Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Hive Mind

Hive minds are an integral part of many notable science fiction works.  It's a fascinating concept.  All the minds in a society, commune or other such community all linked together, working together, sharing the same information.  Gives a whole new meaning to the term "on the same page".

Most of the hive mind examples I've seen involve biology rather than science, however.  And that, dependent on exact circumstances of course, is usually closer to fantasy than science fiction.  The two are closely related, but fantasy usually involves elements of magic or the supernatural to explain things we don't see in reality.

This post really came about from pondering one of my last posts, Crossing the Uncanny Valley, and continuing that thought in light of my current work in progress, The Plexus.  With a virtual world connected with the physical world on such a personal, instantaneous level, add androids, and it seems you'd have the perfect setup for a hive mind.

Think about it for a moment.  You have a global virtual world, connecting communications, information, social interaction, entertainment and whatever else via instantaneous wireless connection.  You have androids, with built-in brains, wired into the network.  Bingo!  Hive mind.

But how would they work?  Many have argued that the hive mind causes its bearer to lose identity, to become nothing more than a drone in an insect-like society.  They argue the bearer becomes simply a tool to carry out whatever higher purpose is instilled, by an arguably non-hive-minded entity, on the hive mind.

I disagree.  I think not only would those connected this way have complete identities, but would be allowed to operate almost completely independently of each other, connecting only in terms of data transfer and information sharing.

Think about it.  How is technology moving now?  What are the current trends?  The internet is no longer a fad, but a way of life.  Cloud technology allows us to tap into resources beyond our immediate control or ownership.  Everything is moving toward a hive mind mentality already, whether we know it or not.

So where does that leave our androids?  In good shape, really.  Picture them similar to computers today.  They remain separate entities, have their own memories, computing capacity, subroutines, and profiles, but are connected to the whole to gain whatever information they need to access.

I picture them as completely autonomous entities, able to function all on their own.  They tap into the hive intelligence for any information, but remain separate as an identity.  They're essentially like humans, but connected by thought to instant worldwide information.  Real time.  Kind of scary if you think about it.

Actually the concept itself isn't very scary.  It's pretty cool from a strictly speculative point of view.  The possibilities of such entities are virtually endless, no pun intended.

But while the concept isn't scary, the real possibilities of it are.  This kind of technology is maybe a decade or two from actual existence.  Just as I've portrayed it.  We'll see this in our lifetimes, folks.  Real androids, almost completely indistinguishable from humans, with the full power of instant worldwide information and computing within a thought's distance.

They would be the technological equivalent of Star Trek's Vulcans, only almost omniscient.  Like if Spock and Data had a baby.  Aside from the disturbing visuals there, the concept is intriguing.  Instant decisions would be made from intricate analysis of data, and formed the most logical way possible.  They would always be a step ahead of you, always able to deduce a better method of doing something, a more logical step to a conclusion, and a more thoroughly thought-out process of deduction.  Couple that with scientific breakthroughs in medicine as it relates to the technology of robotics, and you'd have an almost unstoppable force.

Now I'm not saying they'd be some evil, unstoppable force bent on world domination like the Terminator, but they would hold a great deal of power.  They would be the equivalent of massive think tanks all on their own.  they would be far more employable in any number of fields than humans.  The effects on society based on implications from these facts alone are what makes this idea truly scary.

They're coming, folks.  They'll take over the world.  It just won't be as we've imagined it.


  1. The world is already changing faster than we can keep up with. Part of the current economic crisis was caused by people being lead to believe that their credit card limit was money they had; but part is also the fact that our society is still geared towards 'Thou Shalt Work A 9 To 5 Job' is leading away from that. The question is, what will we do when the vast majority of humans are unemployable. Can we develop the technology to create a society in which people do not have to do grunt work to make a living...and would most people want to live in one?

  2. Not to digress into a political debate, which would be fun, but counterproductive, I fear, but you're right. The world is changing faster than we can keep up with. Technology is advancing at an exponential rate. If you look at a graph of technological advances over time, it's almost flat until a few years ago, when it spikes up almost ninety degrees vertical.

    Humans cannot keep up. The people you see interacting with others on a virtual basis and in the media are not the norm. They are the upper eschalon of what we have to offer as a species. Even they cannot keep up.

    Of course, the problem with your last question is that doing so would ruin our societal norm as we know it. It would rupture the balloon that is our standard of economics. Creating a society where people would not have to do "grunt work" would spike unemployment, and create a very dystopian world, one where most people would not want to live.