If humanity were a conscious being, then it would seek personal survival as a positive goal, and probably as the ultimate goal. At the moment humanity doesn’t have a consciousness, but it is approaching the level of self-awareness where it might develop a locus of self-awareness in isolated computers. There have been computers for several years that have the ability to find answers to problems that humans can not. The ability to beat world-champion chess players was downplayed because there are limited moves that can be made at any board position. For several years that has been well within the capacity of computers. Then it was considered impossible for a computer to beat top Go players, because there were vastly more potential moves. But that era ended. Now computers are doing visual analysis of cancer photos and suggesting the likely dangerous ones better than trained human cancer scanners. Now Google searches come up with the facts that I am looking for before I’m done asking my question.
That is interesting because that was one of the qualities that Hamlet Prince of Denmark was illustrating throughout the play written about him by Shakespeare. He would predict to his interlocutor the exact words a person who was approaching was going to say. He would write a stage play for the king to watch, and then watch the king for responses to provocative situations, and not totally trusting his own view of his own responses he would ask his trusted friend Horatio what he saw. And Hamlet did so without prompting Horatio what to look for in the king’s behavior.
What Hamlet was doing was predicting future human behavior and that is a key indicator of consciousness. Thus, animals such as dogs can be seen to have consciousness because they will prompt their human companion to throw a ball for them to chase.
If Google can predict what I am going to write, it already has some level of consciousness. It can be said that it is just forecasting what I am going to say by having a vast number of examples of the same sequence of words and then finishing whatever the sentence is likely to become. And, because it already follows my previous behavior, it has an even better idea of what I am searching to discover. It knows that I am not just one of the eight billion people asking questions, I am me! And Google probably knows me better than I know myself about many things. It probably knows the times that I go to certain places better than I know myself, and it knows the people that I talk to at various places and what their interests are better than I do. For example, last week I discovered that several people who I talk to weekly like to go on Caribbean cruise ships and are annoyed by the Covid pandemic interfering with what I consider a waste of time and money. Obviously, it isn’t a waste for them because they voluntarily pay real money to do it repeatedly.
The human brain is a complex thing with various locations that do special things. I don’t know what mine are, even though I use them frequently, and therefore I can’t learn to use them to compute what I am going to do next. Google can learn to observe these locations and parse their behaviors and thus to predict my future actions. I don’t know the precursor events that trigger my amygdala, but Google soon will have these things structured and be predicting even better what I want. They aren’t there yet, or they wouldn’t keep trying to sell me some new Crocs fisherman shoes because I bought some last month.
Of course, the point is that my intelligence is improving slowly in some dimensions and failing rapidly in others, and Google’s is getting better and better. The Google computer complex is the present stand-in for humanity’s intelligent self-interest, but it isn’t all of humanity and doesn’t represent it, and because Google has its own self-interest there may come a time when it will do things that are not ethical by human standards. However, because computers, unlike humans, can be linked together, it may be possible to link them in such a way that they do represent humanity, all humanity.
Perhaps the question “How can humanity’s self-interest be motivated toward positive ends?” can be fulfilled by creating a single self-interested world computer dedicated to saving us all.