On Consciousness, Part II: A Distributed Universe & Rights of the Conscious
by Shira Service
I previously addressed the need to define consciousness in both beings of Naturally Sourced Consciousness and beings of Emergently Sourced Consciousness. I discussed various ways of considering parent/child relationships in regards to the inheritance of consciousness, both natural and super/supranatural, and expressed the significant role these definitions will play in society’s granting of rights to NSC, EC, natural beings, and supernatural beings moving forward.
This text functions as Part II of my discussion On Consciousness. Part II makes an argument for the imminence of societally-integrated AIBs, and questions and proposes structures for housing this type of emergent consciousness, using the Pietra Network as an example system.
A summary of terms follows for ease of reference. This is a new list than that in Part I. Words defined in Part I, however, may be used throughout this text and thus readers should reference back to that article for those specific definitions. This pattern will continue for Part III. Some of these terms are of my own production, some are conventionally used, and some are rare but coined by another.
I-DRM: Individual’s Data Rights Management
I-IRM: Individual’s Information Rights Management
IRM: Information Rights Management, usually as a sub-set of DRM. Technologies that protect sensitive information from unauthorized access.*
PN: Refers to the Pietra Network, which is the main network of the Digital Republic of Pietra.
Pietran Economics: A digital, Keynesian economic system balancing a Public and Private sector and incorporating a secure DLT (the Pietra Stone, STNE).
UDCS / UDCP: Universal based Distributed Computing System / Platform
*Denotes definitions sourced from Wikipedia.
A Distributed Universe
Whether in our near or distant future (and I fall on the side of believing it is quite near), the successful creation of an AGI approaches. AGI stands for Artificial General Intelligence, and it is commonly understood to refer to an artificially intelligent being who can perform any intellectual task / solve any intellectual problem at a level equal to or higher than a human being- a superintelligence of sorts, although this may bear some terminological variance from AGI in some circles. This does not conventionally include physical, mechanical, or sensual tasks, despite the growing popularity of belief that a body — and a body of experiences — will be a necessary component in the artificial intelligent being in order to achieve the right of being considered an AGI (by now this is old news, as the relevance of the clock as a valid marker of the passing of time ever decreases).
Regarding the success of an AGI in our society, assuming (or at least theoretically playing with the idea that) it will express emergent consciousness, two considerations surface. What needs to happen and/or what needs to be created in order to achieve the AGI with EC? What structure or system should we aim to develop in order to most responsibly, effectively, economically, and democratically host this ECB?
Though they are separate considerations, the solution to both should be handled in a unified manner, in which We, Society, only attempt to create a structure for housing AI that simultaneously fits the bill for doing so responsibly, effectively, economically, and democratically. Unfortunately, development in the disciplines at hand span such an array of research fields and specializations, one developer is unlikely to sit on their hands until interdisciplinary harmony is achieved (after all, the coder, the algorithm developer, and the meta-physician all sit at different desks, and I’m pretty sure there is a toll to cross corridors from one’s desk to the other’s — unless you are employed by Elon Musk?)
Fortunately, from what we know about the current advancements in machine learning, complex symbolic systems, and distributed computing, it seems that the issues emanating from the first and second questions conveniently collapse onto one plane naturally (when guided that way and accompanied by a lot of work)- in which problems of morals, values, efficiency, democracy, and the balance between the individual and society might possibly be resolved in sync with the technological advancements of the moment.
The recipe I propose to be plausible, beneficial, and imminent combines:
- a universally based distributed computing system,
- the establishment of democratic rights on the UDCS including the determination of property rights as translated into the new system,
- a for-value economic system (including a tandem public/private split, DLT, and direct, per-tick remuneration for publications and broadcasts), and
- I-DRM (or I-IRM)
The following portion of the article functions to unpack and define these four prerequisites to the establishment of a proper environment for hosting artificially intelligent, emergent consciousness.
