taking the passive out of passive-aggressive

Friday, February 18, 2005

Just to clarify the previous question, which my husband says is dumb....

Isn't it at least a little bit possible that this giant network of billions upon billions of pieces of data could, theoretically, become conscious, a la Skynet? I mean, what is the brain but a giant network of processors, fed new information constantly? Sure, our brain is attached to a body, which makes it easy to see the result of our consciousness. But without a body, we'd still be aware.

It just seems like there's a critical mass of data, information, and processing power which could be reached at some point, which would tip the balance, suddenly creating a new kind of singularity.

Or, alternately, that the information we receive via the internet (particularly the millions of us who conduct half our lives on it) could subtly change US in such a way that we actually become the body for the giant brain.... the millions of cells it uses to express its conscious needs?

Does no one but me think this possibility is remotely interesting? "Sci-fi, basically"--maybe it's unrealistic but maybe not! For god's sake, if terrorists could possibly blow up a volcano and cause a tsunami, why couldn't the internet be sentient?

12 Comments:

At 10:39 AM, Blogger sweetney said...

jamie and i talked a little about this last night...i think he has a good answer, so rather than appropriate it i'm gonna forward a link to this on to him.

 
At 11:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't say it was dumb!

I was saying that it's going to turn into a "creative answer" session.

Because so far, the fact is, the interNET is not sentient. (But I am sure there are a lot of ways to claim it is by employing metaphor and poetic sophistry.)

 
At 11:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't say it was dumb!

I was saying that it's going to turn into a "creative answer" session.

Because so far, the fact is, the interNET is not sentient. (But I am sure there are a lot of ways to claim it is by employing metaphor and poetic sophistry.)

 
At 12:19 PM, Anonymous JamieGP said...

Hey, I owe a better comment... but here's the initial thought.

Look to the theory of planets as Superorganism -- that a planet is alive and composed of all these other things that are it's "organs" and "cells" for lack of a better term. A really huge version of a "colony" life form -- like man-o-war... or technically humans.

The web is that with all the various computers and users lending consciousness that then becomes a superconsciousness.

Along the same lines, an intranet is a closed network and therefore evolves separately from other intranets and/or the internet (isolation being one of the key drivers of evolution)... but that's a whole different story.

Defining sentient would be the problem though. If you were focusing instead on "memes" and defining a human as a vessel through which memes are contained, mutated, and spread... well the Internet is definitely that!

Here's the dictionary definition for sentient:
1. responsive to or conscious of sense impressions
2 : AWARE
3 : finely sensitive in perception or feeling
Can you prove any of these for humans?

 
At 12:53 PM, Blogger chang said...

Isn't it at least a little bit possible that this giant network of billions upon billions of pieces of data could, theoretically, become conscious, a la Skynet? I mean, what is the brain but a giant network of processors, fed new information constantly?If I were still a swearing man, I might write something like, "What the fuck are you smoking that you can come up with this insane shity and still hold a better paying job than me?"

 
At 1:38 PM, Blogger Claire said...

Let's define human sentience as "aware of our own existence." I'm not going to go so far as to say we have the ability to act independently because neither I nor my cognitive-behavioral therapist actually believe that.

Or try this.Our brains are, physically, a set of networked nodes, across which information flows in a series of electrical impulses. People disdain the notion that we are like computers, but we are--we built computers in our image. They are like us. And so why is it wildly improbable that we may have created something that is more like us than we can imagine?

I like the idea that people are meme-propagators. Kind of like viruses. What is DNA but a meme, anyway?

Oh and Chang, you have to remember that the more money you make, the less they give you to actually do at your job, and so you contemplate the fishes and the nature of consciousness all day until it's time to go home and make dinner.

 
At 2:20 PM, Blogger chang said...

Oh and Chang, you have to remember that the more money you make, the less they give you to actually do at your job, and so you contemplate the fishes and the nature of consciousness all day until it's time to go home and make dinner.Oh, yeah, I totally forgot that part. Baack when I was part of corporate amerikkka (I always wanted to type that) I made mad dough and was so bored I tried to get myself fired.

Now I make just enough, get kind of bored and post comments on your site.

 
At 2:40 PM, Blogger XLT said...

Two points, short and sweet:
1. The internet is no more or less alive than all the other technologies man has created on this planet.
2. I really like cheese.

 
At 6:55 PM, Blogger Joshua Berlow said...

If you like questions like this, you should read the science-fiction writer William Gibson. Gibson invented the word "cyberspace". His first novel "Neuromancer" deals with two sentinent computers that are trying to "link up" with one another. There's also police known as "Turing Cops" that are supposed to prevent computers from becoming sentinent. In later novels, the internet becomes infested with Voodoo gods, aka "loa".

 
At 6:56 PM, Blogger Joshua Berlow said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 5:22 AM, Blogger Claire said...

I like cheese too. Mmmmmm cheese.

Is cheese sentient?

 
At 6:38 AM, Blogger XLT said...

I hope not! I'd hate to think of all the self-aware milk proteins I've murdered over the years.

Except the French ones. Wusses.

 

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