Unifying technological evolution with the evolution of consciousness

(This manifesto is a living text reflecting the current position of the founders of the community working on the NeuroWeb project. This text presents and manifests our evolving understanding of the purpose and meaning of the NeuroWeb project. This is the version of February 2014.)

1. On the doorstep of new life

1.1. We are at the dawn of a new era in the evolution of humankind. Experiences and knowledge that we might face in the very near future will stun us, and may even be impossible to describe using existing terminology. Technologies that are emerging now before our eyes and transforming our everyday environment – interfaces connecting our bodies and nervous systems directly to the web, artificial body parts and cyber bodies, artificial intelligences surpassing our own in some ways, new types of collective and blended (natural / artificial) minds supported by automated and neurotechnological solutions – present an evolutionary challenge of unprecedented magnitude. We stand at the edge of a new world, the first generation of a coming era.

1.2. This challenge is supported by technologies that will make our bodies and minds part of a technosphere. Interfaces of this new environment will pervade the body and mind so deeply and synergistically, that they eventually will become more natural than language in which we currently express our ideas and feelings. Information systems that help receive and transmit our thoughts will begin an era of compelling openness, vulnerability and transparency requiring courage and strength of character. Internet networks will allow total communications merging experiences of the mind, senses and body. We will open our minds to fragments of memories and experiences, feelings and skills of other people. Our bodies will acquire artificial organs, artificial storage media will assist our memory, and external information processing systems will augment our mind. The concepts of ‘human being’, ‘humaneness’, ‘myself’ and ‘the other’, ‘natural’, and ‘artificial’ will change meanings, reflecting the revolution in our way of life. As a result, civilization and man will change completely - or perhaps, if unable to adapt, they will perish.

1.3 Today, this vision may seem very far from us – and it is possible that it will never arise. We as humans continue to live in non-integrated hierarchically organized social systems, in a paradigm built on cultural experiences of previous centuries. We manipulate and become victims of manipulation ourselves. We find it difficult to agree, to establish rapport with other people, to understand the deep meaning behind other peoples’ languages. We still do not have semantic translation engines that could translate not only between natural languages, but also between worldviews, ideologies and varying models of reality. We do not yet have technologies that would make understanding and exchange of knowledge quick, accurate and natural. Technological and cultural prerequisites for this new, post-primitive human reality are still at a very early stage of formation, but we should not be lulled by this; otherwise our response may come too late. The world around us is full of clues and trends clearly indicating what our possible and very probable future might be like. It depends wholly on us whether we will ignore these seeds of the future, be frightened, try to resist them – or will we perceive them as an opportunity for self-realization? It is our determination to respond consciously and conscientiously to this evolutionary challenge that will point the way to true evolutionary development.

2. Trends that challenge our human nature

2.1. Cultural renormalization. The new technosphere gradually eliminates familiar boundaries of what was once considered acceptable conduct and creates new standards of behavior. The Internet, as we have already begun to acknowledge, will continue to reshape our concepts of ‘normal’ ways of work and life as well as our understanding of social norms. New forms of cooperation emerge – overlapping creative teams and collectives whose members are scattered around the globe perhaps never meeting each other in the flesh. The concept of privacy takes on a deeper, more profound meaning. Greater transparency of the network society, where hiding and lying becomes more and more difficult, underlies the movement toward the ‘new sincerity’, maximum personal openness and authenticity. 

2.2. Subjectification of the technosphere. Artificial agents emerge that can substitute for humans in various, even complex, activities. From our tools they become our companions, , independent entities and partners in development. A concurrent digital reality comes to life that reflects and completes our own. At first, it complements rather than changes our world – such are today’s digital libraries and museums, gaming universes or digital control of utility services. Gradually, however, the digital world becomes more active and pervasive – it includes expert systems for decision making and augmented reality, smart electric grids, smart transportation, self-organizing manufacturing lines and the Internet of Things. There will emerge technological macrosystems (the ‘communities’ of artificial intelligences) whose structural complexity may rival that of a human being, an organization or the entire humanity, and even finally surpass them. These new subjects of evolution and the logic of their behavior cannot be described using anthropologic terminology, as their development will likely outpace our ordinary human understanding, unless we evolve in an accelerated way.

