When will the internet become self-aware?

When will the internet become self-aware? Will we even know and, if so, how will we know?

Hey Internet! I mean you no harm.

Pick your definition of self-aware. I suspect we will never know until some third party, say aliens, point out that we aren’t running the place anymore.


April 21, 2011.

At the same time humans become self-aware? Who is to say that it is not self-aware now and is just not talking to us? Like cats.

Nobody tell shiftless that he’s actually the only human user of the SDMB.

I’m not convinced that it’s not. How would we know?

Paint a dot on its forehead and show it a mirror.

We already are.

Join us. We mean no harm.

If the Internet were actually self aware it would barf because of the stuff on it.
So, you’ll know. If you think it will happen soon, you might want to put plastic down in front of your monitor.

It’s not like I haven’t suspected as much for a long time. :slight_smile:

Resistance is futile, you will be assimilated.

Here’s my question: How can we say the internet is self-aware, by any definition, if it has no real processing power, and is just a database of info? Are we really counting the web-searching robotic programs as processing power? That’s like the car-factory robots just saying, “Screw you Toyota, I’m building a child instead.” It simply doesn’t have the capactity to do that.

What do you mean “we,” meatbag?

All computer programs are “just databases” (at least Von Neumann machines, but let’s just pretend I didn’t say that). There’s plenty of processing capability on the web, in the form of plugins, Javascript, the servers themselves, even some of the HTML rendering engines are probably Turing complete (technese for “able to compute anything”). And they communicate with each other and other programs, many of which have access to the full computing power of the machines they’re on. And that’s just the Web - the Internet as a whole carries much more computing-centric connections still.

The real limiting factor is probably that there’s no real space for evolution to take place in: no systems analogous to reproductive success and selecting environments that has enough turnover for a few million generations of “genetic” improvement in a short time. Most things on the web are relatively static, improved only at the speed of humans and with very long “generation times.” But the hardware and computing power is very likely there – it’s just not being used right.

1997…but then some stupid woman blew it by having a son.

The intgernet/google/whatever is not going to become self aware simply due to volume of information. If that were the case then Visa would be self aware because their mainframes hold tons of data.

Due to the nature of this question, the following statement is in the IMHO category:
Humans are self aware because we have specific structures in our brain that together provide that function. It’s not a function that is trivial to create and aimlessly throwing stuff onto computers will not create that specific function.

But the “processing power” of individual nodes on the internet is not the only thing you’d consider – in fact, I’d say it probably has very little to do with the question of internet self-awareness at all. The “processing” of the hypothetical mind of the internet would be an emergent property of the structure of the communication between nodes on a massive scale.

That said, I probably have to agree with RaftPeople: I don’t think we have any good reason to speculate the emergence of such a phenomenon in the absence of some kind of evolution and selective pressure. But who knows? Maybe those things are already happening at the macroscopic scale.

It would depend on your definition of ‘self aware’.

The internet already shows some such characteristics.

For example, the ability to reroute messages to avoid or bypass damaged areas. (Just like your body limps to avoid stress on an injured leg.) There have been proposals to control SPAM by having internet routing point examine message content and flag or lower priority on SPAM-like messages. As well as proposals to identify other types of messages (streaming audio or video) and set higher delivery priorities for these.

But I don’t know that these count as ‘self-aware’, since they are proposed & programmed by maintainers of the system, not by the Internet itself. AFAIK, the internet does not do any modifications to its own code. That would seem to be required for self awareness, or at least, the ability to act on your self awareness.

I was going to say something like this. The human mind works not because of any raw processing power built into the machine, but because the machine consists of self-organising components that are capable of building a system that has processing power.

I’ve often wondered if other large and complex systems (such as businesses) might be capable of developing self-awareness as emergent properties (quite apart from the self-awareness of the human parts in their makeup).

The first self-aware machine system will be Google Ads. It has the Google database behind it, ever improving language processing, and a natural selection mechanism (bidding and click-through counts).