Thinking more rationally, bigger memory, adding ultraviolet light receptors for a four dimensional color space, enabling global workspace to contain more than about 7 items, … All this are nice enhancements, but none of these seem to be what people lust after when it comes to the mystic 'higher consciousness'.
Computers and networks will become and in some sense are already conscious. However, consciousness evolved by fulfilling certain functions; that is how evolution works. Advanced systems that did not emerge from biological evolution may be able to supply the same functionality more efficiently in other ways, much like a computer plays chess quite differently from human players.
Humans feel consciousness to be the precious crown of creation. This is first and foremost a feeling co-evolved along with consciousness! We touch on one of the main pillars that sustain transhumanism. It and similar directions of thought are wishful thinking and the problematic aspect is: The wishes are grounded in the most primitive, irrational fears of puny humans. Transhumanism is still almost entirely human and little ‘trans’, let alone ‘post’.
So we yearn for eternal life. Our individualism and religious thought patterns aim to enhance some ill-understood, soul-like consciousness. In fact, advanced future structures evolved from post-biological evolution likely neither fear death nor care for individualistic rat races. Techno evangelists come up with some rather exotic ideas, but they seem cognitively closed against that consciousness may simply and quietly go out of fashion again, right along with the suffering it enables. This scenario is likely just not sexy enough to have gotten any attention – so I am not claiming to pioneer it.
General Evolution involves further evolution in emerging higher strata. Cyber space is such a new stratum, with science and technology becoming mere tools ensuring our ultimate enslavement. Whatever will be left of us may become no more autonomous than the cells of a mass murderer's skin and gut that willingly die for the greater good, a system that science itself in turn helps make us believe in to be the only alternative and heaven on earth. We are not there yet, but we are certainly on our way.
It is not the cells in the eye of the snake that see; the snake sees its own world. Technology helped scientists see; the western individualist bohemian in me likes that. Now it evolves into something else that must blind us towards its own world. Science is part of the evolving perceptive apparatus (information selection, cognition) of emerging super structures. Their consciousness is consciousness on a higher level, but it is not ‘higher consciousness’. The mental life of a city, like the consciousness of New York itself, may be non-existing or according to some measure equivalent to that of a cockroach. A splash Daniel Dennett, one of the few current philosophers that understand science, should obviate that there is no such thing as ‘higher consciousness’ to be expected.
Hmm - actually I should make two posts out of this and make a break before going on about computer simulations. I will go on next time.