Posted: Fri, November 16, 2012 | By: Martine Rothblatt
1987 was the first year in which one billion people boarded airline flights. In that year the world’s population hit 5 billion, meaning approximately 20% of all people experienced a fantastic luxury not available to history’s wealthiest monarchs. By 2005 two billion people were boarding airliners each year, and the world’s population had grown to 6.5 billion. In the short span of years between 1987 and 2005, airline flight grew from being a right of 20% to a right of 31% of humanity, from barely a fifth to almost a third. Even assuming more frequent flights by the wealthier, this is startling evidence of the democratization of technology.
1987 was also noteworthy as the first year mobile phone sales hit one million units. A tool for the rich? Twenty-two years later, in 2009, half the world’s population owned their own mobile phone. From one million to three billion in 22 years. Even assuming some rich people have two or more mobiles, this is undeniable evidence of the democratization of technology.
As with flying and phoning, so it will be with mindcloning. At first just a few. Almost overnight it will be almost everyone. Technology democratizes. That’s what it does. I can’t think of a technology that does not democratize. Heart transplants? The first was in 1967, and currently thousands of poor and middle class people are getting them each year, mostly in countries such as the United States (including at least one impoverished prisoner), but also countries such as Vietnam and India (where the first recipient was the wife of a handkerchief vendor). The improvement of eyesight? Eyeglasses are almost universally available, and in wealthier countries even those in the lowest wealth deciles of the population routinely wear contact lenses or have corrective eye surgery.
Even in totalitarian countries, technology democratizes. Citizens of non-capitalist or non-democratic countries rarely lack TVs or radios, even if they have little interesting content available. Aside from sub-Saharan Africa, 90% or more of all urban populations worldwide have access to electricity, and even 50% or more have access in rural areas. Even in Africa, wracked by impediments to technological development, two-thirds of city dwellers and a quarter of villagers have electricity.
Not one single person, monarch or mendicant, had access to the magic of electricity for over 97% of recorded history. Yet, in that last three percent of recorded history since the technology arose, it has been made available to over half the species, including the poor in the great majority of countries. Facts such as this demonstrate that mindcloning technology will rapidly be available to the masses.
What possible reason would there be for mindcloning technology to be a unique exception to the overwhelming tendency of technology to democratize, especially information technology? It would have to be something uniquely related to mindcloning. It could not be anything such as mindcloning involving storage of a lot of personal data – many companies have already democratized that function. The only thing really unique about mindcloning is that it creates a new form of life, vitological life.
In fact, though, there are many examples of democratized technology for creating new forms of life. From biologically-produced new kinds of medicine (ie, creating new kinds of bacteria that make pharmaceutical ingredients), to transgenically-produced new kinds of crops and animals, new forms of life have in every instance been rapidly made available to far greater populations than the rich.
Perhaps it is the fact that the mindclones will be sentient life that will be used as an argument to restrict them to the rich? Not a chance. Humans produce sentient life by the mega-ton, from pets to pregnancies, and there is no possible way for the rich to corner the market (nor would there be any reason to do so). Or maybe it is the fact that the mindclones might be so smart that the rich will want to keep all of that intelligence for their own quest to get ever richer? While I do not doubt that they would, if they could, the historical record shows that they can’t, and hence they shan’t. The supercomputers of 20 years ago are less powerful than the laptops of today. Indeed, a run-of-the-mill MacBook Pro is over 1000 x more powerful than the legendary Cray-1 supercomputer. In other words, any effort by the rich and powerful to control mindclone technology would be as fruitless as an effort to control the Cray supercomputers of the late 20th century – other companies’ technologies will swirl around the controlled technology, like a rushing river around boulders in its riverbed.
I don’t believe there is any doubt as to why technology always democratizes. It is as simple as this: (1) people want what makes life better for other people (generally this entails technology), (2) satisfying popular wants is in the self-interests of those who control technology (both technology originators and government regulators), and (3) over time the magnitude of these two factors overwhelm any countervailing forces (such as cultural bugaboos or fears of losing control). The wanted technology becomes available, either because scales of production make it cheaper, innovation makes it more accessible, or officialdom finds its interests better served by channeling rather than blocking the wanted technology.
There are two further reasons why mindcloning will be rapidly democratized. The first is that the marginal costs of providing mindfile storage and mindware vitalizations to the billionth, two billionth, three billionth and so on persons are virtually nil. The second reason is that it is in the economic interests of the persons having mindclone technology to share it as broadly as possible. Each reason will be considered in more detail below.
Let’s first think about the costs of mindcloning. There are four main elements: (1) the cost of storing a person’s mindfile, estimated in Question 1 as about a gigabyte a month based on Gordon Bell’s experience, (2) the cost of running that mindfile through vitalizing mindware to set its consciousness parameters, (3) the cost of transmitting mindfile data and mindclone consciousness, and (4) the cost of user electronics for accessing mindclones. Because the costs of these elements are amortized across tens of millions if not billions of users, the incremental costs of these for each person are negligible. For example, if it costs a billion dollars to create mindware, the costs per person are but one dollar for a billion people and fifty cents for two billion people. Assume the cost of building out a high-speed transmission network with capacity for six billion mindclones is $6 billion. In that case, the cost is $2/mindclone for three billion mindclones, but only $1/mindclone for six billion mindclones.
There has never been an easier thing to place in the hands of the masses than information. Shortwave radio broadcasts cover every human in the world for the same cost as if there were only 1% as many humans spread throughout the world. Consequently, the cost of shortwave radio per person is less the more people who listen.
The Sirius XM Satellite Radio project I launched in the 1990s cost over a billion dollars. In a way that was the price that one very wealthy person would have had to pay for the enjoyment of satellite radio. It was possible to offer the service only to rich people, say for a million dollars a year, so that they could show off their exclusive and amazing audio toy. But nobody considered doing that for even a millisecond. Instead we priced the service around $10 a month and today over 20 million people listen. That billion dollar project, which grew to over two billion dollars, when divided by 20 million listeners, comes out to just $100 per person. It will be much the same way with mindcloning.
Mindclone technology is simply the shortwave or satellite radio of tomorrow. Instead of someone sending commoditized information down the airwaves to the masses, in the form of broadcasts, for matriculation and selection within the brains of those masses, someone will send individualized information down the cyberchannels to the masses, in the form of mindclone consciousness, for refinement and enhancement via interaction with the brains of those masses.
The second factor forcing democratization of mindfile technology is the economic interests of its creators. The more people who create mindfiles, the wealthier will be those who create mindfile technology. This is really just Google on steroids (or Facebook, or Twitter, or Tencent, or a dozen other competitors). It is in the economic interests of Google, Facebook, Twitter and so on to share their technology as broadly as possible. The more people who use a social media site, the more valuable the owner of that site becomes. This is because more people, more human attention, translates, some way or another, into more money. And so it will be with mindfiles. The sites, or sources, that we go to for our mindware, or for tune-ups of our mindware, or for storage of our mindfiles, or for organization of our mindfiles, or for housing of our mindclones, or for socializing of our mindclones – those sites and sources will be valuable to the people and companies who want to sell things to us…things like virtual real estate, and things like real-world interfaces.
This essay was originally published at Martine Rothblatt’s blog, “Mindfiles, Mindware, and Mindclones.” The precise location is HERE
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