November 13, 2012

Is the Internet conscious?

Now, my philosophy has no problem with imputing consciousness to non-carbon beings or creatures. (We would, of course, call anything with consciousness a "being" or a "creature" and not just an "it.")

Well, Massimo Pigliucci has a good discussion of claims about the consciousness, or not, of the Internet, here.

I agree with him that today's Internet is not conscious, but that, at some unknown date, it may become so. I also agree with what I take as his tacit thought that the "unknown date" isn't happening in the next few years. Sit down, Ray Kurzweil.

That said, especially on issues like this, Massimo gets some ... "interesting" comments and commenters. Baron and Dave S, definitely, on issues like this.

Per Baron and some of his interests in other blogs and such, I riff on Hanns Johst (not Hermann Göring): "When I hear the word 'noetic,' I reach for my revolver!"

My thought? Without going down Kurzweil's road, or Michio Kaku's, but with taking Lynn Margulis' idea of "symbiosis" beyond just carbon-based life (sorry, Massimo, you're being too restrictive there), we might talk about a symbiosis for a new type of consciousness at some point.

But, even that, rather than just talk about conscious humans being helped by the Internet, is some point away. And, if that symbiosis does become conscious, it will surely eliminate for now and beyond, the idea of the Internet having a free-standing, non-symbiotic consciousness.

That said, like SETI, the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence, our definition of "consciousness" may be too narrow. Or looking in the wrong corners.

But, the Internet is not currently conscious, or even close to it.

And, contra Baron and a few Jains, hammers sure as hell aren't conscious and never will be.

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