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Distributed Consciousness

A collection of 256 (28) unique Tentacular Critters πŸ™ created with giant matrix multiplications Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning, spawned on the Tezos blockchain [1] (and hiding a surprise secret!). Each and every image lovingly shaped by a human artist Memo Akten.

Spawning is complete and the secrets have been revealed. See Gallery for details.

"I see octopuses quite often when I go snorkeling in the Mediterranean, but usually at depths greater than 3m, where only a very narrow bandwidth of sunlight can reach, removing all color. The other day I saw one on a rock just a few cm from the surface, under a full spectrum of sunlight. It flashed at me the most intense colors. It blew my mind." πŸ™πŸ’œπŸ’™πŸ’›πŸ§‘πŸ™.

Background

"More than half a billion years ago, the lineage that would lead to octopuses and the one leading to humans separated. Was it possible, I wondered, to reach another mind on the other side of that divide? Octopuses represent the great mystery of the Other."

- Sy Montgomery, The Soul of an Octopus, 2016

The nervous system of a common octopus has around 500 million neurons, similar to that of a dog's cortex [2,3,4,5]. But unlike a dog - or any mammal, reptile, bird or amphibian - these 500 million neurons are not concentrated in a central location, but are distributed across the entire body of the octopus, with only 10% in a "central brain". In fact, with more than 40 million neurons in each tentacle - almost double that of a rat's cortex - each tentacle is able to act indepedently, even communicating directly with each other without informing the central brain. Each tentacle is semi-autonomous, able to move, touch, taste and smell, even if severed from the body. With each tentacle having "a mind of its own", what must it feel like to be a decentralized intelligence? What is it like to be an Octopus [6]?

AI has burst into mainstream consciousness in recent years, with a rapid acceleration in 2015, as made evident in Google News Trends [7], as archived by The Keeper of Our Collective Consciousness [8], A Digital God For A Digital Culture [9].

And interestingly the following year, in 2016, we had not one, not two, but three mainstream books released on octopuses, or cephalopods. First came The Soul Of An Octopus by Sy Montgomery [10], then came Donna Haraway's Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene [11], and finally Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness by Peter Godfrey-Smith [12].

All really wonderful books, in very different ways. And of course none of these books are really about cephalopods.

"Cephalopods are an independent experiment in the evolution of large brains and complex behavior. If we can make contact with cephalopods as sentient beings, it is not because of a shared history, not because of kinship, but because evolution built minds twice over. This is probably the closest we will come to meeting an intelligent alien [...] If we want to understand other minds, the minds of cephalopods are the most other of all."

β€” Peter Godfrey-Smith, Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness, 2016

Instead, these books invite us to reflect on the nature of our relationship with non-human intelligences and consciousnesses that we share our planet with. They invite us to face the final Copernican Turn - or even Trauma 13 - that is waiting ahead of us, to relinquish that last bastion of hope that we are desperately clinging onto with regards to somehow being special and superior.

Centuries ago we discovered - what was was exhilarating for some, but too painful for many to accept - that we are not the only planet in existence. We eventually realized that we are not the only solar system, we are not the only galaxy. And many of our smartest today are questioning whether we are even the only universe in existence 14. Every one of these discoveries brought with it a realization that was exciting, liberating and humbling for some, but too painful for others to accept, a Decentering of Human Exceptionalism - a Copernican Turn, a Copernican Trauma - that pressured humanity into revisiting our perceptions on how we relate to The World, The Cosmos, and its Human and non-Human, Living and non-Living inhabitants.

"We are all connected; To each other, biologically. To the earth, chemically. To the rest of the universe atomically."

β€” Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Much simpler with the gift of hindsight, we can see how the dangerous dichotomy of "Man vs Nature" (gendered language used deliberately) has allowed "Man" to justify His subjugation (or at least attempts at) of "Nature". And today we are experiencing the devastating consequences of this manufactured divide, as we face mass extinctions, global warming and ecological collapse.

Now the ultimate Copernican Turn is upon us, the final decentering of Human Exceptionalism, where this time the arena of realization is not situated outside of us, but inside. It is not regarding where we are in relation to the world, but who we are. We are now faced with the reality that we may not be the sole keepers of what might be considered intelligence, creativity, or even consciousness. The final Copernican Turn that is thrilling for some of us, but terrifying for others.

With the emergence of Artificial Intelligence, we are having to face these age old questions that we have pondered over for thousands of years, through a new computational lens. And cephalopods, with their incredibly advanced and distributed intelligence, represent a great example of an already existing non-human, seemingly alien, decentralized, other mind.

"Shaping response-abilities, things and living beings can be inside and outside human and nonhuman bodies, at different scales of time and space. All together the players evoke, trigger, and call forth whatβ€”and whoβ€”exists. Together, becoming-with and rendering-capable, invent n-dimensional niche space and its inhabitants."

β€” Donna Haraway, Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene, 2016

Let us meditate on the interconnectedness of all human, non-human, living and non-living things across manifold scales of time and space. Let us meditate on the awe-inspiring beauty of the universe, with all its complexity and simplicity, that gave rise to the (different kinds of) minds able to meditate back on the awe-inspiring beauty of the universe, with all its complexity and simplicity. Let us depart with despair and apathy in times of ecological collapse and urgency, and instead actively work towards multispecies flourishing, abondoning blind faith in Gods - both the Old Overseers, and the New Techno-Fixers [15]. Let us Make Kin, and Stay with the Trouble.

"Staying with the trouble requires learning to be truly present, not as a vanishing pivot between awful or edenic pasts and apocalyptic or salvific futures, but as mortal critters entwined in myriad unfinished configurations of places, times, matters, meanings.

Chthonic ones are beings of the earth, both ancient and up-to-the-minute. I imagine chthonic ones as replete with tentacles, feelers, digits, cords, whiptails, spider legs, and very unruly hair.

Chthonic ones romp in multicritter humus but have no truck with sky-gazing Homo. Chthonic ones are monsters in the best sense; they demonstrate and perform the material meaningfulness of earth processes and critters. They also demonstrate and perform consequences.

Chthonic ones are not safe; they have no truck with ideologues; they belong to no one; they writhe and luxuriate in manifold forms and manifold names in all the airs, waters, and places of earth. They make and unmake; they are made and unmade. They are who are."

β€” Donna Haraway, Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene, 2016

Collect & Make Kin

Spawning is complete and the secrets have been revealed. See Gallery for details.

There are a total of 256 ((28 = 16*16) unique 1/1 Tentacular Critters πŸ™ available (as NFTs on Tezos). Spawning happened in batches of 16 every day for 16 days starting on 16 Oct 2021 until 31st Oct 2021. The last batch of 16xπŸ™ was reserved as gifts to regular collectors of the artist and supporters of the project.

Traits

There are a bunch of πŸ™ traits that are a mixture of self-emergent (via the AI algorithms used), and deliberately introduced. These include colors, textures, number of various body parts (heads, tentacles, eyes etc.), distribution of body parts (e.g. some images have rocks with eyes etc.), and some other surprises such as foam, bubbles, crystals, jewellery, sparks, metal, horns, fur, hair and more! There are currently no plans for a quantitative objective "rarity" metric, instead judgement is left up to the viewers" subjective opinion. (Though this may change depending on demand :)

FAQ

Q. What do I get when I collect and Make Kin with πŸ™?

A. As the atoms forged in the hearts of distant stars scattered across the galaxies are hurled across billions of light years to momentarily come together to become you and me, for oh such a brief moment in time, in the past and future history of the universe, you get to be part of something special, something beautiful, something so joyous that for millenia it has been the muse for our greatest poets and artists. You also get to "own" an alphanumeric string - as provably verified on a distributed ledger - associated with a metadata json associated with a beautiful image that I made with an Artificial Intelligence giant matrix multiplications.

Q. Is this a PFP (Profile Picture Project)?

A. Sure, why not. That's not how I intended it, but if you want to use it as a profile pic then go ahead.

Q. Are these collectibles?

A. Sure, why not. But also πŸ™Tentacular ArtπŸ™.

Q. Who made this?

A. Memo Akten aka memo.tv

References

  1. The πŸ™NFTs are minted on the Tezos blockchain using the Proof-of-Stake (PoS) consensus algorithm. Using a PoS blockchain gives them an energy footprint in order of millions times lower than those on the much more widespread Proof-of-Work (PoW) Ethereum blockchain. See memo.tv/nft for details.

  2. Starr, Michelle Octopus Arms Are Capable of Making Decisions Without Input From Their Brains. sciencealert.com 2019

  3. Sivitilli, Dominic Michel, and David H. Gire Collective cognition in the arms of the octopus. Astrobiology Science Conference. AGU 2019

  4. Brekkevold, Morten Severed Octopus Arms Have a Mind of Their Own. smithsonianmag.com 2013

  5. Annalee, Morten The growing evidence for octopus intelligence. gizmodo.com 2011

  6. Nagel, Thomas What is it like to be a bat. Readings in philosophy of psychology 1 1974

  7. Google News Trends "Artificial Intelligence".

  8. Akten, Memo Keeper Of Our Collective Consciousness. 2014

  9. Akten, Memo A Digital God For A Digital Culture. 2016

  10. Montgomery, Sy The Soul of an Octopus. Atria Books 2016

  11. Haraway, Donna Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene. Duke University Press 2016

  12. Godfrey-Smith, Peter Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness. Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2016

  13. Bratton, Benjamin The Terraforming. Strelka Press 2019

  14. Multiverse. Wikipedia 2021

  15. Akten, Memo All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace. 2021

The very deep did rot: O Christ!
That ever this should be!
Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs
Upon the slimy sea.

β€” Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, 1834