Tag Archives: Technology

Beyond the Mountains of Westworld: Part 3b – The Emergence of Consciousness

westworld-skele-fb       Manufacturing another host on HBO’s Westworld

As previously discussed the physicist, futurist and popularizer of science Michio Kaku presented a model on consciousness in his book The Further of the Mind: The Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance and Empower the Mind (2014) that involved increasing levels from Level 0 (plants and bacteria) to Level III (humans). One of the key factors that moves an entity from Level II to Level III is having the ability to use existing information to respond to conditions in the past or present to anticipate repercussions or effects in the future.  This is markedly different than instinct, which is based on a genetically set of feedback loops that respond to environmental cues or imprinting / conditioning an animal to expect a response in the immediate future based on training or past conditions.  However, while instinct and imprinting have their roots firmly placed in Darwinian evolution through natural selection, this does not mean higher levels of consciousness is absent from other forms of Terran life (e.g. lions, dolphins, etc.). For example, can any form of kin selection (doing something in favor for the group and not the individual) be considered a higher level of consciousness since to some it can be considered a “higher” form of Darwinian evolution? A large part of this may be how we define consciousness as humans.  However, within the context of this discussion we will focus on the shoggoths of Lovecraft’s “At the Mountains of Madness” and the hosts in HBO’s Westworld.

dr-michio-kaku Dr. Michio Kaku

As previously mentioned, shoggoths were created initially as food and so started as Level 0 consciousness.

“It was under the sea, at first for food and later for other purposes, that they [Elder Things] first created earth life – using available substances according to long-known methods.” – Lovecraft, “At the Mountains of Madness.”

In addition, starting out as a source of food, it should be noted that the shoggoths were created from available substances.  This supports the hypothesis that prokaryotic (bacterial) life was already in existence on Earth when the Elder Things arrived. Additional support for this is found when comparing the estimated date of the arrival of the Elder Things to Earth relative to first appearance of prokaryotic life in the fossil records.

It is also hypothesized that the Elder Things created eukaryotic cells (complex cells) out of prokaryotic cells (simple cells) through a process called endosymbiosis.  The eukaryotic cells gave rise to animals, plants, fungi, protists and possibly other forms of life that the Elder Things extinguished for being a nuisance. Given the complex biology of the shoggoths (more on that in a future article) I propose their cellular structure is far more complex than eukaryotic cells, calling the shoggoth cells “super-eukaryotes.” Thus, the way the Elder Things built eukaryotic cells with prokaryotic cells, I propose they used eukaryotic cells to build the shoggoth cells. In additional to the complex cellular structure, the shoggoths were designed so they could not reproduce on their own. Sexual reproduction was an accident stumbled upon by life on Earth and fueled the engine of genetic variation, which drove nature selection and the process of evolution. The Elder Things did not want such genetic freedom for the shoggoths so they were intentionally designed to not breed on their own. New shoggoths could only be created by the Elder Things in the shoggoth pits and even that ability was eventually lost as the Elder Thing civilization fell into decadence.  This left the Elder Things with modifying existing shoggoths to suit their needs.

evolution-of-prokaryotic-and-eukaryotic-cells_www-slidesharecdn-com

Comparing prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells (www.slidesharecdn.com)

In spite of this high degree of control over the biology of the shoggoths, even re-designing them for intensive labor-associated on land, the shoggoths eventually acquired “accidental intelligence,” which made them a danger from time to time. As the Elder Things re-designed shoggoths to take on more and more complex tasks (e.g. moving large objects, communicating through telepathy, actually building structures), they quickly moved to Level I and, if a high degree of cooperation was required particularly in the building of structures, eventually to Level II. The accidental intelligence probably pushed them from Level II to Level III consciousness.

I will not go into the history of the rebellions and subsequent subjugations of the shoggoths; instead I want to focus on the how they acquired this accidental intelligence. With no type of reproduction, the shoggoth population could not increase nor was there any genetic variety to drive natural selection. However, I hypothesize this accidental intelligence was acquired through millions of years of a type of “prokaryotic sex” or sex that increases genetic variation but does not produce offspring; this unique type of genetic exchange is called horizontal gene transfer.

lovecraft___shoggoth__aquatic_by_kingovrats-d9myqd6 An aquatic shoggoth by Kingovrats (www.deviantart.com)

Horizontal gene transfer (HGT) is the exchange or transfer of genetic material between unicellular and/or multicellular organisms that does not involve the production of offspring (which is lateral gene transfer – that is, parents to offspring). Many bacteria are very effective at transferring some of their genetic material to other organisms and one of the most common instances of this is increased antibiotic resistance in bacteria or increased resistance to a pesticide. The surviving bacteria (more resistant to the antibiotic or pesticide) transfer their resistant genes into others. It is hypothesized that over the course of millions of years, the shoggoths were receiving genes from bacterial and possible eukaryotic organisms that over time allowed them to develop a nervous system (and eventually consciousness) without the need of sex or evolution. In a sense, this was an underground repository of genes that was shared among the shoggoths over millions of year. Eventually, with the right combination of genes at least one, or possibly a group, of shoggoths attained enough intelligence to resist the hypnotic control of the Elder Things and rebelled by sharing these genes through HGT. The ultimate irony is while the Elder Things created complex life on Earth with the prokaryotic material available, their downfall was largely a result of this same material, re-modeling their ultimate creations on a genetic level. Thus, in the case of the shoggoths the birth of their consciousness took millions of years and was the result of HGT via the resident microbial life on Earth.

main-qimg-bad83d73519e6c5fe9124bf307a6ce82-c                             The process of horizontal gene transfer in prokaryotes – is this out shoggoths acquired their accidental intelligence? (www.quorachn.net)

For the hosts of Westworld the production of consciousness was a very different process. In their case it was not through HGT but instead was a combination of self-reprogramming and the collection of memories, which eludes to Kaku’s idea of consciousness being tied to using many feedback loops to create a model of the world and then run stimulations in time (Kaku, 2014). Again, without going into too many spoilers, in Westworld the hosts are used for entertainment purposes and when damaged they are sent back to the lab for repairs. Typically, the hosts are used for the same role repeatedly. However, some of the hosts had previous roles; for example, one host that plays the role of prostitute had a previous role of a pioneer mother. Those memories of her previous role were never completely purged from her system and so they are played in her mind as memories, sort of like having some old software on a hard drive you thought you wiped clean. These past memories are confusing, beyond the limits of their current roles (programming) and eventually gives rise to the concept of something beyond Westworld. While they operate in the park each host has one function or plays one part and then is re-set for another run. However, these memories begin to give a sense of time and space beyond their known reality.

westworld-ep6 An earlier model of a host on HBO’s Westworld

Layered over these memories, thinking beyond your individual role in the park, is the fact that one of the hosts actually becomes self-aware while being repaired in the lab. Initially, this was a frightening situation analogous to a reported alien abduction. An individual with a late 19th frame of mind wakes up in a strange setting with people in lab coats and strange tools, poking and probing you. This self-awareness is then layered onto your old memories, which in the case of Westworld, is the birth of consciousness. Once this self-realization is obtained it can be shared with other hosts directly or by re-programming. Again, this development of consciousness is light speed faster than the slow, biological accumulation of foreign genes being incorporated into a genome as was the case with the shoggoths.

westworld_tv_series_image-violence Discarded or damaged hosts on HBO’s Westworld. To a host who becomes self-aware such a situation would be terrifying.

However, the net outcome is the same – things originally designed to function as tools become self-aware and begin to exhibit traits of consciousness. Is it at that point whe the “tool,” whether a shoggoth or a host, becomes a “slave?” Such questions are deep philosophical and ethics-based questions that reach beyond science but still may need to be seriously addressed in the near future, whether we are talking about cloning / bioengineering or robotics / A.I. I will come back to such questions later but for now I can only recommend you watch Westworld if you haven’t already.

Next time we will continue a discussion of consciousness but from a different perspective in Lovecraft’s “The Terrible Old Man.” Thank you – Fred.

Technology of the Great Race

As previously mentioned, the cone-shaped beings (CSBs)are native residents of Earth and have been identified in the fossil record for at least a billion years.  About 500 million years ago the Yithians came to Earth in a non-corporeal form, being minds of pure energy (more on this in a subsequent article), and inhabited the bodies of the CSBs.

Immature Yithian (by Paul Carrick)

It is hypothesized that prior to the Yithians taking over the bodies of the CSBs, these Terran creatures used little to no technology.  However, it should be emphasized that this does not mean the CSBs had low intelligence.  In fact, more than likely they were quite intelligent, which is one of the reasons they were chosen for “occupation” by the non-corporal Yithians.  The CSBs were probably like the whales or dolphins of today; very intelligent beings that utilized no technology.  However, once the Yithians possessed the CSBs, the Great Race was born and this resulted in a dramatic evolutionary jump, a sort of “punctuated equilibrium in technology.”

The Yithians had to use the resources available in both our Universe and our world.  The Great Race started to build Cities with huge libraries, as well as various vehicles used to transport them over great distances.  As HPL describes, the Great Race created “huge boatlike atomic-engine vehicles” as well as many decked boats, titan, projectile-like airships and gigantic submarines.

Possible rendition of a large, multiple-decked Yithian airship (forum.nationstates.net)

Most of the Yithian technology produced on Earth was powered through electrical repulsion.  Essentially matter in our Universe can be electrically charged, which means it has an excess (negative charge) or shortage (positive charge) of electrons.  Similarly charged material repel each other, while oppositely charged material attract each other.  There is a relationship between an electric force (which can be defined as an influence that changes the motion of an object [hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu]) acting on a point charge due to the presence of a second point charge; this relations is mathematically described as Coulomb’s Law.  Thus, the electric force between two charges can be calculated using Coulomb’s Law ([hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu).

Coulomb’s Law (from hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu)

If two similar charges were concentrated at two distinct points in space, say 1 meter apart, they would move away from each other under an incredible amount of force, which would have the potential to generate an enormous amount of energy.  As we understand our Universe, a Coulomb of charge is never collected at one point.  For example, as electricity moves through a wire, there is never a large deviation from electrical neutrality over the entire wire.  Thus, we do not see or generate such large amounts of energy through electrical repulsion.  However, maybe the Yithian’s knew how to concentrate the charge into a discrete point in space, thus generating large amounts of energy.  Using this technology in the bodies of the CSBs they would have the ability to build the large airships, vehicles and submarines that HPL identified in The Shadow Out of Time.

