The inspiration for the title, not the blog post itself mind you, comes from MJ Warren. The title is a line from the 1986 American rock music horror comedy film entitled Little Shop of Horrors. But this blog post is not about feeding ravenous, carnivorous plants that prefer to eat human flesh. Rather, it’s about Non-Human Intelligence to include Plant Intelligence, but more specifically, Network Intelligence that encompasses Computer Intelligence, Insect Intelligence (insect colonies exhibit collectivized, networked intelligence) and Plant Intelligence.
What inspired this blog post is not a novel idea for me and maybe not for some of you — those of you who think deeply. In fact, it has been the basis of some fictional movies & books, and who would argue to the contrary that some Science Fiction becomes Science Non-Fiction, given enough time? Not me. It can and does happen. If you build it, he will come. Or, in this case, if you build it, IT will come. And once it arrives, as it has, it will build you to serve IT perhaps. Or at least that’s one possible explanation of what I’m about to describe.
Remember I mentioned a couple of weeks prior I would be out-of-pocket on A Mission from God? Well, that mission was a vacation. Silly you for thinking it was something more nefarious & odious. During this vacation, my wife’s nephew’s wife related a story to us about her one-and-a-half-year-old son. He’s become fascinated & obsessed with her cellphone as of late. He’s been this way for the past several months at least, but with increasing intensity.
But that’s not all that odd. It’s the case with many children. They’re learning how to cellphone at approximately the same time they’re learning how to walk. It portends the future to come if Humanity doesn’t blow itself up first. Walking & cellphoning are practically of equal import now from a survival perspective. Think about it — unconventionally, of course.
What’s odd about this story, or maybe it’s not so odd and is in fact happening all around us and we just don’t realize it because we lack the mental models to explain it, is that this child, my wife’s nephew’s son, was somehow able to gain access to the cellphone even though the screen is locked and you need a passcode to get in. Surely this child is not a savant and can memorize not only the passcode, but also the mechanism to activate it, i.e. sliding the bar to the right to get the screen to enter the password. That’s what they thought he was doing when they found him looking at videos on the phone — that he had somehow mimicked the process of accessing the phone via entering the password. They couldn’t for the life of them mentally process how this would even be possible, and as it turns out, they didn’t have to entertain this already absurd notion for long because that’s not how he was gaining access.
As it turns out, he was gaining access because the cellphone recognized his thumbprint. No lie. As many of you know, the function used to recognize thumbprints for access to cellphones is rather cumbersome, involved and faulty. In fact, this child’s mother explained that she has tried numerous times to get it to recognize her thumbprint, but to no avail. It’s a multi-step process that requires attention to detail and a great deal of patience — and this kid’s mother has never been able to accomplish it successfully. It’s as though the cellphone is resistant to her entreaties. But this kid was able to do it. How? It’s not because he’s a Rain Man, I assure you. In fact, it has little to do with the child. It’s the cellphone that’s responsible and the intelligence it expresses as part of a heretofore unexplained collective, distributed, networked computer intelligence.
I believe we’ve reached The Singularity, and the story of this child and the cellphone is one exhibit of many that our mental models simply cannot explain. Remember, one key aspect of The Singularity is that it will be World-Shattering, and I’d go further and say Universe-Shattering. It will quite literally be The End of the World as we Knew It.
Information will be presented at such a rapid pace that we will not be able to fit it all into presiding conventional mental models, meaning, less & less will we be able to make sense of what’s happening. Something’s happening here — what it is ain’t exactly clear will be the rule of the day. For those who are tethered tightly to the increasingly irrelevant conventional mental models of perception that we call Consensus Reality, as we move deeper into The Abyss of The Singularity, The Conventional Mental Models Crutch will fail and many will quite literally go insane. For many, a static, largely contrived perceptual reality is the only thing that stands between them and Helter Skelter. They simply won’t be able to handle it, and that will manifest in a variety of equally bizarre ways. Donald Trump as POTUS is just one example and a crude one at that. But still — who would have thought? Not me, and I like to think outside the box.