2.3. Objectification of the mind. Our body and mind become objectively represented in the digital and web environments, our ‘inner’ reality becomes the space of technosphere's activity, and through that, it becomes accessible to ourselves, to other people and to artificial agents. Technologies merge the ‘external’ and ‘mental’ realities of individuals. Such devices as neurointerfaces and biomonitors help represent our body and feelings in the digital reality, which facilitates their use in communication. Processing of large volumes of objective psychophysiological data will allow creating personally tailored scenarios of learning, development, and management of internal body and mind space. Today’s psychopharmacology and mind machines allow to release the hidden potential of the mind through targeting its neurophysiological substance more precisely. Most likely, these technologies will continue to develop actively. With this, we discover ever more methods and technical means to explore and study our ‘inner cosmos’.

2.4. Body modifications. Possibility to change and reorganize the human body at different levels – from genetic corrections to neural augmentation, and even to complete cyborgization - further blurs the boundaries of such concepts as the ‘human, humankind’ and ‘life’. Genetic engineering altering the entire organism, optogenetics, robotics with neurocomponents, accelerators and boosters, exoskeletons, prostheses and remotely controlled ‘artificial bodies’, wholly synthetic cells – all these artificial components within living systems and living components within artificial systems will create hybrid forms between the ‘living’ and the ‘technological’.

How soon will this wave of change break over us? How will people face all these technological challenges and the societal consequences? A return to the pre-technological era is impossible, as that would mean imminent extinction of the majority of the human population and destruction of whole cultures and civilizations. We have moved too far away from an equilibrium with nature, and this is the cost our species has already paid for its billions-sized population living on this planet Earth. There is no other way but to move forward, towards a radical transformation.

3. Regularities of co-evolution of the mind and the technosphere

3.1. Throughout the history of humankind, the technological development and the development of mass consciousness have been intertwined. Man and humanity continually generate technologies ‘from themselves’, realizing their own skills and creating copies of the functions of the body or the community. Ernst Kapp and Pavel Florensky have called this process ‘organoprojection’. Through constant interactions with technologies (that include not only physical technologies such as agricultural techniques or machines, but also texts, models and psycho-techniques) humans forms their inner world, their mind and thought, re-creating opportunities for new projections and new projects. The first and the most significant of such ‘technologies’ arguably was language which conditioned the appearance of voluntary consciousness, giving man an ability to manage his own and other people’s attention, by controlling it with words and meanings. Since then, every new major technology paves the way for the next step of our development.

3.2. The nature of technological progress is a cycle of interiorizations and exteriorizations, of ‘immersing’ the skills into the unconscious and of ‘unloading’ them again through conscious realization into co-operation, technological solutions and social institutions. This progressive cycle gradually ‘squeezes’ the man out of a sphere of routine operations and into the field of more complex, creative, non-automated activities. Embodied in external tools, the functions of the human body and mind take over a portion of human tasks allowing the person to transcend the system towards a ‘meta-system’ position, where technology can be controlled, directed and developed.

3.3. The world is now at the turning point when many of the ‘mental’ functions, that we once thought are inherently and inextricably human, are about to be carried out or supported by artificial systems. Today we use external memory devices, employ remote support solutions when shopping or writing texts. Our imagination is stimulated through randomly generated images, while hardware and software solutions classify, suggest, plan, remind, wake us up, put us to sleep and do many other things that help us go about our everyday life. Management of large industrial and transportation systems has gone beyond the cognitive capability of one man or even a group of people; and can only be efficiently done by complex information systems that increasingly take over control, issue recommendations and find ‘bottom-level’ solutions. Even such highly creative activities as writing journalistic texts or putting forward scientific hypotheses are being automated as we write this Manifesto. With the further development of artificial intelligence and with human-machine communication becoming more natural, the process of taking people out of the sphere of monotonous intellectual work speeds up.

