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A Self-Aware Net?—That’s Terrifying

File:Robot dog.jpg

A recent issue of New Scientist magazine asks if the world wide web could ever become self-aware.

( Above–A robo-dog. Who will be master? People or machines?) 

(New Scientist has interesting content every week. While I do not subscribe, I buy the magazine on the newsstand about twice a month. Free content on the web is never free. Someone has to pay for it or it will go away.)   

Two experts of the subject say it is possible that the world wide web could become self-aware. One of these mad scientists even says that this is something we should work to encourage.

From the article— 

“In engineering terms, it is easy to see qualitative similarities between the human brain and the internet’s complex network of nodes, as they both hold, process, recall and transmit information. “The internet behaves a fair bit like a mind,” says Ben Goertzel, chair of the Artificial General Intelligence Research Institute,  Not that it will necessarily have the same kind of consciousness as humans: it is unlikely to be wondering who it is, for instance…. To Francis Heylighen, who studies consciousness and artificial intelligence at the Free University of Brussels in Belgium, consciousness is merely a system of mechanisms for making information processing more efficient by adding a level of control over which of the brain’s processes get the most resources. “Adding consciousness is more a matter of fine-tuning and increasing control… than a jump to a wholly different level,” Heylighen says…. How might this manifest itself? Heylighen speculates that it might turn the internet into a self-aware network that constantly strives to become better at what it does, reorganising itself and filling gaps in its own knowledge and abilities. If it is not already semiconscious, we could do various things to help wake it up, such as requiring the net to monitor its own knowledge gaps and do something about them. It shouldn’t be something to fear, says Goertzel: “The outlook for humanity is probably better in the case that an emergent, coherent and purposeful internet mind develops.”

Here is the link for Ben Goertzel. 

Here is the link for Francis Heylighen.

These people are out of their minds. If they want their toasters and clock radios killing them while they sleep I can’t do anything about that.  I can just tell you it is not the future I want.

Now I know I’m someone who has trouble with technology more advanced than a wind-up toy, but the idea that we might have an aware internet watching us and knowing us is crazy. I don’t have to know how to operate the cable remote to figure out that I don’t want a self-aware net following me around. 

( If the internet is already self-aware, I hope it realizes I’m being forced to write this by parasites in my brain and that I’m deeply sorry if I’ve offended the internet in any way.)

You can say the web will develop only a limited capacity for awareness or action, but how can you be sure?

A rival intelligence on Earth?

That will go really well.

May 12, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , ,


  1. This developing technology provokes a lot of ethical questions, as well as practical ones. My elementary and middle school robotics students are encouraged to explore these questions, rather than simply accept this “cool” progress at face value. This technology isn’t going away, and its foreseeable limitations are dependent upon a combination of practicality and ethical decision-making.

    Here are a couple of links to some “self-aware” robot experiments:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SkvpEfAPXn4&feature=related… Read More

    (By the way, this second link takes you to the TED (Technology Entertainment Design) website, where you can find inspiring and/or thought-provoking TED Talks (videos) of amazing artistic acts, provocative ideas for global change, and less frightening technological advances; some of which you may not agree with, but they are apt to at least stimulate your thoughts and questions…)

    Comment by Kim | May 13, 2009

  2. It gets worse/better depending on your view. I did a ‘Vanity Search’ today. http://websearch.about.com/od/enginesanddirectories/a/talkdigger.htm
    I was doing a Link check ( on the Links page of course ) and chasing down a Drupal tool – BozPage Rivers – which had not been found. So I chased down some associated links. Say ‘Hi’ !

    Comment by opit | May 13, 2009

  3. they will have them kill before they will have them save that is fact.

    Comment by bill brady | May 13, 2009

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