14 Mar 2009
A Net Becomes Conscious
Can the Internet become conscious and aware of itself? I dont’ think so. Can a net in general become conscious? Yes, certainly: the neural networks in our head do. So what is the difference? I think when a net becomes conscious of itself, it must match at least the following three conditions (see also here):
* distributed orchestration: even if it is huge, the whole net must be focussed on a single goal: controlling an AI. Although it is a large distributed system, the net must act in real-time as a unified entity, i.e. the whole net must be involved in the same operation, in reacting to a single stimulus in each moment
* embedded encapsulation: the net should not be conscious of itself (i.e. its parts) if it wants to become conscious of itself (i.e. the whole). Imagine an AI in a virtual world controlled by a large net running on a server farm. Any knowledge of the server farm or the operations in it would distract the AI and destroy the illusion of a central self. Life-forms have different degrees of consciousness, but no living animal is conscious of the operations on the single neuron level.
* grounded representation: the net must be complex enough to represent and map a whole world: it must be able to represent each situation described by the continuous set of inputs by some form of abstract structure or language. This language is used to extend the ordinary perceive-reason-act cycle: perceptions turn into beliefs and actions into intentions, until the belief in a single self emerges
P.S. theses conditions concern nets with ‘dumb’ and simple nodes. They are less important if they are applied to nets with complex nodes, i.e. to group of persons, because these nodes are already conscious of themselves. A group of people can develop some sort of consciousness (for example a religious group, a sport club, a party, ..). The “many belief they are one” phenomenon works best if the three conditions are fulfilled. This is the case in common rituals if the group acts as one (distributed orchestration), if the individual vanishes in the mass (embedded encapsulation), and if the group mind focusses on certain symbol and symbolic actions (grounded representation). The difference is that the conditions are not fulfilled normally, only at special occasions which occur regularly.