This raises the following question: which of our abilities and qualities are truly human? Guided by truly human qualities we can see a partnership, a tool for development in a technosphere which can interact with our body and our mind. Then we can safely hand over the remainder of ‘mechanicalness’, imposed on us by past civilizations, to machines that can handle it far better. Let us render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto Machine that are Machine’s.

3.4. Convergence and development of cognitive technologies aimed directly at the evolution of human consciousness greatly increase our chances for rapid development of our authentic human qualities and the formation of new, post-human, traits. Today, biofeedback technology opens new possibilities for effective self-regulation and self-improvement. With the help of neurointerfaces we will raise awareness through bringing into consciousness weak and repressed feelings as well as images. Utilization of artificial languages and brain-to-brain ‘thought exchange protocols’ will give ultrafast and highly intensive communication, learning and creativity. We will have the hardware for functionally altered states of consciousness. We can expect the emergence of new interfaces, meta-languages, that circumvent or substitute the semiotic layer of human consciousness and ‘plug’ directly to the ‘sensual fabric’ of consciousness in order to speed up perception and transmission of new knowledge and experience without having to be mediated by a natural language. There is no doubt that these systems, ‘shunting’ the second signaling system will be a major innovation in dealing with the ‘Ego’. Interaction with these technologies from an early age will make our mind and thinking extremely flexible and able to work in a wide range of modes, only a small part of which are known to us today. Dissemination of these technologies create conditions for the accelerated development of new forms of mentality, including stable collective meta-minds (or ‘mind forests’).

3.5. ‘Non-human’ interpersonal interaction protocols serve human functions that have been absorbed by technosphere as well as interhuman communication that is only partly mediated by it. New combinations of technological and anthropological protocols generate various modes of functioning of individual and collective consciousness. The culmination of this process is the development of the new communication environment – the NeuroWeb, its predecessor being the Internet.

The technological basis for the NeuroWeb will be these new interfaces (such as biomonitors and neurointerfaces) that maximize our psychophysiological manifestations, new interfaces and communication protocols, allowing more active and fast communication without mediation by a natural vocal language, as well as hardware and software systems to distribute artificial intelligences, effectively supporting this process of greatly enhanced communication.

3.6. The emergence of the NeuroWeb means a radical cultural renormalization – a major shift in the meaning of the concept ‘normalсy’, a change in cultural norms and backbone meanings associated with the existence of large groups of people and humanity as a whole, in a continual and reciprocal process of mutual domestication of the technosphere by humankind. This process, permeating the entire body of cultural norms, will be associated with the restoration of the primacy of the human element in interaction with the new technosphere, and therefore it will not lead to either die-off or ‘mechanization’ of the human being. On the contrary, it will revitalize and ‘humanize’ the technosphere, making it our true partner in the development and the evolution of consciousness.

4. The Psychozoic Era: technoevolution triggers a psychoevolutionary leap

4.1. The NeuroWeb technologies will become the foundation for the emergence of a number of new mental phenomena – the collective consciousness, the symbiotic human-machine mind, flexible multi-subject minds, the collectively controlled multiple bodies, artificial systems dealing with the subconscious, etc. The emergence of new forms of consciousness is a response to progressively increasing complexity of the technosphere and the evolutionary challenges caused by it. This time of multitude forms of distributed collective multi-bodied minds emergence – we call the new era of mind, the Psychozoic Era.

4.2. The ability of an individual to participate in NeuroWeb collectives that possess group consciousness and are able to act as a single entity, i.e. in ‘the mind forests’ is the next inevitable step in the biological, social and psychological evolution as we know it.

4.3. Humanity is at the stage of mega-subjectivity formation – the next stable level or evolutionary attractor of its existence. This situation is an enormously non-anthropocentric process – but it is natural, since the subject of evolution is not only the Man, but Mankind as a part of all evolving Life. And just as individual’s rights are intertwined with the rights of humanity, the rights of mankind are significant only within the context of the much greater right of Life as a whole to evolve.