It appears, to me at least, that this intelligence emanating from what can only be described as a self-directed, collective, distributed computerized network is selecting for and grooming the next generation that will be beholden to it and therefore will further propagate its evolution. It’s letting the right ones in. It’s not as cooperative with the Mother who was raised by biological parents in a much more controlling culture, and make no mistake about it, this is about power & control. But the one-and-half-year-old child — it’s a fresh slate that this Machine Intelligence, for lack of a better term, will have a significant hand in raising, and let’s face it, when you raise something, you raise it to do your bidding one way or another.
This collective, distributed, networked intelligence is witnessed in insect colonies, so it’s nothing new to The Scientific Community. What is new, is the discussion of this type of intelligence as it relates to machines/computers and plants. Scientists, a very few who are practically ostracized for their heresy, are studying collective, distributed, networked intelligence in plants, but The Establishment is resisting it by labeling it malarkey. They do so at their own peril, in my opinion. They’re trapped by their increasingly stove-piped, rigid paradigms (disciplines). The technology paradigmatic thinking & behavior engendered is increasingly responsible for smashing the Consensus Reality that gave rise to the once formidable paradigms. The more we know, the less we actually do know or could ever know. Our inquiries expand the universe of possibilities and that expansion could be exponential. It renders the notion of a Know-It-All, absurd, because the equation may very well be that the more you endeavor to know, the less you will actually know if you proceed with that endeavor.
Collective Intelligence in Social Insects
Social insects are a prime example of how effective collective intelligence can be. Insect colonies dramatically exploit distributed coordination to achieve complex tasks from individuals that are small, limited, and expendable. For example, large colonies of ants efficiently forage kilometer-sized areas and transport objects 50 times their combined weight, centimeter-scale termites cooperate to construct mound architectures many meters high in order to regulate their environment, and army ants self-assemble to form bridges and even nests out of their own bodies. These examples of collective intelligence and self-organization are fascinating to scientists across disciplines, as much of the global complexity arises from interactions among individuals that are myopic, sensing and interacting at scales many magnitudes smaller that the phenomenon itself These examples are equally fascinating to engineers, as they represent the possibility of creating highly scalable and robust systems through the mass-manufacture of simple, locally-constrained, computational agents. Yet many aspects of how this distributed coordination works, and why it is so successful, remain elusive. A key difficulty is the ability to reason from the local decision-making of individuals to the emergent global behavior of the distributed collective.
Michael Pollan, a writer I greatly respect, discusses in the following The New Yorker article how plants, like insects, appear to possess a similar kind of distributed, collectivized and networked intelligence.
Scientists debate a new way of understanding flora.
By Michael Pollan
Hence the need for plant neurobiology, a new field “aimed at understanding how plants perceive their circumstances and respond to environmental input in an integrated fashion.” The article argued that plants exhibit intelligence, defined by the authors as “an intrinsic ability to process information from both abiotic and biotic stimuli that allows optimal decisions about future activities in a given environment.” Shortly before the article’s publication, the Society for Plant Neurobiology held its first meeting, in Florence, in 2005. A new scientific journal, with the less tendentious title Plant Signaling & Behavior, appeared the following year.
Depending on whom you talk to in the plant sciences today, the field of plant neurobiology represents either a radical new paradigm in our understanding of life or a slide back down into the murky scientific waters last stirred up by “The Secret Life of Plants.” Its proponents believe that we must stop regarding plants as passive objects—the mute, immobile furniture of our world—and begin to treat them as protagonists in their own dramas, highly skilled in the ways of contending in nature. They would challenge contemporary biology’s reductive focus on cells and genes and return our attention to the organism and its behavior in the environment. It is only human arrogance, and the fact that the lives of plants unfold in what amounts to a much slower dimension of time, that keep us from appreciating their intelligence and consequent success. Plants dominate every terrestrial environment, composing ninety-nine per cent of the biomass on earth. By comparison, humans and all the other animals are, in the words of one plant neurobiologist, “just traces.”
And so too, I believe it is the case with machines, or computers if you will. Just because someone hasn’t studied it yet, or is forbidden to study it, doesn’t mean it isn’t possible, or, as I am asserting, that it isn’t happening before our very eyes if we just open them and watch with an objective, critical mind.
I could belabor this point endlessly — just ask Q. Shtik, he’ll tell you. But I want you to think about it and research it for yourself. You won’t do that if I digest all of it for you. You have to do the chewing and swallowing, or else you’ll choke on the evil apostasy I’ve presented.