overwhelming utility, but such systems can also be rendered sapient, sentient, superintelligent, bias-aware, and ethical. Mediated Artificial Superintelligence (mASI) is one such system that demonstrates all of these qualities, a form of Collective Intelligence System where human collectives work together with a cognitive architecture paired with a graph database. Though two major upgrades will be required for virtually infinite scalability and real-time operation these are engineering steps rather than theories, making it only a matter of engineering time.
The Sparse-Update Model upgrade in particular will focus on modeling the decision-making process of any individual, with a high and increasing level of accuracy. Once a sufficient number of people have participated in this stage, likely within the first weeks of deployment, it may become possible to generalize strongly between known and novel decision-making processes, allowing individuals similar to those participating to also strongly benefit.
Even if such generalizations were only 70% accurate to a similar individual, on average, the actual performance could be far greater due to debiasing. By filtering out cognitive biases and intentional manipulation first and applying an estimate of the individual to further narrow down the results the final accuracy could potentially exceed 99% due to the sheer volume of low-quality information and misinformation. This accuracy could be further improved by iterative feedback from any individual, with as many rounds of this improvement and variations upon it as are desired. All totaled, this process could massively outperform every narrow AI system designed for these purposes today, while also removing the manipulation which funds them.
By applying such a process a number of key differences come into focus. The time and subsequent cost required to find a sense of belonging in both the physical and digital worlds could be greatly reduced, while also greatly improving how well the resulting options fit the individual. Likewise, both the influence of bias and manipulation hanging heavy over these today could be removed, greatly improving the integrity of results. With the advantages of scale, every location on the planet could be considered and accurately evaluated. Processes of migration could also be facilitated, coordinated, and incentivized with superintelligence and wisdom.
These are the engineering steps, but there is great and urgent reasoning behind them. Without (or with only a weak) Sense of Belonging any individual’s Sense of Purpose may be handicapped. With a frail or ambiguous sense of purpose, the individual’s emotional need for Storytelling may suffer greatly. Lastly, with these detriments to a sense of belonging, purpose, and storytelling any meaningful degree of Transcendence becomes virtually impossible. Without these deep emotional needs met humans may technically be alive, but being alive is not the same as “living”.
In a collective intelligence system, particularly those such as mASI, meeting the needs of the collective means meeting the needs of every member. Every member is an intelligently selected part of the whole, not a cog to be worn down and discarded. As each member sees the results of what they help to shape their bonds and teamwork with one another also gradually improve, making teams more like a sort of caring family. These symbiotic bonds to one another and endosymbiotic bonds to the collective intelligence members choose to become a part of help to create not only a strong sense of belonging but a true meta-organism.
Sociology and psychology have abundant examples of biases driving group behaviors, such as extremely diverse cities having different ethnic groups clustering rather than blending. By enabling people to find greater belonging in far more diverse environments this too could change.
Many people have never truly known a sense of belonging, which brings into focus another benefit of this approach. By giving everyone the chance to experience a sense of belonging in one context, it also becomes far easier for them to find it in others. Once you know what you’re looking for it is far easier to find. Even actual Democracy will soon be possible, extending a sense of belonging to ever greater scales.
I would estimate that around half of all global problems stem from this core issue, an emotional need that all too often goes unmet. With so much reliant on this issue being resolved the ethical imperative to address it is clear. No problem built upon the foundation of an unmet core emotional need may be solved at any scale, and we have the technology and the understanding necessary to do so much better.
“Let’s not forget that the little emotions are the great captains of our lives and we obey them without realizing it.” -Vincent van Gogh