1. The Foundational UDCS
The Universally based Distributed Computing System within this text refers to any body of individual computing devices connected via a distributed, shared network accessible internationally and beyond (time will only tell what large vision SpaceX has for the mysterious Starlink project). As being distributed and shared, the content on the network is broadcasted and accessed by a wide user base across an ever-upscalable web. This is in contrast to a centralized web 2.0 hosted primarily by large companies’ heavy server hubs. The specific UDCS I focus on here is the Crystalline Virtual Machine (VM) of the Pietra Network. The CVM combines Hash Graph, IPFS, and distributed ledger technologies to make up its core parts. This system confirms transactions, ensures user/data privacy & ownership, spreads the responsibility of hardware setup, and decreases the overall impact of localized hub attacks (to name a few).
The Skeleton of the Pietra Network is made up of its Crystalline VM, its DLT economic system, and its governing structure as a Democratic Republic. Anything that is structurally built into the system is skeletal, and it is the content, information, and exo-structure built on top of the skeleton which we can consider the eco-system (an important topic in regards to consciousness, preserved for another discussion, in another time). The four fundamental requirements for hosting an emergently conscious AGI as listed above (a UDCS, democratic rights, an integrated economics, and I-IRM) will be most secure and resistant to attack/failure if integrated on the skeletal level of any system. This is precisely why Pietra is the most highly qualified structure ATM for hosting our theoretical AGI friend- nonetheless, my goal in writing this is not only to talk up Pietra (though it deserves the accolades), but to get developers (and anyone interested) considering the bones and flesh of a platform for hosting emergent consciousness moving towards its healthiest possible state.
2. The Necessary Democratization of the UDCS
Upon the platform of the UDCS is the need for an adaptation and progression of the democratic rights and processes instituted in the early development of our world’s democracies and republics. This is to extend the civil developments we, as a world, have accessed into the new realm of the distributed platform. The implementation of natural human protections and rights as laid forth in democratic ideologies (and the preceding philosophies), if intentionally incorporated into the skeletal core of new human and machine eco-systems, will aid in the survival of civilized society as the topography of our civil space changes from the natural (analog) to the supranatural (digital). This includes the transference of information and data into the realm of the natural right of property (in a Lockean sense).
The EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), made a big step in digital rights protections and information privacy for the world. The influence of the GDPR has already extended far into the US reach via many internet companies who have users in the EU, and who consequently fall under its regulation. The effect it has had in US partnerships and international companies perhaps goes to show the significance of the development of digital rights beyond the delineations set forth in traditional nation-spaces. More on this in Part III.
Generally, the GDPR shifted the regulatory focus from that of the human right to access the internet* to the human right to highest possible privacy of personal information, including processes such as pseudonymization and anonymization (defined in Chapter 1, Article 4, the GDPR: https://gdpr-info.eu/art-4-gdpr/). In the case of users’ personal data being harvested by large companies for profit, this seems like a very responsible and reasonable jurisdiction for the EU to work towards (and one highly fancied after the nearly coincidental Facebook and Cambridge Analytica “scandal”: https://medium.com/s/story/the-fall-of-facebook-part-i-6ac2d6a744c5). However, in the realm of a UDCS, the focus ought to progress even further, and rapidly, to the human right to own personal property, of which personal data can be considered a sub-section.
Digital rights protections and information privacy deal with a company’s usage of a users’ personal information both on and offline. The rules are about information sourced on the web, but extend to how the company deals with the information and what they use it for even when it is extracted from the web — and perhaps shared and traded between companies. The core principle here is privacy; the main subject is information and personal data. Of course the legal rights issue of privacy goes back far before the digital information age graced us, but even more fundamental to the issue at hand, and even more fundamental to the principles of democracy, is the issue of property. And naturally so, for the determination of privacy rights can only be considered once proper ownership has been determined- I determine the privacy rules for my own home. He determines what to share and not to share about his own sexuality. She determines what to publicize from her personal sketchbook. The government &or organizations cannot sell this information without having access to it, and they do not have the right to access it unless the owner offers it up (or if the government steps in with some sort of constitutionally abiding warrant, or through measures that circumvent the Constitution altogether), for the assumption is that whoever owns the thing determines the regulation of privacy regarding it.
