Planetarity of Computation
"The planetarity of computation forms what I have called an “accidental megastructure” comprised of overlapping functional layers. Quite literally, it is a stack extending down to the mines of central Africa through subterranean data centers and transoceanic cables to interlaced urban networks up to the glowing glass rectangles through which we view it and it views us. Planetary-scale computation is not virtual. It is a kind of terraforming of its host planet.
To measure the weight of planetary-scale computation includes a sober reckoning with the physical costs of its sprawling infrastructures, which includes differentiating essential purpose from the trivial, and ultimately pondering the price of intelligence itself. In the context that really matters most, the cultivation of synthetic intelligences capable of collaboration with our own most virtuous ambitious and virtuoso expressions is precious. The syntheses they portend are available only if we pursue them with resolve and clarity about their high costs.
Any refusal or acceptance of the costs of synthetic intelligence must also consider the price of natural intelligence. It was not only symbiotic social cooperation but also tumultuous mountains of gore that lead our common ancestors from Olduvai Gorge to Göbekli Tepe, and to the literate cultures of Mesopotamia, East Asia and Mesoamerica. The deepest values are at stake. Is the very long-term evolution of “intelligence” — human, animal, machine, hybrids — a fundamental purpose of the organization and complexification of life itself? If so, now that intelligence begins to migrate to the inorganic substrate of silicon, what planetarities does this portend?"