General, Research, Technology

Could the Internet be Conscious?

Can machines gain consciousness? Popular culture regularly draws humanoid robots that have gained consciousness or were deliberately endowed with one by a mad (or not so) scientist. So, a new series from the creator of "Alien" called "Raised by Wolves" tells the story of two androids sent to the exoplanet Kepler 22b to revive humanity. And in 1999, the world first saw The Matrix - now a cult film in which the protagonist fights against intelligent machines that defeated humanity and use people as "batteries". But what about smarter internet? Could this gigantic information-generating machine become conscious? But assuming the internet is sane, how do we know about it? Wired invites you to imagine the day when the Internet will become one, focused and aware of itself. What do you think it will be?

Conscious information environment - fiction or reality?


  • 1 What is the Internet?
  • 2 How the Internet works
  • 3 What is consciousness?
  • 4 Theory of reason

What is the Internet?

The Internet, sometimes referred to simply as the "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 directly communicate with users on other computers). The idea for the Internet was born in 1969 at the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) of the US government, and the first name for the Internet was ARPANet.

The original goal was tocreate a network that allows users of a research center at one university to "talk" with users at other universities. An unplanned advantage of the ARPANet project was the fact that since messages could be routed 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).

Today, the Internet is a social, cooperative and self-sufficient mechanism, accessible to hundreds of millions of people around the world.

How the Internet works

Physically, the Internet uses some of the commonresources of currently existing public telecommunication networks. The Internet can be thought of as having two main components: network protocols and hardware. Protocols such as the TCP / IP suite are sets of rules that devices must follow in order to perform tasks. Without this common set of rules, machines would not be able to communicate.

The Internet has made it possible for computers far apart to share information

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

In general, the Internet can be used tocommunication over long or short distances, exchange of information from anywhere in the world and instant access to information or to find answers to almost any question.

What is Consciousness?

The information age constantly reminds us ofmany gloomy scenarios that await humanity - floods and famine, the death of the Sun, nuclear weapons, and so on, so on, so on. Unsurprisingly, apart from the threats that already exist, it is not easy to think seriously about the threat of the Internet as it regained consciousness. And yet, there is a lot of discussion on this topic, most of which agree that machines will become self-aware after they become sufficiently complex. But isn't the Internet the most complex system in existence?

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And yet, the question comes to the fore, onwho are looking for the answer the best minds of mankind throughout its history - what is consciousness. As you know, it cannot be measured, weighed or handled. We can only observe consciousness directly in ourselves, but not in others. As you know, Alan Turing built his famous criterion for machine intelligence, the Turing test, based on the assumption that the mind is a black box. If a computer can convince us by its actions that it has human-grade intelligence, we must assume that it is capable of it.

Therefore, perhaps we should reformulatethe question is: does the Internet behave like a living being? Does he manifest the fruits of consciousness? Of course, there are times when it seems that this is so. Google can predict what you're going to type before you fully formulate a phrase. Facebook ads can intuitively tell a woman is pregnant before she tells her family and friends. At times like this, it is easy to conclude that you are in the presence of another mind - although given the human tendency to anthropomorphize, we should be careful with jumping to conclusions.

Artificial intelligence may well pose a serious threat to human civilization

Some of the most compelling evidenceInternet consciousness is perhaps difficult to perceive as 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 networks qualify as "emergent" behavior - phenomena that cannot be attributed to any one person, but refer to the system as a whole.

Moreover, two French cognitive psychologistshave gone so far as to argue that the Egyptian Revolution and the Arab Spring are evidence of a virtual collective consciousness, which they describe as "an 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 coherent, such as a single stream of mental experience - the ego or the self - which seems to be much larger than the sum of all Twitter posts in existence. Of course, some very intelligent people argue that our own identity is just an illusion. Intuition, as biologist Richard Dawkins once put it, is a unit, not a colony, and is not actually supported by the architecture of the brain, with its billions of tiny unconscious parts. But if the united mind is nothing more than an illusion, then where does it come from? And how do we know if other things have it too?

See also: What is consciousness and how did it appear?

Theory of Mind

As it turned out, one of the most convincingexamples of internet consciousness is associated with the theory of mind, which was developed to explain exactly this kind of combined experience. Integrated information theory, pioneered by Christoph Koch and Giulio Tononi, argues that consciousness arises from complex connections between different areas of the brain.

The human brain has a high degree ofintegration, which is why we perceive the world and mind as a whole. But in Feeling Life Itself, Koch argues that consciousness is a continuum stretching down the chain of being. Crows, jellyfish, bees, and perhaps even atoms and quarks have enough integration to warrant a tiny spark of consciousness. Koch believes the same criterion applies to cars. While he is skeptical that individual computers can evolve intelligence, the internet seems to meet his standards of consciousness:

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

The human brain, and even more so consciousness, is still poorly understood

It should be noted that Koch is not justThe "urban lunatic" is a chief research fellow at the Allen Brain Institute and is widely regarded as one of the leading figures in computational neuroscience. Nor does he speak of consciousness in that vague, New Age sense, which means everything and nothing. Koch suggested that internet consciousness can be subtle enough to feel pain or even mood swings. What do you think the Internet is and can it ever gain self-awareness? We will wait for the answer in the comments to this article, as well as in our Telegram chat.

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