Cyberspace - the virtual Big BANG

Yfke Laanstra
Cyberspace could well mean our virtual big bang: the instant manifestation of a fully digital parallel universe.

In the beginning...
There are many theories, beliefs and myths about the origins of this earth and us as humans. On the one hand stories about creation by a single God, prophet or multiple gods or creatures. Or creation in the sense of genetic manipulation and intervention by interdimensional (or not) extraterrestrial beings. On the other hand, there are the scientific, rational theories such as the big bang theory, in an attempt to explain, quantify and understand our world, our reality.

According to Darwin, as a human being, we evolved from the monkey, from a natural selection. Many people are still convinced that we have never or barely progressed beyond our primate level and that we are merely slightly civilised cavemen, trapped in our emotions and bounded by our fragile bodies and limited brains.

Industry 4.0
2019 years ago our official year count started and within our history a distinction is made in various revolutions. After the Middle Ages, the agricultural revolution began, which transitioned into various phases of the industrial revolution.

The 1st phase of the Industrial Revolution (1784) gave us a boost by the power of mechanical control by water and steam. The second phase (1870) brought us mass production through the power of electricity. The 3rd phase (1969) gave us the digital world and introduced us to the information/communication driven society, through the advent of computers and the internet.

Quantum leap
In earlier phases of the Industrial Revolution there was a linear growth, that is 1,2,3,4 etc. and each phase covered an average period of 100 years. However, the 3rd digital phase develops on an exponential scale, i.e. 1, 2, 4, 8 etc. The higher the numbers, the bigger the jumps. However, due to the recent introduction of the quantum computer, we can no longer even 'merely' speak of exponential growth, but of a quantum leap.

The 4th phase can manifest itself at any moment: the advent of cyberspace in a virtual big bang. The complete fusion of biology and computer technology.

Due to the recent introduction of the quantum computer, we can no longer simply use the term 'exponential growth', but rather 'quantum leap'.

For a long time, we have had some time to anticipate developments, to draw up multi-year plans and to define strategies. At the moment, however, the pace is so 'murderous' that it can no longer be comprehended or understood by our human brain. Do you remember the introduction of the Atari game console? Of the Internet? Of the cell phone? These are all developments within the time span of a lifetime. How is the smartphone alone dominating the streets, our attention? We are now suffering from a collective obsessive screen addiction and there is even a term for this present-day information overkill: infobesitas. Almost every citizen of the world has a smartphone, even in third world countries it is commonplace, in a shared first place next to (smart) television.

What does this 4th (r)evolution mean and what does it mean for our society, our life and for myself?' I can hear you thinking.
That's a good thing, because you seriously need to ask yourself this question.

Humanity 2.0 is emerging and cyberspace is going to completely transform our reality...

Reality 4.0
Our reality is currently flooded with new computer technologies. Nowadays our lives mostly unfold online, time and distance are no longer a limitation. Tangible (analogue) products get virtual alternatives, physical stores close, magazines become ezines, workshops become webinars, conversations take place via Facetime, Skype or Whatsapp, and Virtual Reality goes mainstream. We find ourselves in a reality where the credo is that we have to be online 24/7, we don't have to fall behind, everything and everyone is connected and we experience the world from behind our screens.

Everything is being digitized. All our actions are monitored, all our data is tracked and stored. Think of dates of our purchases, transactions, internet browsing, where we are located when, with whom we have online contact to all our health data in electronic patient records (EPD), etc.

In addition, there is a growing Internet of Things where more and more things are connected to the Internet. Think of your car, household appliances, smartphone or (game) computer; often without the necessary human intervention. The digital dimension no longer only takes place on a computer screen, but, with the arrival of smart products (Smart meter, Smart TV and Smart watch), shifts to your everyday objects. Everything is connected to the Smart Grid: your work, your home and even your family. We are already referring to Smart Homes and Smart Cities. The digital dimension is increasingly merging with our analogue, tangible dimension. With all its consequences for your privacy, personal space, health and free will.

It is only a matter of time before parcels or smart products no longer have RFID chips, but this will become a compulsory part of our vaccination programme. Given that such chips or technologies are now at the nanoscale. Enabling your body to be controlled and monitored by computers or artificial intelligence.

Drones are now for sale at discount supermarkets and is a toy for both children and adults. It's only a matter of time before Drones will determine our skyscape. Underneath are the Self Driving Cars, which are completely driven by artificial intelligence to determine their route, keep their distance and have to make autonomous decisions in case of car accidents.

In addition, there is large-scale robotisation underway; complex operations are already being carried out by robots, children have robot pets and there are experiments to have the elderly 'cared for' by robots in nursing homes. The implications and applications of robot technology are the subject of intense debate. Think of our production chains, our employment. The army has been working intensively for years on experiments to deploy robots in war/crisis situations, where it is plausible that armies will consist of robots that have to make autonomous decisions about the lives of others in war situations.