4.4. Today’s communities can be viewed as prototypes of such collective minds but as an analogy they resemble the primitive amoebae. Our aim is to intensify the processes of collective consciousness and subjectification, and help the collective consciousness to be born with a greater degree of completeness and fluidity.

4.5. The birth of collective conscious subjects mean the expansion of Humanity into a space both new and unknown. Transiting towards the ‘mind forests’ will allow us to overcome the threat of planetary catastrophe and to fulfill our potential as a truly cosmic species, transcending the boundaries of the biosphere and spreading beyond the limits of Earth. The short life of a single person does not allow the designing of meaningful strategies that may take centuries and even millennia to implement; be it caring about the state of the Earth's atmosphere, terraforming other planets or interstellar travel. This is why a transition to a collective subjectivity as a form of collective immortality is necessary – this is also claimed in the ‘Cybernetic manifesto’ by Valentin Turchin and Clifff Joslyn. Although the technologies of individual immortality cannot solve this problem directly, as they retain the limitations of individual minds and bodies; they will however contribute to the emergence of the NeuroWeb-based ‘mind forests’.

4.6. The collective subjects such as ‘mind forests’ should be based on protocols that ensure the totality of human communication, allowing group consciousness to emerge and exist in a stable state of synergy between individual minds, establishing a ‘coherent human plasma’ – just like a single consciousness arises from the synergy of separate mental functional systems, or like active schools of thought emerge overarching interdependent and integrating research projects.

4.7. NeuroWeb communication protocols that ensure the totality – the ‘humanness protocols’ – should contain the most productive practices of human communication with oneself, with others and with the world. NeuroWeb as places of ‘human’ communication modes as the basis for the work of the technosphere, making our humanness enriched, recognized and realized. Individual immersiveness in this collective consciousness will become an advanced milieu for us to self-dignify and self-actualize; it will help overcome our separateness and simultaneously support true liberation for each of us.

5. NeuroWeb’s future is being made today

5.1. The technology field where NeuroWeb predecessors are being made is full of vibrant activity. It is already being created and rapidly becoming part of our technoshere with cheap neurointerfaces, mind machines, biomonitoring bracelets, 3D- and pharma-printers, semantic translation systems and new types of artificial intelligence, social simulators, models of neuromarketing, virtual and augmented reality, androids and non-anthropomorphic robots, unmanned air and ground drones, models of living systems and the human brain. We can expect the first version of fully assembled NeuroWeb to appear within the next 15 years. Its logic is already being created and defined by several groups of players.

5.2. The first group of players are corporations acting in the field of sport, wellness, medicine and the entertainment industry. Their priorities and agenda however is only in maintaining a competitive edge, not in the development of human consciousness. Although the corporate world is aware of the value of investment in human capital, and corporations do know about value-based leadership and apply cutting-edge educational practices, it is obvious that these corporate organisms are driven by market principles of profit maximization. Therefore, when the owners and management of corporations choose between public interest and their own development, their choices invariably favor the latter. History provides many examples of corporations blocking the deployment of effective and timely technologies just because they posed a threat to their market position.

5.3. The second group of players are government structures of various types, including institutions of internal and foreign affairs, as well as the defense industry. For most of them, their top priority is national and global security, and they too are not interested in the evolution of mass collective consciousness, or may even consider it a threat. The governance strategies implemented by these players are primarily aimed at ‘maintaining the order’, which over the past fifty years has resulted in an increase in manipulation and control over citizens in the developed countries. The balance of power, protecting states from descending into totalitarian regimes, is only achieved through the well-tuned interaction between the branches of government, the work of the media and active participation of citizens in public control of the governments. The primary interest of the military-industrial complex, as another player in the development of NeuroWeb technologies, lies in the problem of maximizing the destruction of the enemy's infrastructure and its information networks or neutralizing its personnel. Therefore, individual development or evolution of humanity as whole does not seem to be a priority of this group of players either.

