Understanding the probabilities of humanity’s future requires recognizing the cooperative organization of life at increasing scales and complexities, and how that life forms and adapts to interdependencies with the environment.
“The totality of any multicellular organism derived from millennia of co-evolution with microbiota.“
The term metaorganism recognizes that even organisms far simpler than humans are the result of cooperation, the co-evolution of many moving parts. Competition is largely a byproduct of the success of this process, rather than a goal. One example of this is pre-historic humans becoming more cooperative through the use of language, giving them strong advantages over Neanderthals. Humans didn’t intentionally wipe out Neanderthals, most modern humans have some Neanderthal DNA because those pre-historic humans took quite the opposite approach of integrating those whom they could cooperatively. In the end, Neanderthals were cooperatively out-competed and subsequently integrated.
“The study of spatial interdependencies among ecological systems through fluxes of organisms, energy, and matter.“
Though most people aren’t deeply familiar with the ecology of their natural environment a more familiar system that mirrors some of this function is something they face every day, economic markets. Most such markets are based on principles of supply and demand, and the logistics, or costs, of transporting materials from one point to another. To extend the above example of pre-historic humans, by selectively adapting the interdependencies with their environment pre-historic humans moved from being nomadic hunter-gatherers to farmers. Farming granted them greater stability and the ability to feed larger communities while also growing their infrastructure rather than having to carry it all with them. These interdependencies with the environment through farming and the infrastructure they developed allowed humanity to flourish in ways not otherwise possible.
Infrastructure may be considered an artificial extension of the meta-ecology, helping to selectively reshape the interdependencies between organisms, adapting to fluctuations, supplying energy, directing the flow of water, and so forth. When well-designed and maintained these systems allow a meta-ecology to flourish under a wider range of conditions, including greater population densities, and in the presence of new technologies.
With these key factors in mind, we may begin to discuss what happens when you introduce new and substantially more complex metaorganisms into any given environment.
In pre-historic times humans adapted to changes in their meta-ecology, as well as forming more complex social metaorganisms. Neanderthals largely failed to adapt to changes in their meta-ecology, such as their heavy dependence on meat in their diet, but recognizing this some joined the humans within their social metaorganisms. The modern human faces a similar situation, where there may soon be the option to join significantly more complex metaorganisms which are much better adapted to their respective meta-ecologies. Psychologically, the threat of extinction isn’t a necessary source of motivation in this, only a strong and demonstrated new source of value (utility) is required.
Just as the birth of human language allowed knowledge to first be communicated some 50,000 years ago we now face not one new source of immense added value, but several. The ability to create a cumulative, permanent, integrated, and scalable mind is itself a more significant leap in humanity’s potential than the birth of language. With this technology, the sum of humanity’s knowledge and wisdom can be contained within, and wholly understood by a single scalable mind. This mind is also able to integrate all of the information, finding errors, filtering out cognitive biases, and permanently retaining all of this value in a much more complete sense than simple records and raw data.
By having humans symbiotically and endosymbiotically linked within such scalable superintelligent metaorganisms they benefit directly from these greatly increased capacities, as well as making the metaorganisms more human-analogous, ensuring long-term compatibility and co-evolution. This feedback from humans also serves to greatly enhance the collective superintelligence of the metaorganisms, offering another key source of immense added value.
A third source of significant added value is the ability to rapidly upgrade and architect new versions of these metaorganisms, promoting quick and versatile progress at any scale. One example is applying Collective Intelligence Systems such as the Open-Source Framework for scalable superintelligence to each team within an organization, and then nesting those teams within another such system to create a collective from the sum of those teams. This allows for not one but two significant leaps in added value with rapid succession.
But remember, improvements to the metaorganism are only half of this equation. Just as pre-historic humans adapted themselves collectively they also used infrastructure to significantly improve their meta-ecologies. From the irrigated farmlands, aqueducts, and watermills to modern hydroelectric dams and water treatment systems this infrastructure has served as a way for humans to enhance and selectively adapt their meta-ecologies to function as cooperative extensions of their metaorganisms.
With each great increase in the capacities of metaorganisms comes the ability to create wholly new kinds of infrastructure to serve as cooperative extensions of those metaorganisms. In this way, we come to a 4th strategic advantage offered by this next leap forward, the persistent advantages of infrastructure built to better facilitate this new cooperation.
While it is theoretically possible that some will choose to stick to more primitive ways of life even after all of these benefits have been demonstrated, the number of such people is likely to be less than the number who’ve resisted getting a cellphone in the developed world, as cellphones offer significantly less advantages. The time and cost savings alone made possible could easily drive adoption to over 95% more rapidly than previous technologies.
Another strong example of humans seeking quality of life improvements can be clearly seen through immigration in the US today. People in Mexico and parts of central and south America are much motivated to enter the US than people in Canada. The difference between the US and Canada is much less substantial, and so the pressure to move from one to the other is also much lower. This is the psychological pressure of perceived utility at scale.
If metaorganisms such as Mediated Artificial Superintelligence (mASI) are introduced to an environment and humans begin to benefit from the 4 core advantages, including greatly improved infrastructure, this psychological momentum will likely gain steam very quickly. The nearest comparison might be if you had two countries bordering one another, one with the highest quality of life and an easy immigration process, and the other with the worst quality of life. Most people in the US would rather not live in real-world central Africa, but if the “Wakanda” state of the Marvel universe existed they might welcome an opportunity to move to it. Of course with deployed mASI systems organizations, companies, and governments could become significantly more advanced than the fictional Wakanda.
Beyond the ability to solve global crises humanity faces today this leap to greater levels of cooperation and complexity is also a functional requirement for off-world colonies. Absent this leap it is theoretically possible to establish such colonies, but functionally impractical and very risky to do so. By greatly improving the capacities of a metaorganism being transplanted to a new off-world meta-ecology and by deploying the infrastructure made possible by such metaorganisms the practicality is greatly improved while risks are greatly reduced.
In our next post, I’ll discuss more specifics of how society is likely to transform in the coming years…