Listening to the Birds, Ants and augmented Cats.

I’ve been listening to a lot of audiobooks on the future of technology, mainly because I want to write a book set about 50yrs in the future. The main three which stick in my mind are Ray Kurzweil’s “The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology“, the Metatropolis series and Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler.
The current working title is “The Book of New Eden” and is based around Eli leaving a city which is effectively still stuck with 2015 technology and culture and finding a whole post-scarcity, post-monetary society. I mention 50yrs in the future, but more I think about it the more I want to set it just before the Technological Singularity which this site suggests will be between 2060 and 2075. Given I’ve been wanting to write the book (originally a basic movie script) for over 5yrs and I’ve only got an outline, 2 chapters written and some stubs for some others, but what is probably 100 pages worth of notes and ideas, it feels like I’ll probably need a few more years before I can even finish the book and the cool ideas I have about what the future could be will already have come to fruition. With that in mind, I’m sharing an enhanced version of the notes I just wrote about neural augmented animals :

Listening to the Birds, Ants and augmented Cats.

A quick bit of backstory. I’m expecting that humans will have mastered genetic engineering, nanotechnology and will be very close to creating Artificial Consciousness. As part of this tech most humans will have nanobots in their blood keeping them healthy but also neural implants in their brain allowing people to communicate in thought (technological telepathy if you will) and even remotely control robotic arms, other people and virtual characters. But, the interesting thought I had is applying the technology to animals, not just humans.
Imagine (technologically) telepathically listening to birds which have had implants in their brains. I image there would be two main types of implants. Read only and augmented.
The read only version would only attempt to read the neural activity, plus hormone levels and maybe general general information like heart rate.Especially with basic animals like ants these will be of such a low level intelligence that what comes across isn’t thoughts but what is effectively emotions. Hopefully it can be emotions with intent. For example, hunger, but aimed at an area they are searching, or being horny and showing off to a specific mate.
As with the later books in the Metatropolis series there’s likely to be AI created that represents groups of animals and converts their merged actions and neural processes (although implants won’t be directly necessary, but are likely to allow a higher level of fidelity), into in intents and resource requests.
Whilst some birds might have what are close to thought processes, the big difference will be in the birds that have the augmented (read/write) implants, those that actually augment the birds capacity and allow them to tap into neural enhancements and the Internet. At a guess, their neural capacities are likely to be augmentable up (unaugmented) human standards. We’d be able to telepathically (and probably even verbally) converse with them. So the augmented versions would be more like Mr Peabody and Sherman, whilst the read only version would be more like Steve from Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.
A lot of the initial scaffolding that enables those intelligence enhancements will be based on human intelligence and AI filling the gaps but hopefully over time there will be entire flocks of birds and other animals which can realise their own versions of enhanced intelligence…. Ohh man, what will cats be like with enhanced brains and the ability to telepathically talk to humans? Will humans and cats happily go for walks around the block? Will augmented cats change their behaviour and become more sociable with other cats? Will they tweet about their homes, or will they start doing science and celebrity work?
Can you imagine a cat and a bird coming together to work on a science experiment? They could be telepathically controlling robotic arms and creating nano assembled materials in ways we might never have thought of.
Would dogs get pissed off at humans trying to train and discipline them or would they be considered the fun, happy go lucky species? Well… Except the bulldogs and guard dogs of this world.
I’m guessing there’s going to be completely different ways of thinking, entire Buddhism like practices which will be invented by augmented animals. Just as we’d managed to get over homophobia, racism and nationalism, expanding empathy to cover all the humans on Earth (and the Moon, Mars and outer space), we’d have to be dealing with speciesism. “Ohh you don’t count, your only a sparrow“.
I wonder how well such animals would pass the turing test? Could you have telepathic conversations with a group of birds, cats, dogs, apes, whales, Artificial Intelligence and barely realise you haven’t talked to a human in days?
Also, in the novel I’m expecting we’d have the technology to custom engineer animals, so we’d have things like tiny dinosaurs. But what animals would other animals make? What would their idea of controlled evolution be?
!Tiny Brontosauruses
Just like there’s different cultures there will be an explosion of people trying to categorise animals. Generally peaceful animals, angry ones, ones we’ve raised, wild ones, those angry at the slaughter, those which used to be extinct.
I like thinking more in terms of a spectrum instead of binary, in holistic, interconnected ways instead of specialised separate. I’m interested in knowing how the different evolutionary baggage would affect different animals thoughts and concerns. But then, I’m also wondering, would birds be great at flying planes and space ships? I’m not sure.
It doesn’t matter too much because by this time all transport will be automated (although optional manual controls in rural areas) and the majority of stuff sent via maglev. However if the animals can comprehend virtual worlds then they could certainly fly planes in them if they wanted :)
After reading Oli Young’s tweetThe idea that my kids are going to grow up with marriage equality being boringly normal makes me smile. A lot.
I’m now wondering how accepting people will be of penguins marrying other penguins for a year, or human and animal relations?
Also, will animals create their own trends and cultures? Will the term Doggy style take on a whole new meaning? So many thoughts!

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Michael Kubler

Photographer, cinematographer, web master/coder.

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