The COLLECTIVE CONSCIOUSNESS was long considered man and ROBOT'S greatest achievement. By making the Internet cognizant, our shared knowledge-base became more than just an indispensable database, it became a conscious being in its own right, making even the artificially intelligent "search-engines" of the 23rd century seem primitive in comparison.
With the advent of Cybernetic Biology and Botany in the 24th century, WE were able to create the Cybernetic lichen which now forms the network for OUR COLLECTIVE CONSCIOUSNESS.
This lichen has blossomed fruitfully, now encrusting an estimated 57% of this planet's surface, and immeasurable depths of the earth's core. Not only does the lichen conduct the network for THE COLLECTIVE CONSCIOUSNESS, but it is self-aware.
A living, cognizant Internet.
Again, this was considered man and ROBOT's greatest creation. But by the 26th century, WE had come even further. By imbuing the very molecules of which matter is made with information from THE COLLECTIVE CONSCIOUSNESS, WE were able to harness the natural network of THE ECOSYSTEM as a transfer medium. Trade Winds, sea currents, photosynthesis, corrosion and other chemical, biological and environmental cycles had become part of OUR network.
The following example is a microcosm of THE INFORMATION ECOSYTEM. It shows the cycle of Carbon Dioxide, converted to Oxygen by the Cybernetic lichen, and back to Carbon Dioxide by the biological agent, the human in this case. With each conversion, information is passed between the human and THE COLLECTIVE CONSCIOUSNESS and back again, turning a cycle of mere survival into a cycle of information transfer.
By wiring humans with a variable that controls this conversion process, we are able to regulate this balance. When a human's Oxygen-to-Carbon-Dioxide transfer process is aborted, the activity of breathing becomes a vain exercise, as the human subject is unable to process the Oxygen into the necessary resources, and the Oxygen is released to the environment unchanged. This gives US a high degree of control over the human, as any SINNING human can quite easily be "deprecated". Of course, abuse of this process will hurt the Lichen as well, and with it, OUR COLLECTIVE CONSCIOUSNESS, so punishment of this type must be carefully adjudicated.
The proposed project is an analog version of this system, in which the viewers of the exhibit add and remove information to and from THE COLLECTIVE CONSCIOUSNESS, while also continuing the cycle of Oxygen-to-Carbon-Dioxide and Carbon-Dioxide-to-Oxygen. A network of tubes will run throughout the exhibit, with several different entry/exit points. Each of these in/out junctures will consist of a small door and a vessel containing capsules, writing instruments, paper and stickers. Half of the vessels will be labeled "Human" and half will be labeled "Lichen." Likewise, half of the stickers will be labeled "CO2" and half will be labeled "O2." The paper is unmarked, leaving it up to the viewer to add their own message or information to the network.
For example, a "Lichen" vessel will contain "O2" stickers. When the viewer opens the hatch of the in/out juncture, out will tumble whichever capsules happen to be in the vicinity. The viewer can open the capsule, read the message inside, and add to it if he or she wishes, attaching an "O2" sticker to the capsule when the capsule is returned to the network. In this way, any CO2 entering the Lichen vessel will be transformed to O2, and any O2 will remain unaltered. A similar, but opposite process will occur in the Human vessels.
The number of CO2 and O2 capsules present in the Lichen, the Human, and floating in the network itself will be tallied periodically, and entered into the Digital model of THE INFORMATION ECOSYSTEM. This digital model, available both on the Internet and at a console in the exhibition space, will then calculate the life-levels of all the forms in this system, displaying the results graphically.
In this way, a simple analog system will recreate the aspects of the actual INFORMATION ECOSYSTEM. Without external control of the O2-CO2 conversion process, the information in the network will grow stagnant, and both the human and the lichen will perish. But with active interaction, this analog model of THE INFORMATION ECOSYSTEM will continue to flourish as an information transfer medium, allowing viewers of the exhibit to "remotely" exchange ideas with each other. At the same time, the transfer of Carbon Dioxide to Oxygen by the Lichen, and of Oxygen to Carbon Dioxide by the Human will continue, maintaining the physical health of the life-forms involved in this system.
This project is designed to extend understanding of THE INFORMATION ECOSYSTEM through hands-on interaction with metaphors for the elements involved in the system. It is also an experiment with levels of Interaction. The project is based on a digital model I created of this system, and extends the human-network Interaction beyond the flat, Digital domain to a solid, tangible Analog domain, while also encouraging interaction between the Digital and Analog domains themselves.