Interconnected

Today's restaurant reviews

On the eve of the activation of the Large Volition Collider, we speak with Dr. Giles Spenser about his favourite London restaurants.

1. Nando's

Nando's was a favourite when I was a grad student, so I get to call myself an old timer.

It's where we're meeting now

Yes, and thanks for paying! [laughs]

Seeing people dress up for spicy chicken burgers though... I'm not sure I'm going to get used to that.

A good last supper before you find out whether your theory stands up?

Yes! Well, yes and no. It'll be a while before the data is crunched. Not as long as it took the first time around.

The first time around we didn't have the computation, it took a couple months for each run.

This was with Facebook?

Yes, with Facebook. At the time, Facebook was this incredible map of human activity. Online, of course, and what we called the Internet of Things, that was all collected into their map too. The Deep Web at the time wasn't small, but it was statistically not significant. We wanted social interactions mainly.

So Facebook was this giant realtime map of enough human activity to be useful. And once a week, I would run my algorithms across it, looking for signs of actual human agency in all the changes. For most changes, you can pin down a cause. A comment is a reply to an article, a video is made because someone missed their train in the morning and had ten minutes free time to think. We can pick up that kind of thing from basic EEG and data mining. But some deltas, some changes in the map that is... some deltas appeared to have no cause at all -- spontaneous action.

Aliens!

That was the clickbait, yes. Shortly before I published, Wow Two had been detected, so the explanation everyone reached for was that I'd built a new Seti - a new search for intelligent life - but pointing back at our own planet, our own internet.

But not aliens, no, although still from space. Volition. I was looking at particular patterns in social networks, where novelty comes from. There are correlations. And there's a time element. New ideas, new actions, spontaneous human events... these spike at certain positions in the Earth's orbit, positions that precess. The view we have now of volition is that it's the first two dimensional particle, each a mega-scale skein originating at the central galactic black hole, orthogonal to the event horizon. Rotating around the core and rippling, like flags in the wind, trillions upon trillions of them. Where one of these volition 2-branes interacts with our own patterning, potential is raised, and new ideas form.

The Nando's flagship on Regent St currently has a wait of 2 months. Dinner and wine for two, approx. £200-300.

2. Holland

This is my supper club, welcome! Our franchise has been going for two years, we do a weekly dinner. All vegan.

A bit soon, don't you think?

Maybe, maybe. The Netherlands evacuated Holland what, seven years ago? [Interviewer: Five years.] Five years ago, is that all. And I know a couple of families who are part of the first group moving back in. They're very positive.

The name does upset some people, yes. But I think it's okay, my friends don't seem to mind.

What's the best way to get involved?

I joined up without knowing anyone. Bought some suppercoins in the app, earned a few more by doing washing up duty at a few meets, and I think it took just a month or two to earn enough for supper myself.

You met your wife...?

Here at Holland, yes. We have an allotment together now, so we earn coins by providing food too, and by hosting at our flat. Our group is really well balanced, actually, we're very proud of that. Self sufficient. We don't rent space or buy in service from outsiders at all. I think it's been over a year since we need to use any fiat currency. And it's a good excuse for us to all meet up, of course.

The question for me, obviously, is what made me sign up that first time?

A volition skein is what made me sign up, it turns out, and when I look back at the records of my social interactions that day, my patterning was just right for resonance, and my potential was raised. So here I am.

To join Holland, visit holland.club to buy a starter pack of suppercoins and find a supper near you.

3. Yo! Sushi

This was where it all started?

I was watching a roll coming down the conveyor and grabbed it. Why? Because it was there. And I realised that it was there because someone else had placed it, so that action was transmitted between us.

That didn't seem sufficient somehow - proximate causality but not ultimate - so I decided to check into it. To keep digging back. Which was easy then, as I said, because Facebook had mapped so much, before the Deep Web got so significant. So I was lucky, really, that it was tractable, what I wanted to test.

So what I'd made, at that point, was a good model of actions and feedback, and the tight knots that happens. I was double-checking, this action matched against these ultimate causes, that action matched against those ultimate causes.

But what I found was that I couldn't account for some tiny proportion! That was what I named volition. Volition, I speculated - maybe only a year after that meal in Yo! Sushi - is independent from human agency. And if so, it could be isolated.

And from there to the Large Volition Collider?

The technical work has mostly come from the community, but at its heart it's quite simple. The pattern-network we've created has been evolved in software, and printing and testing it has taken almost 18 months, over an area the size of Oxford near Lake Eyre. For the flatness.

The activation will create a pattern complexity equivalent to, well, not genius level. But a bright 10 year old in a well-formed environment. Once we pass through a volition skein - once Earth on its orbit moves through a skein - the pattern will resonate and we should be able to see the potential rise and new ideas form. Real volition. But it'll take a long time to sift that out from the noise of the normal pattern-network operations.

The critics say it's expensive.

Yes, but what we're looking for is fundamental particle of consciousness itself. If we can find that, what might the applications be? New ideas on demand? Finally identifying the difference between us and the artificial intelligences?

Personally I think we should look for ripples in the volition skein and triangulate the origin of Wow Two. See if we can say something back to those aliens.

Good luck Dr. Spenser.

Yo! Sushi has 120 London locations. Lunch approx. £100-150. Dinner approx. £150-200.

Follow us for live coverage of the Large Volition Collider, starting tomorrow at 02:00 UTC.