Our food industry and health care are highly automated, with a focus on artificial, chemical alternatives. Chemical medicines, genetically modified food, fertilizers, robotization of food production processes, artificial additives... we are drifting further and further away from our biology and what our beautiful planet has to offer us.

The Quantified Self movement promotes the use of gadgets and wearables (gadgets that are worn on the skin) to make everything quantifiable and to impact our health and performance with all this data. Think of pedometers, calorie meters, mood trackers, apps and head bands using computer technology to generate a meditative state.
Improving your health, your biology and your quality of life through gadgets are included in the BioHacking, NeuroHacking and LifeHacking movement.

The irony in all this is that there is little or no awareness of the far-reaching effects of the radiation and frequencies of all these devices on our health, our brain functions and our consciousness.

Developments are increasingly shifting from applications on screens to gadgets that are worn on the skin to the actual implantation of chips and control from the inside out. Ranging from the 3D printing of organs to the actual transcendence of our biology (Transhumanism). Think of anti-aging technologies, injecting nanotechnology (nanobots) into our bloodstream and uploading your brain into a computer, controlled by Artificial Intelligence (AI). With ultimately the creation of a cyborg body out of a full fusion of technology and biology.

Singularity
We talk about Singularity when we reach the point where we are surpassed by computer technology. When Artificial Intelligence and robots are more advanced than ourselves. Robots are already able to act autonomously, make their own decisions based on algorithms and are no longer dependent on their programmers. Will they experience emotions, develop a consciousness? Become enlightened? Nobody knows what exactly is going to happen, but the greatest scientists and minds on this planet warn us (Richard Dawkins, Elon Musk and others). Is it the quantum leap in our evolution or is it the end of humanity as we know it?

'I fear the day technology will overtake human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.'
~ Albert Einstein

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Ghost in the Machine

Yfke Laanstra
'Just as electricity is sent through the electricity grid to supply devices and machines, in the same way, Artificial Intelligence will move through everything (and everyone).'

Perhaps you've heard of the phrase 'the ghost in the machine'. It was introduced in the 20th century by Gilbert Ryle (1900-1976), a British philosopher who through his work 'The concept of Mind' (1949) was best known for his criticism of the Dualism of the well-known philosopher René Descartes (1596-1650). Dualism encompasses the idea that a spirit (resp. the soul) exists independently of the body, whereby the body is seen as a machine, as it were. This body of thought has taken off (in a sci-fi manner) with the current developments in computer technology and is more topical than ever. As we are increasingly confronted with the question 'to what extent does the human being actually distinguish him/her from the machine'.

"Are we some kind of cyber-biological "machine" with a soul?
Is it possible the other way around that there are machines that have or can develop a soul or a consciousness?

Ghost in the shell
Perhaps you remember the film 'I, Robot', which appeared in cinemas in 2004. The story in this film is set in the year 2035 (!), in which seemingly innocent house robots eventually turn against humanity collectively. From the supercomputer, with which all robots are centrally connected, a task arises to rule over the world and to intervene in the fate of mankind. In short, the machine seems to have developed an awareness, with all its consequences. This film is partly based on the book of the same name by Isaac Asimov, which has already been released in 1950(!). In 1956 the term Artificial Intelligence was launched. In 1968 Arthur C. Clarke published his book '2001, A Space Odyssey' with the intelligent supercomputer HAL 9000 (filmed by Stanley Kubrick). The hype was complete with the appearance of the first film with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Terminator film series in 1984.
The theme of robots, supercomputers, consciousness and Artificial Intelligence has become an integral part of our contemporary cinematic experience. It is the rule rather than the exception that these themes appear in science fiction films and in many series. Think of films like 'Transcendence', 'Ex-Machina' and 'Her'. Or Netflix series such as 'Travelers', 'Continuum', 'The 100' and 'Altered Carbon'.

Especially in the Hollywood production 'Ghost in the Shell', which appeared in Dutch cinemas in 2017, the theme of a ghost in the machine was elaborated on very specifically. The story takes place in the 21st century, in which the main character looks like an ordinary person on the outside, but is actually a cyborg: a so-called human robot. She still has part of her human brain, but an artificial body. As a result, she raises a number of questions about her own identity and humanity. Is she more than a ghost, a soul, trapped in a shell, an artificial vessel? The film raises ethical and philosophical questions about identity and the blurring of the boundary between technology and biology.