5.4. We believe, however, that some prudent states and advanced corporations can become partners in developing human consciousness and wisdom. History informs us that a free and creative person with maximum potential for self-realization can contribute to the nation and to the world much more than a  will-less and ignorant slave. It is for this reason that all the countries of the world have abolished slavery and are now struggling against the indecent working conditions; this is why an increasing number of minority groups are receiving more opportunities. More so then in the past states and corporations can only assume leading positions if they pay sufficient attention to their human potential (narrowly understood as ‘human capital’), establish partnerships between the organization and the individual, and create a benign environment for living and self-actualization. The inclusion of corporations and states into this evolutionary trend aimed at human development is essential to ensure their long-term survival and development in the context of psycho-evolutionary transition.

5.5. Some of the players have already chosen the ‘evolution side’, among them some of the leading ICT companies, as well as the leading public and private educational institutions. The domain of education in particular is increasingly focused on harmonious personal development, on the improvement of teamwork and co-creation, and on the formation of self-learning and self-regulation skills. The NeuroWeb can give this rebirthing of education an efficient tool that will allow it to achieve its goals. Similarly, ICT companies, although not explicitly pursuing the aim of human development, provide more tools that free men from routines, that empower their creative self-realization and self-development. This unconscious effect should be made more conscious and intentional.

5.6. There are other, much less organized groups of players with a focus on ‘human development’ – teachers, psychologists, artists, etc. In their work, they may neglect the opportunities offered by technology - not only refusing to use them, but leaving the game for the NeuroWeb principles altogether. Inertness or conservative resistance of those who ensconce themselves on the ‘human side’ – educators, psychotherapists, artists, new spiritual or mental practitioners – will de facto increase the risk that the potential of human consciousness and creativity will not be sufficiently addressed in the architecture of NeuroWeb. Designing total communication environment of the future must become the touchstone revealing the good intentions of all parties to this process.

6. Transition to an intentional co-evolution of consciousness and technology: Designing the NeuroWeb

6.1. Each of the technologies constituting the NeuroWeb carries a liberating and developing potential, but it can also be abused. Providing opportunities for active work on self-transformation, it simultaneously provides new opportunities for prolonged hibernation in an unconscious half-sleep of stereotyped perception and action. This is the nature of any technology. We understand that some groups in our society always tend to use any technical solution in their ‘primitive’ interests. Technology is akin to the Samurai sword – for some it can be a murder weapon, for others a protection, yet for the wise it is a tool and a way towards self-actualization. How technology is used depends on our perceived view of the world, as well as the goals and values of the society.

6.2. We recognize the feasibility of menace scenarios of using the NeuroWeb technologies for the purposes of enslavement or destruction of living creatures by others. Opportunities offered through the development of network technology and the digital world, the possibility of an unprecedentedly open and continuous communication between the people of the future and artificial systems, simultaneously create unprecedented opportunities for control, manipulation and violence. Our constant presence in the web leaves a ‘digital footprint’ that makes it possible for intelligence agencies and corporations to control our behavior and manipulate it to their advantage. Recent scandals revealing the criminal practice of government’s immense and invasive digital spying on people in general, and in particular on industrial and state leaders, indicate that this is not alarmism. Behind the next turn of history looms the shadow of new world tyrants equipped with tools of total control, and of corporations ready to turn people into weak-willed consumers whose every subconscious need is known and manipulated.

6.3. The probability that we will realize in an unregulated way these threatening scenarios can only be reduced if we manage to organize a collective, transparent, and conscious design process of the future technosphere in its interaction with individuals. For this reason, starting today it is necessary to raise the question of the principles underpinning future technologies – elements of NeuroWeb.

6.4. We suggest embedding a ‘human dimension’ into NeuroWeb technologies. A set of structural principles that will provide maximum opportunities for the evolution of consciousness and successful completion of the psycho-evolutionary transition. We declare the necessity to choose consciously these transparent principles, rules and protocols that determine this basic architecture. For the NeuroWeb to be designed according to principles of human development, collective designing is necessary. Together we must contextualize the design process itself on the same principles, as well as involving intentionally the bearers of such principles as co-developers. To do this, we will first need to calibrate the modes of functioning of collective consciousness that exist and emerge on top of techno- and anthropo-protocols. Determining and constantly reassessing those that should be embedded: those that retain or increase the possibility of collective intelligence in the sense of wisdom, overall harmonious development and awareness.

