some thoughts on the future

We shall invert our whole relationship with the universe. Picture a future where the gray goo, in some form or other, quickly becomes the dominant form of matter in the universe. Within the gray goo, preserved like Barbarella within the Mathmos, vast intersecting parcels of personal space intersect; little bubbles of reality maintained artificially by an effervescant swirl of microscopic entities. The entities obey a vast interlaced network of protocols which determine ultimately the physical form of the surrounding environment.

Whether you choose to embody, or be present in, your personal space is up to you. You may choose to wander, or distribute yourself among other spaces. Even though the whole universe is mostly just gray goo, or some analogy of it, the idea of living on a planet such as earth is something that's rooted in our immediate evolution. It is likely that for several sub generations we would cling to the places which resonated most with our individual and collective backgrounds. This may be heaven for some, or hell, or some quake like party-hell, or a misty MM Kaye, come Merchant-Ivory kind of dreamscape.

Michale Moorcock's classic take of post everything whimsy, "The dancers at the end of time", portrays a universe which has had the very life sucked out of it by the excesses of a very few remaining earthlings. An elite group of people entertain themselves by harnessing the powers of cities long senile, to rearrange matter at their whims. This, Moorcock's most colourful vision of the future, is a dandy's euopia which never fails to cheers me. Deaths by miusadventure are simply undone naturally from the collective memories of their friends. It ws not until i started really thinking about nanotechnology that I realised that this vision was even remotely plausable.

I read recently, in association with Jini, the pervasive networking genius which Bill Joy and his team let out of their aspen bottle, that "any technolgy distinguisable from magic is insufficiently advanced." I can't remember who said it, but it sure still stikes me as clever. Reference to Clarke aside, Jini is the most interesting pattern to have evolved in modern software to date. It renders whole swathes of software architecture irrelevent and is already ushering in an era of subject oriented programming.

Pass the butter.

In an object oriented system if eveyone at the dining table is a 'people' object of some kind and one of those 'people' wants the butter, they have to essentially let the butter know that it is wanted, and if the butter knows how to respond, it will do so. This is patently ridiculous. A subject oriented system simply adds an abstraction in the form of a binding ether, or sense of place and enables more generalised communication as a result. A 'person' can just announce their need for butter and anything capapble of advancing the butter in the direction of the requester is free to step in and lend a hand. A few quick hand passes and the butter has been passed, most likely without having had to do a damn thing itself.

Massive shared spaces have already formed out of the increasing complexity of communication. A rave party of a bazillion turing machines. As Kevin Kelly so succinctly reminded us, "More is different."

So holding back the tides for us, we have an ocean of nanobots or whatever they may be. Within us an ocean of nanobots keeping our fleshy bits in place for as long as we really need them. Our selves are now partly delineated by a membrane of nanobots between the swirling gray goo and our own private idahos. The collected harnessed computatinal power of the gray goo is focussed on perpetuating a fractal froth of interlaced personal and collective realities. Speculation on the quantum nature of stuff becomes a moot point as Roger Penrose and other proponents of the Twistor theory get their final laugh. Process, aka computation, was there before space and time were even twinkes in their parent's eye.

Right now we can't see it because we are busy reinventing the wheel one spoke at a time, but soon, then what?

In reality, our selves would be distributed throughout the gray goo too. The physical matter upon which all that computation runs is largely interchangable and irrelevent. There untimately can't be a distinction between virtual and real in such a world. Real is what is in mind at the time, and the mind is hardly real, now is it?

So is this godhead? A singularity? I doubt it. Ultimatly there may be a limit to the computational power of the universe. Personal spaces both draw atoms away from their computational use, to play act as trees and people for a while, and demand computation to maintain their states. This creates a metaphysical surface tension. My personal space needs a bloody big swimming pool and a neighbourhood to house it, and that means sunshine and therefore a sun. Now a sun is a pretty computationally intensive thing, and will compete for comutational resources. If I want my own sun it's going to be more demanding on the world than if I am willing to share it with a few million others. This requires establishing temporal and spatial conventions, and leads straight to shared realities. These shared realities, derived from collective memory of earlier times will be in reality an inverted version of what we deem to be reality these days. This is probably a better way to view the world as a whole right now. It makes the notion of parallel worlds seem more obvious for starters, and is not inconsistent with the facts as we have observed them. Quantum entanglement stinks of software to me.

So less of godhead, more like disneyfication. The Amish can have their own world where they can build all the barns they like but I imagine the majority of us will be caught up in the rush of novelty hunting. Shared follies through space and time await us. Our realities will continue to be precariouly balanced between the matter that forms them and the matter that sustains the underlying behaviours of these realities. The patterns that form from the interplay between our post-human, transphysical realities and selves will surely be self similar to the windmills of our own minds, in turn born from raw quantum processes that noone yet comprehends. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

dave sag