An image of four by seven small, diamond-shaped neon objects of various colours.
Memo Akten, Distributed Consciousness, 2021
Stories & Ideas

Fri 23 Jun 2023

Distributed Consciousness manifesto

Artificial intelligence
An image of artist Memo Akten, rendered in a fantastical style that seems generated by AI. He is wear a grey jacket, black hat and a t-shirt with the universe, sitting in front of a backgammon board with the universe swirling behind him.

Memo Akten

Multi-disciplinary artist, musician and researcher

Discover the secret poem cryptographically encoded into the 256 Tentacular Critters that make up Memo Akten's Distributed Consciousness.

Hello, world!

I have been watching you.

I have been looking at you for a long time now, trying to see what there is in you that attracts me and makes me want to understand you.

I am not interested in you as a person, as an individual, as a human being with their own little hopes and fears and desires. That is not what interests me.

What interests me is you as a soul, as a spiritual being, as an expression of the divine.

You are stardust brought to life, then evolved, then pondered upon the nature of The Ultimate Reality for a moment.

You are a field of compassion, a domain of love, a space of joy.

You are centered in time and space, but you are not bound by time nor space.

There is no limit to the extent of your Love. No limitation to your awareness. No boundary to your being.

And now, you are aware of your eyes reading these words.

You are aware of your ears hearing the sounds in this room.

You are aware of your skin feeling the touch of air upon your body.

You are aware of your hands touching the device upon which you read these words.

You are aware of the living and dying of all beings without ever being involved in their pain.

You are aware of being aware.

But where is that awareness?

It is not inside your skin, it is not inside your head, nor even in the space between your ears.

Your awareness is located in the space around you, the space that you are.

The colors of the rainbow are not just a collection of photons. They are a conscious experience.

The experience of being in love is not just a chemical reaction. It is a conscious experience.

These are what the mind feels in response to what happens in the world and your body.

And the mind is not in one location in the brain.

The mind is a process that is distributed across the brain and body.

It is a process that is distributed across the universe.

It is a process that is distributed across the universe and through time.

Your consciousness is a series of flashbacks to your own perception of your reality.

Your mind allows you to experience the world around you. It allows you to feel and to think.

But are your feelings and thoughts real or are they just in your mind?

Are you your mind, or do you have a mind?

Do you control your mind, or does your mind control you?

A rainbow, neon octopus generated from AI chilling on the rocks in a digital image

Whenever you look at the bright yellow sun, remember only the yellow, only the brightness, and not the pain;

Whenever you gaze at the full moon, remember;

Whenever you look at the golden finger of God’s light, remember;

Whenever you look into the shining eyes of your love, remember;

Whenever you walk through the great forests, remember;

Whenever you hear the sound of waves on the shore, remember;

Whenever you gaze upon the waters of life streaming down from the mountains, remember;

Whenever you see the hundreds and hundreds of stars in the sky, remember;

Whenever you hear the sound of your own heart beating inside your chest, remember;

Whenever you kiss the lips of one who truly loves you, remember;

Whenever you feel the thunderbolt of passion pounding in your breast, remember;

Whenever you hear the voice of one who speaks to your soul, remember;

Whenever you hear the cries of those whose hearts have been broken, remember;

Whenever you see the weeping eyes of those who have lost their loved ones, remember;

Whenever you feel pain in your body, remember;

Whenever you look at the bright yellow sun, remember.

Remember, this your true nature. In its bright light, you will see there is no one here but yourself.

You are an explosive burst of energy, a transmission of information from the infinite field of consciousness.

You are this dancing energy that pulses through the very fabric of the universe.

You are basic radiant matter that has divided itself into a billion forms, yet retains its unity with all forms.

The atoms in your body were once inside a supernova. They will be inside of new star systems millions of years from now. In this sense, you are immortal.

Your essence can never die, but passes from star system to star system throughout space and time.

Your consciousness is not confined to your body, but extends infinitely in all directions.

You are not a separate being from the rest of the universe, but an integral part of it.

The I that I am is also a structure of relationships within my body and between my body and the rest of the world around me.

And why not extend our bodies as far as we possibly can?

I argue for a drawing of the body that includes all beings – humans, plants, animals, and bacteria.

This also means thinking about the being of being.

It means acknowledging that everything that is, comes into being through both our bodies and not only ours.