Artificial Intelligence
So when we talk about 'the mind in the machine' today, the term 'Artificial Intelligence' (AI) is quickly used. The introduction of this is one of the greatest current computer technological revolutions. But what is this anyway? In fact, it is the ability of a machine, a form of intelligence, to solve a problem independently. Many people think that Artificial Intelligence is something that has yet to be developed or something that is only found in robots. However, it has been in use for a long time. Applications range from something as simple as the calculators in our smartphone, the virtual assistant Siri (launched in 2011), self-driving cars to the software behind the platforms of tech giants like Facebook and Google. In the meantime, Machine Learning has entered the stage: the ability of a computer to learn by itself without being specifically programmed. The computer is fed with innumerable possibilities/data, after which it will make its own connections and recognize patterns.

There are different forms of AI, which can be roughly divided into three types:
1. Artificial Narrow Intelligence (ANI)
This is an Artificial Intelligence that can only be programmed within a narrow bandwidth, for something that is within a certain area. For example, our smartphones, email programs and social media are full of this type of Artificial Intelligence. Google Translate and every search engine is based on this. So when you're on social media, you're simply interacting with a supercomputer.

2. Artificial General Intelligence (AGI)
This is also called Strong AI, a stronger form that is more similar to human intelligence. This form will be able to use logic, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, understand complex ideas, learn quickly and learn from experience. This is much more complex than the Narrow version of AI (ANI). If we are able to develop artificial intelligence that is at least as smart as we are, it will have practical advantages over our biocomputer. Artificial intelligence will always exceed the speed, storage capacity, reliability and durability of our own brain. After all, the artificial brain is not limited by the size of a human skull, for example, and is not subject to 'wear and tear' or exhaustion. In addition, a computer brain is easy to upgrade and modify.

3. Artificial Super Intelligence (ASI)
This is the superlative of AGI, it exceeds our human capacity at every level. This ranges from ASI that is only slightly smarter than humans to ASI that is a million times smarter. By smarter I don't just mean the possibility to process more data in a shorter time than a human brain, but the actual transcendence of the human brain by complex neural functions such as immensely complex thinking and the processing of immensely complex algorithms. In a split second, in a true explosion of intelligence.

Artificial Consciousness
Artificial intelligence will at some point be able to simulate (read: imitate) and read people in such a way that they can respond to the feelings, thoughts and expectations of each individual. This has long been the case to a certain extent, think of the influence via social media and online marketing. Intelligent cameras have also been developed, for example, which can fully read your state of mind. Chatbots (the combination of chat and robot: an automated conversation partner in, for example, online chat/helpdesk environments) and virtual assistants are also becoming increasingly human, intelligent and advanced. But can machines actually develop a consciousness? In the sense that they are aware of themselves and their 'inner world', and can interact with the world around them from that perspective? If this is the case, it means that in addition to our current sphere of consciousness, there is also an artificial version of it: a so-called artificial/technological sphere of consciousness. More on this later.

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Bits, Bytes & Bewustzijn (Consciousness) - book intro

Yfke Laanstra
'I don't know the future. I didn't come here to tell you how this is going to end. I came here to tell you how it's going to begin.

I'm going to hang up this phone, and then I'm going to show these people what you don't want them to see. I'm going to show them a world without you. A world without rules and controls, without borders or boundaries. A world where anything is possible.

Where we go from there is a choice I leave to you.'

~Neo from 'The Matrix

We live in an incredibly significant phase of our human evolution. A phase in which computer technologies are emerging that are capable of radically and beyond recognition changing what it means to be human as well as our reality over the next 15 years.

At an unprecedented pace, more will change in the next 20 years than in the last 300 years. This degree of immense growth is also called exponential growth. So far, our growth has been linear. This is particularly evident in the various stages of our industrial revolution. In 1784, the first phase of our evolution took place, which gave a boost to our evolution by the power of mechanical control by means of water and steam. The second phase (1870) brought us mass production through the power of electricity. The third phase (1969) gave us the digital world and introduced us to the information/communication driven society, through the advent of computers and the internet. In all these phases there was linear growth, so we saw a gradually increasing line from 1 to 2, 3, 4 etc. and each phase covered an average period of 100 years. The third (digital) phase develops on an exponential scale, so from 1 to 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128 etc. You can imagine that the higher the numbers, the bigger the jumps. At this rate, after 30 steps, you reach a billion. A characteristic of an exponential growth curve is that it first goes up slightly gradually, but then suddenly moves up in a practically vertical line. In this third exponential phase we now find ourselves, on the threshold of the fourth phase: where the line suddenly skyrockets up radically.

