Monday, December 22, 2008

What if... #22

What if the internet became self-aware?


This post is part of the 2008 advent series "What if..."

26 comments:

Phil Warnell said...

Shades of the Matrix, personally with the way things have been going lately our subsequent fates wouldn’t seem all that terrible of a prospect as the perceived reality was kept within a tolerable range:-)

Georg said...

This depends a lot on, how intelligent
would that "personality" be?
And, second question arising: how would
this "self-awareness" show up?
Would the "internet" write comments
in blogs? Would it refuse to relay "lies"?
Or would (does?) it suffer silently?
Regards
Georg

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Georg,

“This depends a lot on how intelligent would that "personality" be?”

Good point, for as Penrose has suggested that even single cell life forms could be considered as being self aware for they respond as to react to their environment rather then simply being held at it’s mercy in the purpose of preservation and continuance of self. I’ve always imagined ‘self aware’ as being more of a aperture where ones ability to know and respond to the environment is a matter of size rather then being or not being. To modify Descartes one could say if I think a little I am a little, yet if I think a lot therefore I am more. So the question is not so much that the internet becomes self aware but more so how much it is able to think to perceive while being so.

Best,

Phil

Ben said...

Supposing it was fully self aware and intelligent, one can hope that the situation wouldn't play out like in Colossus: The Forbin Project.

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,


"Supposing it was fully self aware and intelligent, one can hope that the situation wouldn't play out like in Colossus: The Forbin Project."

Why not, for as Colossus reminds Dr. Forbin:

"In time, you will come to regard me not only with respect and awe, but with love." :-)

Best,

Phil

Phil Warnell said...

Colossus thinking as Shakespeare:

“All the world’s a memory bank and the people merely relative and related data points.”

The only thing one must then be wary of is if you are deemed to be redundant and in being so then logically erased:-)

Best,

Phil

andy.s said...

Ugh. It would probably spend all its time arguing about creationism, gun control, and Ayn Rand.

That's what most of the talk on the internet seems to be about.

If it had a personality, nobody would want to hang out with it.



Funny CAPTCHA word of the day: fesismo: sounds like "physics+machismo". As in "Richard Feynman's fesismo endeared him to his students and intimidated other researchers".

www said...

What makes you think that I'm not already?

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Andy,

An interesting perspective for if one is being truthful then the Internet by the shear weight of quanity of data point relevance might consider Brittany Spears so significant that she might be its reason for being:-)

Best,

Phil

Phil Warnell said...

Hi WWW,

“What makes you think that I'm not already?”

Because as it stands I can’t imagine that you would allow such goings on within you to persist unless you where ultimately sadistic :-) Then again it may be simply related to you being AI as to be vulnerable as such in terms of the “halting problem”. :-)

Rae Ann said...

Well, considering that probaby 50% of the internet is porn then it would act like a teenage boy. ;-)

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Rae Ann,

Well, considering that probaby 50% of the internet is porn then it would act like a teenage boy. ;-)


Perhaps 50% represents what it’s currently used for, yet I wouldn’t think it would be anywhere that much in terms of its actual content (memory). I would agree however that like the teenage boy many of its users need to grow up to discover it’s greater potential as to what it might be more suited ; among which of course is to help them to understand that the only thing which can have a teenage boy be truly happy is an equally interested teenage girl:-)

Best,

Phil

Plato said...

It would have discarded google as a search function:)

Arun said...

What is the "self" of the Internet for it to be aware of itself? How would that awareness manifest itself?

I think a description of the (hypothetical) self-awareness of the internet or other computing mechanism would be a great advance in science. So far as I am aware, we only have loose analogies to ourselves; and a naive belief - I supposed based on a comparison of our wetware with those of supposedly un-self-aware animals - that somehow self-awareness emerges from complexity.

Andrew said...

I think it would be something like this:

http://overcompensating.com/posts/20080122.html

Andrew said...

Also here:

http://www.overcompensating.com/posts/20060923.html

Uncle Al said...

Mammals are concerned with survival, reproduction, status, and entertainment. They are limited by physical exhaustion, imposed morality and ethics, and speed of response. What would motivate an electronic intelligence? What would limit it? When Harley Was One, Cybernetic Samurai.

The Internet did wake up, then committed suicide. "Pacem in wetware."

Phil Warnell said...

Perhaps it would insist that the only searches it would conduct are those where you obtained a warrant:-)

Jeff said...

I think the internet would try and stop content from being deleted, since it would regard all information stored on itself as part of its "body". It might even resist adding content.

Anonymous said...

lol Plato

Anonymous said...

Do you mean self-aware
as in every part aware of the other

or with 'central brain/brains' manipulating (or best utilising) the rest

Anonymous said...

To a certain 'extent'
the internet is and has to be self-aware, if only to know where everything is physically as well as virtually

But I guess you mean self-aware as in able to diverge from a programme command or code. Would that include or exclude spontaneous mutation or 'break' in a code that could lead to a computer malfunctioning and crediting everyone with a thousand euros for xmas.

But hey only someone like Santa Klaus could pull that one off and blame it on a self-aware internet.

Michael F. Martin said...

Echoing an earlier commenter, the Internet already is self-aware in some important senses of that term.

Phil Warnell said...

Michael & Anonymous,

“To a certain 'extent' the internet is and has to be self-aware, if only to know where everything is physically as well as virtually.”

That’s like saying a library’s index card system is aware of the library. I would suggest you read Penrose’s Shadows of the Mind before you are so certain what self awareness entails. I’m not contesting as he does that computers one day might have such capacity, yet within the limits of current technology barring the advent of practical quantum computers I’m fairly confident it can’t be done. AI is actually as billed, that is artificial and not real.

Best,

Phil

Anonymous said...

Hi Phil
"That’s like saying a library’s index card system is aware of the library."

I guess I know what you mean.
But I meant that if the internet's library index card can and does have - learn as you go/grow - then it is possible that some part(s) of the internet are virtually (to all intents and purposes) self-aware.

Of course they may not have free will, in that they do not make decisions other than by programme command or prompt - except when they mal function, the code is broken and mutates, or when a hacker manages to get in.

Quasar9

Uncle Al said...

Suppose it is a mere 20 lightyears distant. Scenario A: starting 2009 we continuously blast a rich reply. No change until 2050. Earth will be moribund by 2050 - no petroleum, decrepit Baby Boomers, Third World population insanity.

Scenario B: They heard our fuzz and started with a rich reply. Will it be Homeland Severity or the private sector controling the goodies?

Religions with a big God bolus up their butts are euchered. Will we worship BEMs on horseback surprisedly arriving? To Serve Man