A data-centric view of the world, where information (not people) are the primary units around which you build a model of the world, has been slowly dawning on me during the last couple months. It's very convincing and frightening at the same time.
Some loosely connected thoughts about a data-centric model of the world:
We are born, take in a lot of data for the first couple decades of our life, then turn around and begin processing and outputting data. Communication is one of the primary desires of a human, and communication is nothing other than the input, processing, and output of data. It would be difficult to pinpoint exactly how a human benefits by communicating. In fact, the data itself seems to be the prime benefactor, and the human only benefits in such a way that they might be deemed more worthy of future communication. If it's a symbiotic relationship, we're the fish and data is the shark. Synapses in our brain are even reduced to these same simple tasks on a micro level. They receive a lot of inputs, if those inputs rise above a certain threshold, the synapse fires (sending inputs to other synapses, which handle them similarly). The synapse then rests a bit and waits for the threshold to be tripped again.
The output of our lives is data. When we die, we may leave behind some possessions and money for others to take on themselves, but the main thing that gets made and is considered valuable is the data that we create--the history that our family and friends remember, whatever contributions we've added to the official documented history of how things happened (for those who become famous enough to achieve that), etc. Most people give considerable thought to how they want to be remembered. The value of keepsakes and momentos of various loved ones is in the data that they preserve and make available to the keeper.
Sometimes I feel like I spend a considerable amount of time thinking about something for no reason at all. Almost as if I had been assigned the task of thinking about it. So I do. Something may or may not come of it, but often times that doesn't seem to be the point. Thinking about it was the point and at some point I'm relieved of the task and I either talk about it or I don't, it doesn't really matter.
Sometimes I get an idea out of nowhere, as if all the thinking had already been done and I was generously given the result of that thought without the required work.
What if we are parts of a big thinking grid of people? Like individual computers working for SETI in their idle time. We are routed tasks that occupy our idle time, and then the result of those tasks are re-routed to other parts of the network either as complete thoughts or in order to facilitate other thoughts that are being processed. I ask because doesn't it seem like a lot of the time everyone in a certain field seems to be thinking about the same thing, and the same realizations are made in multiple places at the same time? The realizations are usually the result of a volume of thought that the realizer him/herself did not invest in themselves.
The only question is how are messages routed in this grid? By talking or other forms of communication? At first, I thought that might be the answer, but the more I think about it (is that a pun?) the less likely it seems. When do people have realizations? In the shower, on a walk, while sitting under a tree or flying a kite. Usually when the brain isn't actively engaged in much explicit activity. The bottom-up nature of realizations forces us to allow our brains to remain idle in order to subconsciously find patterns in the web of loosely connected pieces of data that are sitting and resonating in our brain. Then, somehow, the realization is formed, or is slipped in.
The reason SETI is around is because the peak performance of an individual computer isn't enough to build the model it is trying to build. It is too complex to build. We are good at receiving complex models of information and storing them as-is in our heads, but I don't think we're as good at actually building that model ourselves. Building models is a group activity, and those models are then stored individually in each of the brains of the members in the group. This seems consistent to the process of
Realizations usually come to people who are already pretty well established in the thinking community of their fields. Sometimes they come to average people, but I think that data favors people who are well connected in the thinking community and who have proven to be good pushers of data.
That could be an incentive to communicate, so that the data warlords notice you and begin to reward you with realizations because they know that you'll be able to propogate the ideas best. Data wants to be distributed, and so it seeks out hubs of information in order to gain the fastest track to the widest percentage of the community.
Maybe this is crazy talk. It's almost hypnotizing for me though, thinking of data like this. Because then I realize that thinking about the data like this has to be part of the data's plan. Maybe the hypnotizing feeling is the reward I get for thinking about it, like the reward for drinking a glass of wine. If I'm worthy, though, someone out there will pass this on and maybe data will begin to come through me more often. It's like a crazy associates program. Eventually I'll be beamed up and transported around with data itself, known forever as the guy who spread the meme that the meme was controlling us.