The driving force behind this exponential growth is the evolution of the transistor, the basis of the microprocessor: the so-called computer chip. An immense development in terms of production costs, size and capacity. Gordon Moore, co-founder of chip manufacturer Intel, introduced the first microprocessor Intel 4004 in 1971 with a capacity of 2300 transistors about the size of a small eraser at the end of a pencil. This chip evolved in 2004, 33 years later, to the Intel Pentium 4 Processor with 125 million transistors and in 2016, 12 years later, to the Intel Core i7 processor with a content of 14.4 billion transistors. If you want to see it with the naked eye, you have to enlarge it to the size of a house. Among other things, this evolution facilitated the arrival of the smartphone and created the size of chips that can be inserted into our bloodstream. This evolution in computer chips is also called 'Moore's law' as it was Gordon Moore who observed that capacity doubled every 12 to 18 months. The storage capacity has also been increased at an exponential rate. From bulky devices the size of a filing cabinet in 1956, worth $120,000 with a storage capacity of 5Mb, we have evolved to a microSD card in 2005 the size of 15 mm with a weight of half a gram with a storage capacity of 128Mb to even a memory card of 128Gb in 2014. A capacity increase of a thousand times in a period of only nine years. All this paves the way for many current, exponential developments in the field of nanotechnology, quantum computing, genetic engineering, virtual reality, Artificial Intelligence, brain-computer and human-machine interfaces. Within ten years we will be able to buy computers that match the calculating power of our own brain and less than 25 years later we will have computers with the capacity of all human brains united.

For example, if our fuel consumption had developed at the same pace, we could now run on one tank of fuel for the rest of our lives. If our cars were to shrink at the same pace as the transistor, it would currently be the size of an ant. If housing prices would have dropped at the same pace, we could now buy a house for the price of a candy.

Remember the Atari game console and the joystick? The advent of the global Internet? From the simple mobile phone and laptop to the arrival of the advanced smartphone? These are all developments within the timeframe of one lifetime.
Did you know that telephony is an invention already made in 1878, during the second phase of the industrial revolution? Followed, more than a century later, in 1983 by the mobile phone. Less than 25 years later, the smartphone was introduced in 2007. Less than 10 years later, our streets, our social and working lives and even our brains are completely dominated by this smartphone, which is now developing at an incredibly fast pace. In the coming years, the smartphone will be one of the most central links in the Internet of Things. Almost every citizen of the world has a smartphone, even in third world countries it is commonplace, in a shared first place next to the (smart) television.

The 21st century
We are now suffering from a collective obsessive screen addiction and there is even a term for the present-day information overkill: infobesitas. In addition to many other emerging disorders and syndromes.

Our reality is currently flooded by new computer technologies and wireless networks. Nowadays our lives are mostly spent online, time and distance are no longer a limitation. Tangible, analog products are replaced by virtual ones. Physical shops close, magazines become e-zines, workshops become webinars, conversations are held via Facetime, Skype or Whatsapp and Virtual Reality goes mainstream thanks to the Albert Heijn (Dutch supermarket chain) and mobile providers. We are in a reality in which the motto is that we have to be online 24 hours a day and not fall behind. A world in which everything and everyone is connected and we experience the world from behind our screens.

Everything is being digitized. All our actions are monitored, all our data is tracked, traced and stored. Mostly without our knowledge or consent. Thanks to whistleblowers like Edward Snowden, we have become more aware of this. Think of dates of our purchases, transactions, internet browsing, where we are located when, with whom we interact online and when, to all our health data in Electronic Patient Dossiers (EPDs). Data is the new oil. Oil companies used to have the power, but nowadays these are the big tech companies like Google, Apple and Facebook.

In addition, there is a growing Internet of Things where more and more things are connected to the Internet. Think of your car, household appliances, smartphone or (game) computer; often without the necessity of human intervention. The digital dimension no longer only exists on a computer screen, but is shifting to your everyday objects through the rise of smart products (smartmeter, smart tv and smartwatch), among other things. Everything will be linked to the smart grid: your work, your home and even your family. We already use the term smart homes and smart cities. The digital dimension is increasingly merging with our analogue, tangible dimension. With all its implications for your privacy, personal space, health and free will.

It is only a matter of time before parcels or smart products no longer contain RFID chips but become part of our vaccine doses, given that such chips or technologies have now reached the nanoscale. Obligatory or voluntary, who will say? Enabling your body to be remotely controlled and monitored by computers and Artificial Intelligence.

Drones, unmanned and remote-controlled flying objects, are now for sale at discount supermarkets and are toys for both children and adults. It's only a matter of time before drones start determining our sky view. Underneath, the Self Driving Cars, which are completely driven by artificial intelligence, determine their route, keep their distance and make autonomous decisions in the event of a car accident.

In addition, there is an extensive robotisation in progress. Complex operations are already carried out by robots, children have robot pets and there are experiments to have the elderly 'cared for' by robots in nursing homes. The implications and applications of robot technology are the subject of intense debate. Think of our production chains, our employment. For years, the army has been working intensively on experiments to deploy robots in war and crisis situations, and it is conceivable that entire armies will consist of robots that have to make decisions about life and death autonomously in war situations. This puts the term cyber warfare, digital warfare, in a totally different perspective.

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