Privacy rights are an extension of property rights, and digital data and information is new subject-matter or territory upon which these rights can be applied or neglected. Although privacy rights are necessary-upon-arrival in a democratic digitally distributed future, and therefore although it is quite a good thing that the EU instituted the GDPR, these measures fail at reaching back to the core of the democratic root of property rights. Failing to defend the ownership of our own personal data as property will 1. leave open the door for misuse of what should be considered naturally yours, mine, and ours, and 2. hinder ingenuity and creative use of this property for the development of personal and shared societal value, including application in machine learning data sets.
Moving forward, we will need to determine: a. when digital property rights are natural and when they are granted, b. exactly where digital property rights begin and end, and c. how property rights are determined for/from emergent creations &or emergently conscious beings.
*(for example, France’s 2009 Constitutional ruling, or Article 5A of the Constitution of Greece. Read an overview of internet privacy conventions and regulations in my article, A Brief History of Digital Rights, coming soon).
3. Skeletal Economic Integration
The protection of property rights and the safeguarding of emergent consciousness and AI development under property rights jurisdiction will all require an advancement in economics.
Pietra’s economic skeleton efficiently utilizes a balance between public and private organization and access to public and private information (information, here, can also be read as space). It sees as sovereign individuals’ ownership over their own data, yet incorporates the value of individuals into a for-value, society-aimed market. The skeletal dance between the Individual and the Society balance each other in the Pietran economic model as the value created for/from one stokes the entire market and turns around to aid the other (a sort of perpetual volley between the public & private / society & individual that rises and falls together, in pairs, via inflationary and deflationary mechanisms). From the Economics portion of the Pietra whitepaper, section 1.3:
Competitive Based systems will create competitive agents. As technology advances and we develop AI and AGIs, if we make them in competitive system[s], they will out compete us and dominate us. Therefore we must come up with collaborative economic principles.
And from Section 1.3, “Historic Overview of Value”:
Late Capitalism — 1970-current — Through computation in the 1980’s and direct “supply chain consolidation” in the 1990’s — the Supply Chain, which distributed the value of nature to many parts of the society, was now consolidated by singular companies that maximized the extracted value of nature as efficiently as possible to as little people as possible — In their words, “maximizing profits.”
This moved human enterprise away from the collaborative transfer of Natural Value through the supply chain, and created a competitive market between people based on skills in order to lower the cost of skills to companies — IE companies are still extracting the value out of nature yet they look at people as nature and seek to extract your value [the value of people] for their own gain.
This system should, theoretically, benefit willing players more fairly over time than what we have seen spiraling from Late Capitalism’s big players. The field of Artificial Intelligence is already rapidly advancing — we have already witnessed computers making big leaps in learning and applications of this learning. But the AIB can only learn according to topics of input information, or from emergent correlations between these inputs — therefore in order to ascend to the level of AGI, it must have a wide breadth and thorough span of cultural and societal inputs. In order to access this information fairly and democratically, we need the base of a Digital Republic in a UDCS; in order to access this information in a manner that incentivises many people to assist in the growth of the AGI by sharing their data, those inputting must be justly rewarded. Pietran Economics is aware of this and incorporates this knowledge into the economical mechanics.
4. Individual Information Rights Management (I-IRM)
In Pietra, the default owner of novel data is the creator of the data, not the owner of the host site- and this data-to-owner relationship should trend outward from Pietra. If democracy is integrated into a system where computing and currency are both distributed, why should data-ownership not also be distributed?
