Is a telepathic group-mind desirable or undesirable?

Ayn Rand once said, “There is no such thing as a collective brain.” I think she was dead wrong or thinking wishfully on that point as on so many others – any society or culture is a collective brain; any organization is a collective brain; any functional marriage can be a collective brain in an even deeper sense; but, even assuming she was right – it need not always remain so.

In the Star Trek shows, the Borg Collective is presented as the ultimate malevolent scary big-bad. In Spider Robinson’s Deathkiller and Stardance novels, a telepathic group-mind is presented as the most desirable state of being to which humans can aspire.

N.B.: None of these scenarios depend on “telepathy” in the paranormal sense; direct communication between nervous systems is enabled by either machinery or bioengineered symbiotes. IOW, these are things that could actually happen and conceivably will.

So who has the right of it?

In the US, it seems that we place some positive value on “individualism”. We are encouraged to seek out our own path, chase our own dreams, voice our individual opinions, express our passions.

A group mind seems to imply a loss of individualism. (Doesn’t it?) How many eccentric ants have we come across?

While a group mind would pretty efficient, in terms of resource sharing (no wastage on luxuries or greed), it seems like a dull existence to those of us not raised in such a society.

There aren’t enough verys for me to describe how undesirable such a thing would be.

It would be a completely different kind of consciousness. I don’t think we’re able to understand what it would be like. I don’t think “good” or “bad” apply here. It would be like a cat speculating on what it would be like to be human. IMO, most SF scenarios fail to come to grips with the sheer unknowability of this situation. You wouldn’t even exist anymore. But a new being would exist, something far different from the sum of its parts.

Also, I think it’s confusing to compare things like families or cultures to Sci-fi hive minds. The former are groups of individuals interacting and cooperating. The latter is a single organism. It’s not that there wouldn’t be individuality, the mind itself would be an individual consciousness. If there were two or more such beings, maybe they’d form a society. But it wouldn’t be anything we could understand.

In a sense, we see a group mind in the concept of swarm intelligence, where interactions between simple minds or actors (bees, birds) – produce a net effect that is complex and could be said to be a kind of thought or group-mind result.

I don’t like the idea of losing my individual personality, but at the same time I think becoming part of an uber-consciousness would be extremely cool.

Could I unplug from it whenever I feel like it? I think I’d want to live most of my life as an individual, but maybe experience the hive mind for an hour or two on weekends.

A group mind would essentially be the death of us all. From our perspective, it would be terrible. The new creature probably wouldn’t care what we were.

The idea that this new mind would somehow be more intelligent if perhaps the most ridiculous thought to ever come out of human minds.

Finally, swarms have no intelligence. Only individual actors do, and they communicate to the rest of the group in certain ways.

First, I don’t really think Telepathy is possible.

However, if it was, I think that the first telepathic individuals would be overwhelmed by the volume of petty and insubstantial thoughts that go through the average person’s head.

I don’t think Group Think is desirable, either as a Telepathic Whole, or as an Ideology (ala Marxist Communism or similar expressions in the modern world). It is based on a “People cannot be trusted and therefore must be controlled in every aspect of their lives” ideology, which is not only very negative, but I think we’re coming to a stage where we’re proving that it just doesn’t work.

Well, except for backsliding places like Britain, which seems hellbent on making 1984 a reality.

It’d be kinda cool considering I sometimes get a one-track mind, so all of humanity trying to get me a fantastic orgasm would be a pretty cool thing.

Not the way Robinson portrays it.

Direct neural-electronic interfaces are just beginning to be possible. At present they’re used only to control prosthetics, or think words and make them appear on a computer screen, but the potential is there.

You’re assuming a hieratic model where the control over the majority is in the hands of a presumptively in-the-know elite. In a telepathic group-mind, all would be equally members and none more equal than others. Furthermore, a telepathic group-mind implies communication, but not necessarily control of any kind.

That’s like saying your neurons have intelligence but your brain does not. It’s quite the reverse, as you know.

Or you could simply enjoy anyone else’s orgasm, while they’re having it. Or after, if recording technology is part of the package – see Strange Days.

Of course, by the same token, the same technology would present practically limitless potential for torture . . .

Not the same thing. Neurons fire under certain circumstances, but they have no independant life. Even their firing is ultimately due to some other neuron’s firing. A swarm is composed of mutually assisting but always seperate organisms.

Likewise, human society. People talk, cajole, and even force each other to due things, and a group of humans can appear to act as a single organism. But this is illusory; as individuals they make choices and communicate information hoping the others will act in a certain manner. Neurons, on the other hand, simply fire once trigger conditions are met.

I’m pretty sure that sick bastard Fabulous Creature would find some one to abuse teh system, raping the rest of (y)our consciousness for his own vile amusement. And if it weren’t FC it’d be someone else.

(You really want to be part of a group mind that includes John Hagee, Ann Coulter, and Paris Hilton?

But how is that a group mind, and not a bio-logical interwebz?

I guess I will need “group mind” defined. I thought a “group mind” was a collection of physically seperate minds, but united by a single over-riding purpose, value, or goal. (Like a colony of bees.)

Otherwise, you just have a bunch of individuals that can communicate non-verbally. A bunch of individuals pulling this way and that, verbally or mentally, doesn’t strike me as a “group mind”.

We have groupings of humans right now that are typically grouped together as if they are of a single united front. (For example: nationalities like Americans.) In a democracy, these people discuss topics of common interest verbally, and usually can come to a consensus on policy. By the same (extremely) loose definition, would you consider that a “group mind”? The only difference is that the current US society doesn’t possess telepathy…

I’m pretty sure that sick bastard **Fabulous Creature ** would find some one to abuse the system, raping the rest of (y)our consciousness for his own vile amusement. And if it weren’t FC it’d be someone else. In fact, this sounds like one of his evil plots: id est, entirely hypotheitical.

(You really want to be part of a group mind that includes John Hagee, Ann Coulter, and Paris Hilton?)

That’s also one helluvan assumption. In a Communist Society, all are equal and none more equal than others. In Theory, but obviously not in actual practice.

We also know from group communications that bullying, controlling individuals can control the flow of information and the power of communication in such a way as to bend it to their will. People get shouted down, brow beaten into accepting their agenda or being silent, people get attacked or simply ignored if they don’t follow the program.

In governments and larger organizations of individuals, the power of the organization is bent to assure cooperation among the individuals, regardless of their will. They often silence dissent and destroy opposition.

I hate these kinds of conversations, because it’s an Ideological assumption that X system will act in Y manner, usually a very utopian manner. But I participate in them because I feel it necessary to point out that it is an assumption, and that Human History has proven that Utopian Fantasies are the most destructive of all Ideologies.

If we had telepathy and a collective brain, we would not longer be “human”, so aspiring to it would be aspiring to be non-human. Whether it would be better or not depends on what standard you are judging it against. But, given the way evolution works, making that one big change without changing a lot of other things would almost certainly be disastrous.

This idea always makes me think of cults. Everyone must think the same and no one must question it.