Can the Internet have consciousness?


2020-09-22 12:00:05




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Can the Internet have consciousness?

Information environment with consciousness - fiction or reality?

Can machines regain consciousness? Popular culture regularly draws humanoid robots that have regained consciousness or were deliberately endowed with them by crazy (or not very) scientists. Thus, a new series from the creator of "Alien" called "Grown by Wolves" tells the story of two androids aimed at the exoplanet Kepler 22b to revive humanity. And in 1999, the world first saw "The Matrix" - now a cult film in which the main character fights with intelligent machines that have defeated humanity and using people as "batteries." But what about a reasonable internet? Can this giant information-creation machine gain consciousness? But assuming the Internet is reasonable, how do we know? The publication offers to imagine the day when the Internet will become a single, purposeful and self-aware. What do you think it will be like?

What is the Internet?

The Internet, sometimes referred to simply as a "network," is a worldwide system of computer networks - a single network in which users on any computer can, if they have permission, receive information from any other computer (and sometimes communicate directly with users on other computers). The idea of the Internet was born in 1969 in the Agency for Advanced Research Projects (ARPA) of the U.S. government, and the first name of the Internet was ARPANet.

The original goal was to create a network that would allow users of a research center at one university to "talk" to users at other universities. The unplanned advantage of the ARPANet project was that, because communications could have been redirected in more than one direction, the network could continue to function even if parts of it were destroyed (in the event of a military attack or other disaster).

How the Internet works

Physically, the Internet uses part of the common resources of the current public telecommunications networks. The Internet can be seen as having two main components: network protocols and hardware. Protocols, such as TCP/IP suite, are sets of rules that devices must follow to perform tasks. Without this common set of rules, machines would not be able to communicate.

The Internet has allowed computers far apart to share information

The protocols are also responsible for translating alphabetical text messages into electronic signals that can be transmitted over the Internet and then back into legible alphabetical text. Hardware, the second main component of the Internet, includes everything from a computer or smartphone that is used to access the Internet, to cables that transfer information from one device to another. Additional types of equipment include satellites, radios, cell towers, routers, and servers.

What is consciousness?

The information age constantly reminds us of the people waiting for it - floods and famine, the death of the Sun, nuclear weapons and so on, etc. It is not surprising that in addition to the existing threats, it is not so easy to seriously talk about the threat of the Internet, which has regained consciousness. And yet, there are many discussions on this subject, most of which agree that machines will become self-aware once they become complex enough. But isn't the most complex of existing systems the Internet?

And yet, the question to which the best minds of mankind are looking for an answer throughout its history comes to the fore - what is consciousness. As you know, it cannot be measured, weighed or held in your hands. We can only observe consciousness directly in ourselves, but not in others. As you know, Alan Turing built his famous criterion of machine intelligence, the Turing test, on the assumption that the mind is a black box.

So perhaps we should reformulate the question: Does the Internet behave like a living being? Does he show the fruits of consciousness? Of course, there are times when it seems that this is the case. Google can predict what you're going to print before you fully articulate the phrase. Facebook ads can intuitively determine that a woman is pregnant before she tells her family and friends about it. At such moments, it is easy to conclude that you are in the presence of another mind - although, given the human propensity for anthropomorphization, we should be careful with hasty conclusions.

Some of the most compelling evidence of Internet consciousness may be difficult to perceive, since we ourselves would be the synapses and neurons that make up the brain. For some sociologists, many of the political movements that have emerged on social media qualify as "emergent" behavior - phenomena that cannot be attributed to one person but relate to the system as a whole.

Moreover, two French cognitive psychologists have gone so far as to claim that the Egyptian Revolution and the Arab Spring are evidence of a virtual collective consciousness, which they describe as "inner knowledge shared by many people."

Of course, their arguments are very provocative. It is important to understand that when we talk about consciousness, we usually mean something more connected, such as the only stream of mental experience - ego or self - which seems much larger than all the amount of all existing Twitter posts. Of course, some very intelligent people claim that our own self-awareness is just an illusion. Intuition, as biologist Richard Dawkins once put it, is a unit, not a colony, and is not really supported by the architecture of the brain with its billions of tiny unconscious parts. But if a unified mind is nothing more than an illusion, where does it come from? And how do we know if he has other things either?

Mind Theory

As it turned out, one of the most convincing examples of Internet consciousness is related to the theory of reason, which was developed to explain exactly this kind of combined experience. The theory of integrated information, first proposed by Christoph Koch and Giulio Tononi, states that consciousness arises from complex connections between different areas of the brain.

has a high degree of integration, which is why we perceive the world and mind holistically. But in "The Feeling of Life Itself," Koch argues that consciousness is a continuum that extends down the chain of being. Crows, jellyfish, bees, and perhaps even atoms and quarks have sufficient integration to guarantee a tiny spark of consciousness. Koch believes that the same criterion applies to machines. While he is skeptical that individual computers can develop the mind, the Internet seems to meet its standards of consciousness:

Its 10 billion computers, each containing billions of transistors, are connected in very complex networks that stretch across the globe.

The human brain, much less consciousness, is still little studied

It should be noted that Koch is not just an "urban lunatic", but the chief scientist of the Allen Brain Institute and is widely known as one of the leading figures in computational neuroscience. Nor does he talk about consciousness in that hazy, New Ageist sense, which means everything and nothing. Koch suggested that internet consciousness may be thin enough to feel pain or even mood swings. And what do you think of the Internet and can it ever gain self-awareness? We will wait in the commentary for this article, as well as


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