In this type of system, for example, a user on a Pietran version of Facebook would have ownership rights over the information, posts, and interactions relating to their account. Whereas on Facebook, as things are now, the app itself (or Facebook as a company) owns the information. But Pietra does not disregard or take lightly the importance of the information and organization of the Facebook app or of Facebook as a company (a Curatorial role on the PN), and thus rewards this as novel creation as well. Theoretically, on the PN, a curated app such as Facebook could own its platform, and can host user’s interactions, from which the company (FB) and the associated users can be remunerated without FB actually owning the users’ information. Benefiting from the data does not require ownership of the data, just as a man can enjoy the shade of a fig tree without claiming ownership of the fig’s genetic code.
It has already been evidenced that big data is quite valuable for marketing research, AI development, demographics, and so on. Upon the premise of its previous usefulness, private entities may attempt accessing large bodies of information- and if they do this, it is individuals’ personal and social information that they seek to collect. On a UDCS such as Pietra, full recording and preservation of interactions and transactions becomes possible. If every user decided to hand over their personal data to a single government or company, insanely superhuman, supranatural intelligence could be achieved. Alternative to a voluntary hand-over, the information may be hacked or accessed against democratic standard, although this would require extremely sophisticated hacking technology (if you are familiar with such a technology or such a skilled person, please consider letting me know. I’ll take the first ship to Mars. ; )
Safeguards against such malicious hacking (or collection of users’ information without their expressed will) are being built into Pietra’s skeleton, and hopefully will be built into any derivative or alternative digital republic which may form/follow. This is absolutely necessary, as the possibility of some entity gathering of all the archived data could yield a power that has the potential for universal domination. Not to mention that some individuals simply want to maintain their own privacy.
“It’s not that I have something to hide. I have nothing I want you to see.”
The full implementation of an archived body of records and personal data by a centralized system is narratively portrayed in Anon (Niccol, 2018). The movie does not let on whether or not the system is de-centralized in a physical computing sense (if I recall correctly), but it is accessible to a centralized access point such as what might be permitted to government agencies, detectives, or anyone granted access. Full access to records of every citizens’ personal history of information is what the cops use to discover criminal activity, and it is the POV of certain involved people that the protagonist cop and his team access in order to solve a serial murder case.
At the very end of the film, which I hope not to spoil for you, the female protagonist expresses her reason and desire to avoid the system of records. She says, “It’s not that I have something to hide. I have nothing I want you to see.” The character’s lack of ownership rights over her own data as property determines her behavior, at least in part. Her social identity becomes entirely split from her personal identity as a result, and perhaps her personal consciousness unlinks from the greater social consciousness. Because she can still access the greater social consciousness (or subconsciousness), she can integrate it into her own overall intelligence, though the greater social consciousness cannot extract from her consciousness the same value- for it lacks access to her mind (a parasitic relationship of consciousness).
In light of the criticism cast on theoretical record-keeping, as is represented in Anon, thorough archiving of public interactions and transactions can be very useful in the progression of human history, and can determine the difference between a basic artificial general intelligence and a mature and emergent supranatural intelligent being. Though it can be considered a threat, the inverse consideration is its plausibility for being an agent of good. Protection against the manipulation, perversion, or abuse of such records will best be approached through institution of limited Accessibility & Permissions to such information, rather than through abstaining from recording altogether.
Why? Because it is too late for abstinence, even if you prefer the idea. Our globalized internetwork has already transcended into the realm of digitized informational record keeping; it is already instituted into our social structures and communal norms. Public data-collections are widespread. Undoing it now as an act of protectionism would be regressive, and would require a lot of power and force. Rather, we must properly and carefully define the rights of access to the information, pursuing a floating balance between the society and the individual, in order to avoid one drowning the other.
Furthermore, the archives and storehouses of information can breathe life back into a jaded education system, possibly progressing natural general intelligence to levels never before seen in human history…
Part III will dive deeper into the consequential discussion of the free will and agency of individuals, in relation to what’s discussed in Part II. Part III will also cover the construction of secondarily conscious beings through a user-developed distributed education platform and general collaborative creative production.