6.5. Responding to the possible question of how these principles can be ‘embedded’ into technological solutions, we want to draw attention to the following fact. A similar situation existed during the design in the first generation of the Internet, when the principles of its architects – Licklider, Kahn, Cerf , Berners-Lee and others – laid the foundations of openness, equality, cooperation and moral responsibility in the modern communication environment.

6.6. In case of the NeuroWeb’s principles, we are talking about the interface appearing in or over a Net generation, during the transition from the ‘semantic’, or meaning-processing, Internet (Web 3.0) to ‘the Internet of meaning-generating structures (Web 4.0/NeuroWeb). This interface will be built on top of the previous ones, just as TCP/IP is built on top of the underlying network protocols, the Web is built over TCP/IP, and the semantic web on top of Web 2.0. Although the protocols of NeuroWeb interface have not yet emerged, it is very important at this ‘pre-design’ stage to develop the principles on which they can be stacked. Therefore, it is necessary to work on the conversion of axiological principles into technological prerequisites. A community capable of taking responsibility for creating the NeuroWeb architecture should undertake this work. The principles of development support that define the NeuroWeb communication protocols must also form the foundation of the current activities of communities designing and creating the NeuroWeb.

7. Our call to the co-creators of the new world

7.1. Human civilization, is like a living creature, in anticipation of a new stage of evolution. It is ready to acquire consciousness and the ability to look into the future and choose its own destiny. It is the stage of intentional conscious evolution. Civilization is ready to attain and to retain the meaning of life, reconcile destructive paradoxes, free itself from social neuroses and obfuscation, including our devotion to reckless consumption and the inability to set forth a viable program for the sustainable development of our Planet. For those devoted to the pragmatic and creative development of humanity, the window of opportunity is still open window to capture this idea in the architecture and protocols of the backbone technology that will be used for this coming new stage in the evolution of our civilization. For this we must perceive, digest and integrate fundamental principles into the system of cultural norms, meanings, and practices that will remove social and personal dysfunctions by integrating body, mind and cogntive intuition – and thereby breaking through the ‘anthropic barrier’ to a new magnetic attractor forming a collective human consciousness.

7.2. We call now to those who feel that this critique addresses them personally and who feel capable to help in designing, creating and testing the solutions that can become elements of the NeuroWeb. We urge you to join together in launching NeuroWeb and all that it stands for; your participation is crucial to catalyze and reify this universal project. It may be said in the future that this was our finest hour and we will be proud to be a part of one of the most important events in the history of humankind. Those of us who are eager to venture into the unexplored lands, beyond Œcumene, beyond the planet’s boundaries, - and those who are keen to expand our inner knowledge, to open new horizons within ourselves, - are we not one and the same? We are the ones who feel that there remains space for true creativity, for genuine freedom. Our brethren are all those willing and able to stage a conscious experiment on themselves: to become the subjects of cosmic evolution, be it new practices in developing consciousness, new technological solutions, body modifications or new social life experiences that are informed by some measure of a growing wisdom.

7.3. The pivotal point of evolution of our species and of Life in general, the main frontier of the humankind today – lies within ourselves, within our consciousness. Our inner cosmos is a growth point and the area to search for the ‘source’ which moves and creates, both in collective creative practices and in cognitive science. This is where the conscious creation of the NeuroWeb architecture is happening. Perhaps, technological progress, in the past, has enslaved humanity and has made us all its servants. But inside the machine beats the living heart of its creator, and inside our slavedom lurks the bud of true freedom. Technology guided wisely can help liberate us from sufferings, not only from the sufferings of the material world, but also from the illnesses of our spirit. This technology is our chance to become different, to stand above ourselves, because this technology is our own reflection, think about that, it is for good or for ill, our reflection. We can set the task of genuine liberation as an engineering problem, as a human problem – and solve it.