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The evolutionary emergence of natural and artificial intelligence, and the conception and composition of viable planetary systems
Planetary Sapience is the most philosophical of Antikythera’s research areas. This research theme asks fundamental questions about the past and futures of intelligence, evolution, knowledge, and artificiality as seen through the lens of planetary computation.
Planetary Sapience convenes philosophers, scientists, and technologists around (1) the role of computation in the ongoing discovery of ‘the planetary’ as the precondition of evolved intelligence and (2) the emergence of computational intelligence as part of that evolution and its potential role in fashioning viable planetary futures.
For example, the scientific idea of “climate change” is an epistemological accomplishment of planetary computation. Without the satellites, sensors and, most of all, supercomputing simulations of climate past, present and contingent futures, the holistic view of planetary systems and anthropogenic transformation would be impossible.
The philosophical implications are profound. As an understanding of the impact of long term human agency on ecological systems, the Anthropocene hypothesis is an interpretation of the reality that planetary computation has clarified. The response recognizes the capability and the responsibility to compose viable planetary futures. The proper response to anthropogenic climate change must be equally anthropogenic.
Different kinds of tools make ideas possible. It is not just that they invite different dispositions toward the world, they literally make the world perceivable and conceivable in ways otherwise impossible.
Some technologies realize their impact in what they do and how as tools they enable artificial transformation of the world. Others, however, have greater impact in what they reveal about how the world works. Telescopes and microscopes are examples: yes, they allow perception of the very large and very small, but more importantly they enable Copernican shifts in self-comprehension, grasping our very selves as part of planetary conditions. With such shifts it was possible to orient not only where the planet is but thereby where (and when, and what, we are). Taken together, these may be called epistemological technologies.
It is certain that computation is artificially transforming the world, in the form of an accidental megastructure that shifts politics, economics and cultures in its image. However, computation is also an epistemological technology that has, does and will reorient the course of what a viable planetary condition may be.
Zooming out to deep time scales, we see that a planet may fold its matter in certain ways that are able to perform feats of cognition, and we know that Earth is at least one such planet. Intelligence not only happens on a planet, it is something a planet does. To even pose this claim is the result of billions of years of intelligence scaffolding and planetary matter-folding. From cells to organs to machines, the principle is no less true for artificial computational intelligence than it is for human intelligence.
Given this, Planetary Sapience asks what should be the place of computation in the ongoing evolution of intelligence as a planetary phenomenon? This is defined ot only as intelligence operating at global scale through planetary scale technologies, but an understanding that intelligence emerges through the scaffolding of increasingly complex forms, some of which are only now computational.
Antikythera’s Planetary Sapience research provides a new conceptual frame with which to engage with futures for planetary computation that alter how we understand ourselves, the planet to which we belong and, indeed, the universe to which that planet belongs.
Antikythera focuses on several emerging areas of Planetary Sapience research: