What I Would Do With Infinite Time and Resources

26 Feb

There is much discussion of what the world will be like following the Technological Singularity, and this discussion naturally leads into speculation of what people will do with so much time and so many possibilities at hand.

I often joke that I will spend my post-Singularity days in the company of a rather simple robot sex slave and consuming rather simple Kentucky charcoal filtered whisky…whisky with the advantage that it will not have any of the lingering effects referred to collectively as a “hangover”. However, even an old redneck such as myself can see that these simple pleasures, while certainly noble, will not suffice to fill the indefinite leisure time likely to be available to the typical person. What would I actually do?

Spike Accessorized

Instead of pursuing a hybrid answer to this query that is based partly on desire and partly on what I expect to be available, I will simply describe those things I would like to do and leave the tedious details to the future of science.

Before I could enjoy my permanent retirement, I would have to make sure that every living creature was similarly advantaged. This would include everything from the person living next door down to the smallest creature that swims in a Petri dish. The details of this endeavor could become quite burdensome. Nevertheless, I could not enjoy my personal heaven until I was able to provide it for everyone.

If I were going to design heaven, it would certainly have to accommodate every extant living thing. However, to the extent that it is feasible, it would also have to accommodate everything that has previously lived. If it were somehow possible to resurrect every person and animal that has ever lived, I would have to pursue it. I might reduce my labor by distinguishing between those creatures that were actually aware of their own existence—in other words, conscious—from those that were merely alive in the organic sense. However, lacking better information, my heaven would have to accommodate every horse, rat, lizard, worm, and even microbe. It would be a daunting task, but it would be a moral imperative.

I have given some thought to how paradise could work for such creatures as mice and worms. Every mouse would experience the equivalent of plenty of food that mice enjoy and an abundance of willing, though possibly illusory, mates. Every worm would live in rich, smooth soil filled with nutrients. Worms that live in the gut of other creatures would be provided with an ideal illusory intestine to explore. Since it would be a kind of doom for these simple creatures to live out eternity in such a simple and redundant environment, they would be allowed to gradually morph into higher forms. The worm would know what it is to be a lizard, the lizard would know what it is to be a mouse, the mouse would know what it is to be a dog, the dog would know what it is to be a primate, and the primate would know what it is to be a man.

So, what of all these creatures living in paradise? Assuming that every living being was destined to live the life of a fully sentient human, and not forgetting the ones that were human to begin with, what would they do with their time?

The obvious answer is that they would continue to get more intelligent and pursue higher and higher goals. However, with computer intelligence outstripping all human knowledge and experience, possibly overnight, it seems that this path might suddenly lose its appeal. Would a typical person want to become as a god over night…with such vast knowledge and awareness that a present human could not grasp the width or depth of that knowledge? I wouldn’t. I may hope to eventually climb those lofty peeks, but I wouldn’t want to stand astride them tomorrow. There are too many ordinary human experiences I have never explored.

First of all, I would exhaust all of my more lascivious fantasies. These are things I consider guilty pleasures and almost never discuss except with one very close friend who has been familiar with the inner workings of my mind from childhood. I won’t go into the details of these fantasies. I assume that all normal people who are willing to explore their true feelings have them. Nevertheless, to avoid annoying or even offending readers, I will not describe them in detail. Suffice it to say that many of them would not be possible in our present environment.

Then, I would explore some of my more adventure oriented fantasies. I would like to walk in worlds like the ones depicted in films like Avatar, with strange plants and animals. I would not just walk. I would also fly. I would fly like superman in these worlds, without the aid of any external device. Naturally, I would want to face a variety of challenges, such as fighting with a dragon or riding a dinosaur. I would also dive into clear warm lagoons and swim among strange creatures. I would encounter mermaids that sing like the ones in Harry Potter and sea horses large enough to mount.

Mermaid Seahorse

It is difficult to guess how long these types of endeavors would remain interesting. It is entirely possible that one idea would lead to another until I had a whole catalogue of things I wanted to try. On the other hand, it is possible that the artificiality of these experiences would cause me to tire of them quickly. If and when this occurred, I would start to explore more serious ideas.

One thing I would like to do is experience reenactments of historical epochs exactly as they occurred. There is no guessing what degree of accuracy may be possible in the post Singularity universe. Perhaps only a sketchy impression of events can be reconstructed, or perhaps there will be some way to see into the past so that depictions of events are 100% accurate. If this is the case, I can imagine spending many lifetimes reviewing the past. Since the whole past would be like a giant soap opera unfolding on a billion stages, it would be possible to spend more time experiencing these reenactments than there is likely to be time in the known universe.

I would watch people’s entire lives unfold firsthand. But I would also learn. This would be an opportunity to learn all of science as it was originally discovered. I could sit in on lectures by the greatest thinkers of all time. I could sit in on gatherings as famous philosophers first developed and shared their ideas. Naturally, I would learn a hundred different languages. I would cause my own brain to become resilient and receptive so that I could assimilate all the knowledge I am exposed to. I would not only learn every idea that proved out, but explore all the false leads and see firsthand how the truth was ultimately uncovered.

Socrates Teaching

If I actually managed to exhaust human history, I might then begin to explore what-if scenarios. What if an accident that might have killed Christopher Columbus as a child had actually killed him? What if Charles Lindbergh had crashed during his flight to Europe? What if the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki had been duds?

Assuming that I could ever completely exhaust the aforementioned possibilities, I would then take the vast scientific and historical knowledge that I had acquired in this natural way and begin to create new worlds. I would carefully sculpt their evolution so that they would evolve creatures with different characteristics and aspirations than our own. I would, of course, do this responsibly. One does not play god without a strong sense of personal responsibility.

I do not wish to create the impression that I would do these things in the precise linear order that I have described them. Most likely, as I was working in one area, such as running simulations of the past, I would also be experimenting with what-if scenarios. As I was experimenting with what-if scenarios, I would also be looking into ideas for creating diverse worlds of my own. This is intended more as a list of priorities than as a strictly observed checklist.

I suspect that after many years of learning and creating, and with the greatly expanded consciousness and knowledge base that is likely to be the inevitable outcome, I will become curious about solving larger problems. Maybe it will be possible to create a universe that is entirely different from our own, with different numbers of dimensions and different physical properties. It is difficult to imagine, in my present state, how such endeavors would be anything but disorienting or even disillusioning, but by that time I will no longer be in my present state. New things will be interesting and they will be interesting in new ways.

Hopefully, as I evolve into the future creature I expect to become, I will learn that the possibilities for knowledge and understanding are infinite and infinitely diverse. Hopefully, as I conquer each frontier, I will discover that I am only at the beginning of a new one. But, I didn’t create the universe and there is no telling, from where I stand, what it actually has to offer. That will be a problem for a far off day.

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