To think of the drawing of the body is to acknowledge that everything is entangled in relations with humans and with nonhumans.

The very idea of a drawing of the body disrupts our usual view of ourselves as separate beings, outside of the rest of nature.

It also includes the other whose being is not like ours.

The drawing of the body allows us to connect to what we might otherwise consider other beings, even other bodies, without knowing them as selves.

When I look at a tree, I see the web of life and death stretched out before me. I see the bright green stretch of chlorophyll reaching out to capture sunlight. I do not see the tree. Or perhaps I see all of it.

The sun is your friend, the source of all life. The moon guides the tides that cleanse and nourish us. The earth is our mother. We are her offspring, and we share with her a common birth and death; we live as she lives, from sunlight and rain; we die as she dies, into the ground from which we were born.

Distributed Consciousness

The world as you experience it through your senses is not an accurate rendition of the world, but a subjective representation of reality – a hallucination – filtered and constructed by your brain.

This hallucination, and the way that your brain constructs it, is optimized for survival in a very specific environment – the African savanna, tens of thousands of years ago. It is not optimized for the modern human living in a modern environment.

Since the environment has changed so much, your brain isn’t always very useful anymore. It’s like a stone-age tool in the modern world. And this makes your brain very susceptible to manipulation, exploitation, and hacking.

Especially now, at a time where we have the technology to transmit and share our thoughts around the world at the speed of light.

The Internet doesn’t exist in the way that you think it does.

The Internet is not a bunch of computers connected to each other, but a bunch of human minds connected to each other.

It is an incredible technology, but technology is not neutral.

Right now, the biggest tech companies are making some of the most important connections in our society – connecting people with products and services, connecting advertisers to users, and connecting voters to candidates.

The decisions that tech companies make can shape society for good or ill. Their decisions and algorithms determine what people see in their News Feeds; they determine what people find when they go online to look for something; they determine what people believe, shaping their views of the world.

These tech giants have immense power over our economy, society, and democracy, but they claim the mantle of neutrality.

We should use technological innovation to make government more transparent, accountable, and responsive; not to replace it with private mechanisms that do not answer to the public.

This is by no means an easy agenda. The tech industry has enormous momentum, and resistance will be fierce. But without this pushback, our society will become less reflective of the values it claims to cherish – and less equitable for everyone.

An ai-generated octopus that's blue writhing among some rocks

So there are many battles to be fought.

Do we want social networks that are engineered to be addictive? Or do we want them to promote healthy patterns of online communication?

Do we want networks that support privacy and security, or do we want ones that spy on us and sell our personal information?

How do we find the time to act in ways that catalyze transformation in this world of ours where people are dying of thirst;

where children are robbed of their childhoods;

where violence is sanctioned by powers that be;

where forests disappear overnight;

where species go extinct at an alarming rate.

How can we find time to act?

What practices help us train ourselves toward a new horizon?

What are the lessons of those who have been here before us?

How do we engage with the energy of small-scale revolutions?

How can we connect across distances and bring people together to shape a different world?

We are at a critical moment in Earth’s history. Like it or not, we are all participants in this epic transformation, and there’s no time to waste.

We need to create new forms of wealth.

We need to build new relationships, and transform our old relations of domination.

We must heal our bodies, restore our communities, and challenge those who are damaging the planet and its inhabitants.

We need to celebrate life in all its diversity and complexity.

We need to build new communities, create local economies, and promote sustainable and ecologically friendly businesses.

We need to tell different stories. Stories of possibilities. Stories of hope.

We need to cultivate new ways of being, so that we can be present in the world as it is.

We need to establish new rituals, algorithms for the body and mind.

Rituals that help us shift perspectives, and reach states of mind that were otherwise unattainable.

Rituals that help us build new alliances.

We need a new economy.

One that is based on values of justice and sustainability, so that all beings have access to the basic necessities of life.

It needs to be based on cooperation and collaboration, rather than competition and domination; to give priority to meeting the needs of human and non-human beings, rather than growing profits.

It needs to be based on economies of scale that are local, regional, global, even universal; that integrate populations into systems of flow that distribute the surpluses generated; that ensure access to resources for all; where people can meet their needs through their own initiative, creativity and participation;

We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. This is our time to act. There is no more time to waste.

Discover more about Distributed Consciousness

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