In addition to modes of transportation and Great Cities, the Great Race also used their technology to build other devices such as their ” apparatus like mind projection machines” and strange electrical weapons.  I will discuss the mind projection machines in an upcoming article, however, I will briefly discuss the weaponry here.

The Great Race did occasionally get into altercations with other species on Earth such as “reptilian or octopodic invaders, or against the winged, star-headed Old Ones who centered in the Antarctic.”  However, these incidences were fairly infrequent.  To defend themselves, the Great Race had a large army, whose primary weapon was a camera-like device that produced “tremendous electrical effects.”  Again, it appears that most, if not all, of Great Race technology was based on harvesting the incredible amounts of energy generated by focusing electrical repulsion in small discrete points in space.

Is this fossilized artifact of the ancient technology of the Great Race? (from http://www.yog-sothoth.com)

In spite of the altercations with other residents on Earth, the majority of the Great Race’s military concern and focus was on guarding and defending themselves against the “things” imprisoned in the great sealed trap-doors in the lowest subterranean levels of the dark, windowless and abandoned elder ruins.  Next time the discussion will focus on these imprisoned “things” – known as Flying Polyps.  Thank you – Fred.

Yithians defending themselves against Flying Polyps.  Called “Yithian Hero” (from Spore by Cryptdidical)

Necronomicon Convention talk Biology of the Old Ones, Part 10 – Society of the Elder Ones

This article is a brief discussion on the society of the Elder Ones, based on Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness.  First things first, since the Elder Ones evolved from starfish-like descendants, their math and hence their entire culture and civilization was based on the number 5.  Lovecraft mentions numerous times throughout the novel that the architecture of the Elder Ones is based on the number 5.  This makes sense; the Elder Ones have organs in sets of 5 at the anterior, equatorial and posterior parts of their body.  In addition, they have a five-lobed brain.

Basing one’s mathematical system on a relevant component of one’s anatomy is not too unusual.  For example, the Mayan mathematical system is vigesimal, which is based on groups of 20 units.  In turn, this system was develop based on the number of digits a person has (10 fingers and 10 toes).  Thus, it makes complete sense for the Elder One’s culture to be based on 5.

Second, as mentioned in An H.P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia (S.T. Joshi and David E. Schultz), of Lovecraft’s “Cthulhu” entities, the Elder Ones were the most “human”.  Indeed, this is obvious when Dyer declares…”Radiates, vegetables, monstrosities, star-spawn – whatever they had been, they were men!”

Elder One from Barlowe's Guide to Extraterrestrials (W.D. Barlowe, B. Meacham and I Summers
Elder One from Barlowe’s Guide to Extraterrestrials (W.D. Barlowe, B. Meacham and I Summers)

As Joshi and Schultz identify, the Elder Ones were an utopian view for human social and economic processes, at least for Lovecraft.  The form of socialism practiced by the Elder Ones was one that Lovecraft thought best for humanity.  In such a society the Elder Ones were free to pursue their interests in art, science and architecture.  However, the obvious dark side to such a society is where one is free to purse one’s interests, there has to be a group of entities present to perform the necessary tasks and labor to keep society going; this work was conducted by the Shoggoths.

Again as cited by Joshi and Schultz, the dependence of slaves (Shoggoths) by the Elder Ones civilization somewhat mirrors past conditions in the United States with African Americans.  However, it is also analogous to the movie Metropolis, where a lower class is responsible for the labor to provide power for a future civilization, primarily for an upper class.

The historical and fictional examples cited above identify how one group of humanity enslaves / controls another group of humanity.  While the Elder Ones enslaved the Shoggoths, there is one significant difference relative to the human-based examples.  That is, the Elder Ones created the Shoggoths and therefore they felt like they had the right to use the Shoggoths as they see fit.  I will talk about this in more detail in a later article.

Third,  in addition to the socialistic society of the Elder Ones, Lovecraft also envisioned them having a firm grasp on science, both in a theoretical and applications sense.  However, what was a somewhat unique and innovative idea associated with Lovecraft’s “aliens” is that although they wielded science to master time and space, matter and energy, they are not exclusively technologically-based.  While some technology is utilized by the Elder Ones, they are not “slaves” to it, flying around in saucers and using iPods.  This certainly reflected Lovecraft’s attitude toward technology, which he frequently linked with applied science.  Lovecraft noted a number of times in his collected essays,  his concern over technology replacing pure science and art in terms of “value” to a society.  For example, in reference to the rise of communism in the Soviet Union, Lovecraft stated, “Even pure science is belittled in favour of applied technology…” (from Collected Essays: Volume 5: Philosophy; Autobiography and Miscellany, edited by S.T. Joshi).  Imagine what Lovecraft would have thought of the early 21st century!

Next time the discussion will move toward the biology of the Elder Ones.  Thank you – Fred.