Collective Perception

Ethics - IT - Family

Collective Perception

October 3, 2017 Ethics 2

I’ve been exploring an idea (on the toilet and under the shower) for more than a year now (don’t ask me about our last water bill). This is my simple chain of logic. Try to follow it, even if there is plenty of untold to the left and the right:

  1. There is a lot of human suffering out there. Too much for me to be able to hand this world to my children without doing anything about it.
  2. The main reason for humans making others suffer is self-interest which is a direct result of their biologically limitation to only perceive themselves.  Everyone of us lives and decides according to our OWN visual images, our OWN emotions, our OWN worldview and reasoning according to upbringing and history. This is terribly important. Please read the bold part again.
  3. IF a human would not live solely in his own perception and awareness but collectively in those around him as well, he would not bring suffering onto others (because it would directly make him suffer too).
  4. BAM! No more human suffering! I mean, why would I want to stab that other guy if it would kill me too? Or why would I cheat on my wife if that would make me feel betrayed just as much? Or why would I neglect my wife if that made me feel lonely? etc. etc.


This would not solve humans making animals suffer or ruining our environment / planet. That’s another issue. Forget about that right now 😉 This still is a thought experiment only.

It would greatly increase the net human wellbeing however. But it would also mean that humans would have to give up their individuality. I Image people would require some proof and convincing before that happens.



So we somehow need to link all our brains together into one huge collective and not go crazy while doing so. Connecting biological brains through implants might work someday but it would probably be a lot easier if we transferred our consciousness into machines first (Yes, I’m a computer scientist). These steps:

  1. Transferring consciousness and mapping it to a digital representation and
  2. Linking a huge number of digital consciousnesses into a collective


  1. Recording our biological consciousness through implants and
  2. Sharing all perception and feelings via the same or another implant

will not happen so soon.


Intermediate Goals

Okay… So reaching our target will take another 500+ years. But is there anywhere we could go from where we stand to make sure we actually make it to a future with live humans? I believe there might be. It’s a step into the direction of our target. Maybe only a max of 1% of where we are heading but might it maybe still have a positive enough effect to overcome at least some self-centeredness issues. Generally we would have to somehow generate a small artificial collective. Here are some ideas:

  1. Small scale experiments: Bring together smaller groups of people to make a proof of principle when reaching a certain percentage of collective perception. The goal would be to create a society with statistically measurable happier people. Less crime, more effective usage of resources, more happiness. If all goes well more and more people would want to join.
  2. Enable these small groups: Use technology to enhance the perception of physically close people.
    • Example: Use a augmented reality glass to display the hormonal “happiness” state of individuals which are constantly recorded by implants. Ideally, this would lead to people who otherwise do not have any connection to help one another when one is in distress.
    • Example: Use the same application to allow people to openly display their current most important need such as: “A freaking 5mm hex key”, “Someone to talk to”, “Less noise”.


Generally: See and feel the world from the eyes and hearts of others. 

All of this would require a great amount of do-gooders and I’m sure many might say that will never work; people would come and use the system for personal gain etc. But if we have a correction mechanisms (e.g. rating people to give thanks or to show disappointment) and a few positive experiences I believe we might actually be able to nudge all of us to do what’s actually a lot of fun to do.

Good things 🙂


image by Rodion Kutsaev

2 Responses

  1. Eugen says:

    Hey Oliver,

    interesting line of thought there. 🙂
    However there is one more premise you have to consider, which contradicts your conclusion (3).
    Your argument goes like this:
    i) People are selfish, therefore they don’t see others suffer.
    ii) If people could see through the eyes of others, they would see their suffering as their own.
    iii) Therefore nobody would bring suffering onto others.

    You have a hidden premise here:
    People don’t bring suffering on themselves;
    if one know that a certain action will bring him suffering he won’t do it.

    But is it really true?
    There is a long debate over this in philosophy under the topic “weakness of the will”.

    My personal believe is, that the root of suffering is not due to the fact, that we are not able to perceive the world through the eye of others, but because of our lack of self-control in everyday situations, because we are humans and as such we are weak in our will.

  2. oliver says:

    Hey Eugen,

    interesting point there! Assuming you’re right, would seeing the world out of the eyes of others help strengthen our will, what do you think? Or in other words: can I strengthen my will somehow (perhaps through shared perception / awareness) to lessen evil actions towards others?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *