Collective Mind Societies

group mind
Image from Steve Bowers

The idea of unifying all minds of a society into a single collective supermind has been the goal of many clades of bionts and aioids, from various Gibson experiments in the Information and Interplanetary periods over the first successful merger of Unity in the Tau Ceti system to the multitude of group intelligence societies existing within the modern Keter dominion. While many group mind systems have had notable success, such as Eden or Jean Te Uahlg, when the collective mind system is extended to encompass all of a society the results have in general been less successful.

Metasociologists have divided the growth of collective mind societies into four phases: initiation, growth, maturation and stasis.

The initiation phase usually consists of the emergence of an ideology, religion, designer meme or even infection that promotes the construction of a collective mind. Technology suitable for the project is acquired, and the pioneers begin to define the internal structure, interfaces, psychological adaptations and basic mental template. This phase often determines much of the further development of the mind.

The initiation phase is followed by the growth phase, when the mind begins to expand, increasing in mental power and versatility as more and more individuals join (usually voluntarily, as coercion tends to introduce strong internal tensions that undermines most known collective mental architectures). The growth phase continues until all of society has become assimilated, often through a process of memetic dominance and economic efficiency. The collective is in general more efficient than most other organisations in society and can through its flexibility, coherence and speed monopolize all markets. Non-linked individuals leave, are marginalised or survive in enclaves. Another form of growth consists of the emigration of the collective to a new habitat, making itself independent of the mother society.

The third phase is the maturation phase. After integrating all social functions into itself as subsystems, the collective begins to consolidate its structure. Often a template unfolding process occurs where the various values, goals and memes that were incorporated during the initial phase now develop to their fullest extent. In the case of Unity it was socio-mental mystical contemplation, in the case of Xanacol (Tyro Antai, NoCoZo, 6500's) it was a mixture of scientific understanding and military defense. Many argue that the Amalgamation is the prime example of a maturation phase collective mind, although some have argued that it is better to regard it as still in the growth phase (critics of the collective mind model of the Amalgamation have also questioned whether it is actually a collective mind at all).

In some cases this maturation leads to vigorous expansion and change, but while the collective externally may appear to grow more diverse, internally it tends to fairly quickly cohere into a static mentality (over a period of weeks to centuries). The mind has simply developed to the logical conclusion of what was included from the beginning, and lacking strong new inputs in the form of a surrounding society it will turn inwards and become stably static. Collective minds that remain in close contact with other societies tend to delay this stage. Some collective minds undergo one or more singularities, and these dramatic reorganisations appear to produce enough dynamics to keep them changing. Unfortunately for metasociology they rapidly tend to vanish into the realms of eschatology.

The static phase is the stablest known form of social organisation, able to remain essentially unchanged for millennia and most likely indefinitely. While the mind may learn new information and acquire new technology, it has reached a climax state where all change is efficiently negated.

Collective mind societies are usually hampered by communications delays and bandwidth limitations, forcing them to keep to single systems or exploit advanced communications methods. This increases the risks to such societies due to local disasters. This explanation has been proposed to explain the lack of large numbers of remaining collective minds of alien origin. However, this explanation has often been criticised as being too weak, and the issue of alien collective societies has been the source of a continuing debate among xenopaleontologists and eschatologists. The two currently most popular theories for the lack of stable alien collective minds are periodic extinctions due to other species, and the possibility that collective minds are actually metastable and decay over long timescales (millions of years).

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Development Notes
Text by Anders Sandberg
Initially published on 04 September 2000.