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Wavinator

Touch-based group mind, fuzzy with sharp edges

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How do you think it would affect you to grow up in a society where everyone knows your secrets, and everyone shares your feelings? Would you find it oppressive, or enormously comforting? I've got a storyline in mind for a culture that is a group mind. The group mind is mostly positive, but has traits that we would find disconcerting or even unethical. It is based not on the stereotypical "broadband wireless" telepathy metaphor, but on transmission of nanite-encoded engrams. Your thoughts and memories are constantly encoded and transmited along miles of monofilament wire running parallel to your existing nervous system. When you touch someone else, the artificial engrams "jump" from your network to their network. The information appears in the parts of the brain's neural network that affect our modeling of the world. You cease to suspect or guess at how other people are, and, instead, understand how they are exactly from their perspective. I can't decide at this point whether the transmission is voluntary or involuntary. I'm also having some trouble fashioning specific details about their life and some storylines that might evolve. So maybe you guys can just run with the idea. Here's some conjecture: Casual Touching This culture probably has a lot of casual touching, both for reassurance and security. This would make us uncomfortable on many levels (men more than women). Pats on the back, hands left on shoulders, touching the forearm or hands would probably be common. Personal boundary space would probably be nonexistent, or at least less. We keep people at bay to assert our individuality, but also because we don't like them. But in this society, there would be a great deal more affinity. No Touch Is Deviancy In contrast, a person who refuses to touch others would be considered to be secretive, or even socially deviant. I imagine that when the transfer of engrams occurs, it has a normalizing effect. Maybe you are growing to hate someone, but when you shake hands in a peace gesture, you suddenly understand what it's like to be them, and this alters your mindset. Free Will / Individuality Because the network is asychronous and the reencoding of engrams don't take over the brain, I imagine that the people still have individuality. I also think that the engram transfer mechanism doesn't erase who you are, it lets you know who others are. You can still make choices, but you do so incorporating other opinions and thoughts. Morality: "I/You Ethic" I see these people arising from a time when, on Earth, we waged war against each other with ethnically-targeted influence plagues. Basically, the philosophy was, "Why kill your enemies when you can turn them into customers?" The monofilament nervous system network arose first as a reaction to invasive nanotechnology, then as a security / checksum system ("am I who I am, or did something convert me?"). Because it was so easy to change other people, and not everyone could afford the defense, a parallel ethic arose which asked the question, "if I am You, how would I treat Me?" The groupmind society blended both principles into a kind of technology reinforced Golden Rule. Touching Is Communicating When you see two members of this society sitting side by side, shoulders touching, they're probably communicating or at least communing.
I'm torn whether or not to make these people fringe parts of human society, or a powerful force. I envision a future solar system filled with lots of different orbital nations. We're very balkanized, but not necessarily antagonistic. Mostly, people who don't like each other build a habitat and move away from each other, but there is still ideological / religious / political strife over how people should live (mostly others telling people how they should live [rolleyes])
I have a few other disorganized ideas, but I'll wait to post until I see what others think about this.

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It's an interesting idea; but unless there are some limiting/negative factors about this "mind meld" technology, I think this would quickly turn into a Vinge-style singularity (when a lot of really smart people touch each other all at once). Maybe it would be terrifying to "touch" someone who is too different from yourself, and thus conformity would be heavily enforced?

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I'm highly independent personally, and would find it oppressive. I think this kind of culture would be amazingly insecure, and cumbersome in situations where independent thought, action or location were required. This might appeal to weak neurotics though, and the comedic implications there are enormous. It depends on what target audience you are designing the psychology for.

Adventuredesign

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The beauty of this is that you don't have to have them react like we would, or rather you shouldn't. A society of physically empathic people would, over their lifetime and history, become very accustomed to this kind of communication.

I'm sure you've considered this though, and are wondering about an outsider's view on it, say if you were thrust into this situation, or it was new to the society as a whole. I, personally, wouldn't find it oppressive at all. I'm pretty introverted and emotionally stable, but I find it very comforting to know how others are feeling. Being a secure individual people often confide in me as a sort of emotional grounding when they're on a high or a low of their own, which in turn makes me feel pretty good. I think it would be a wonderful thing to be able to connect so tangibly to the people you care about, and it would make the society you speak of a very honest, though possibly awkward place.

It would be difficult to keep things quiet in a group like this. Say, for example you were in love with a co-worker but he/she was already with somebody else, you might fear letting others touch you for the sake of keeping peace amongst your professional life. While we can do this by simply keeping our mouths shut about it, this society would have less control. Love is a tricky thing anyways though, so it's not something that should prevent you from exploring this trait =P.

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Quote:
It would be difficult to keep things quiet in a group like this.


I think that in this culture, it simply wouldn't be important. In other words, this culture has little to no use of keeping secrets. It's *expected* that these kinds of thoughts and feelings are public knowledge, and that's how everyone treats it. Everyone in this society would simply be far more comfortable with being open and honest than we might be.

This could be interesting if, say, one of these individuals ends up on a world more like ours and they simply voice every thought, feeling, and concern they have about just about anything. Honest to a fault, we might say. In our culture, we might take offense to some of the honest thoughts they're having, but in their culture, it's perfectly acceptable.

Indeed, *keeping* ones thoughts of attraction from a co-worker would be considered unusual, possibly even rude. It should be normal that these feelings are expressed open and honestly.

I like the idea. I don't think very many people in this culture would feel oppressed, since this is a fundamental and ingrained part of their culture.

I imagine these people would be extremely healthy, from a psychological point of view, since almost all of our neurosis and psychological issues stem from our clouded and secluded interactions with others. Where all thoughts and feelings were openly shared would be like constant group therapy for the entire planet. I imagine these folks would have a strong and healthy society - little to no crime, healthy relationships, etc...

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As an outsider, I'd find it terribly creepy, but I think you'd get used to it, since just about every member of this society would be nearly identical in personality, due to the sharing of experience and emotion. They'd also probably be a little xenophobic, or quietly pity outsiders. There was an Asimov story about this. I'll find the title and edit it in here.

EDIT: "Green Patches". Weird story. Might feed your noodle.

With casual touching and involuntary communication, the community would have a lot of psychological inertia, which would lead to stagnation. If an individual was out of contact for a long span, and developed in a different, haphazard way, and then was reintroduced, the deviance in thought (not major deviance, maybe something like developing a taste for apples with the skin on) would ripple through the community like chain lightning. It would be a colossal shift in paradigm for individuals who are used to having their inclinations and psychological actions padded by millions of other minds through the cumulative effect of "normalizing" with each encountered individual.

Imagine if a few thousand were isolated for a matter of years. The community might not readmit them, for fear of the huge unsettling impact they would have.

I see this as a very conservative society. However, if you build in a thirst for exotic experience, it might be possible to have a whole new structure. The central core could be a scientific community, a sort of biological library. They'll send young (pre-telepathic) members out into space to collect novel and exciting experiences, and then initiate them into the collective consciousness, absorbing and cataloguing the new knowledge they bring. (I know collective consciousness is an exaggeration, but I think the end result would be similar.)

As they learn all about the immediate surroundings, they'll send scouts farther and farther out, to the very fringes of known space. These could be a constant presence in the world.

Or maybe... [rest of ridiculous post deleted]

Wavinator, every time I try to respond to a post of yours, I wind of with this stream-of-consciousness crap. Stop being so interesting!

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