Sambo_Flux
Sambo_Flux

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Total posts: 833
Posted:Or, to paraphrase, will the internet (in time) ever become self aware? Before you all start with the Terminator 2 comparisons, read this article, it expands the theory better than I ever could:

http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/Papers/WWWSuperBRAIN.html
br>
I've already posted this idea in the "will humans ever evolve" thread, but I reckon it's such a fascinating idea it deserves it's own discussion.

Often science fiction (and this definitely sounds like it) is a precursor to science fact, and in my opinion can often inspire researchers to try and actualize ideas. For example Star-trek style teleportation: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/3811785.stm
although obviously research on this is at a relatively primitive stage.

I first came across the idea that the internet could theoretically function as a giant brain in the novel "Earth" by David Brin. It occured to me there might be an element of truth in it, and having an interest in complexity theory and hebbian networks (essentially networks that learn through pathway-reinforcement a-la Data from Star Trek), the idea sounded, well, sound. So I did some research, and unearthed the above article.

The main arguments against (at least from people I've had this discussion with) seem to be that as an artificial entity, the internet will never be truly self aware as it follows inherent rules for processing data, and can therefore only ever be a simulation of awareness. Soulless if you will. The other argument being that if each "neuron" in the network is a computer terminal connected to the internet, and our brains have a much higher number of neurons than there will ever be computer terminals.

My response to that would be that neurons in our brains don't think for themselves, and are only capable of responding to electrical impulses. A computer terminal on the other hand require a human user, which already has a fully developed sense of interaction with other users, thus exponentially increasing the overall amount of neurons on offer.

The fundamental idea of complexity theory is that systems get built on systems get built on systems, and I see no reason why the same can't be true of the internet. The only factor preventing this currently is the underlying protocols of the net, which don't include self-reinforcing network paths. There are a few self-learning sites out there ( http://www.gnod.net/
being my favourite), but if the idea is expanded to the entire internet, with every single user acting as a neuron in the global brain....

I absolutely love the idea. Go on, rip it to shreds... I'll be fascinated to hear what you think. After all, competition and cooperation (even on internet forums) are the basis for evolution...


ubbidea ubbidea ubbidea ubbidea

Sambo


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Patriarch917
Patriarch917

I make my own people.
Location: Nashville, Tennessee
Member Since: 2nd Oct 2005
Total posts: 607
Posted:Depending on how you define "self aware" all you need do to make a computer self aware is put an accurate description of itself on it's hard drive.

Alternatively, you could hook a streaming video camera up to it and point it back at the computer so the computer could see itself.


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faith enfire
faith enfire

wandering thru the woods of WI
Location: Wisconsin
Member Since: 27th Jan 2006
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Posted:smiley faces don't forget the smiley faces

Faith
Nay, whatever comes one hour was sunlit and the most high gods may not make boast of any better thing than to have watched that hour as it passed

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Sambo_Flux
Sambo_Flux

Introverted
Location: Norf London
Member Since: 14th Jun 2006
Total posts: 833
Posted:But it already has an accurate representation of itself on it's hard drive, otherwise it couldn't function. And it already knows what's onscreen, cause it put it there in the first place. wink



But good point about the definition of self awareness. What is self aware? Humans have a sense of self that a PC doesn't. Even if you point a webcam at a monitor, all you'll get is a feedback loop. If the computer is able to adapt what is on screen based on what's on the webcam according to it's own definition of what it wants to display on the other hand...



But then again, it has to define what it wants to display based on it's own evalutation of what it wants, just like humans, and it won't get that by merely pointing a webcam at a screen. wink



However, a single computer isn't really the point here. One computer acts as a single neuron in the entire network, and one neuron in our brains isn't self aware. The awareness arrises from the interaction between billions of neurons. A single PC is only a conduit between it's user and the whole network, much like a synapse in our brains.

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Sambo_Flux
Sambo_Flux

Introverted
Location: Norf London
Member Since: 14th Jun 2006
Total posts: 833
Posted:Smiley faces a go-go!

smile smile biggrin biggrin ubblol ubblol


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Sambo_Flux
Sambo_Flux

Introverted
Location: Norf London
Member Since: 14th Jun 2006
Total posts: 833
Posted:Pat, also in the case of a single computer, the user is self-aware, which provides the pre-requiste ability for interaction a PC wouldn't have on it's own.

Think of it like this: in terms of a brain anaolgy, the user is the neuron, the PC is the synapse. The whole system (ie the internet) is dependent on user interaction with other users.

smile smile


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Sethis
Sethis

Pooh-Bah
Location: York University
Member Since: 16th May 2005
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Posted:For it to be described as "self aware" then it needs to have a singular and united consciousness. This will not happen because it is entirely dependant on human input. There is no collective consciousness.

For the WWW to be self aware, it would need to be autonomous from human action. It isn't. So it isn't. smile


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Sambo_Flux
Sambo_Flux

Introverted
Location: Norf London
Member Since: 14th Jun 2006
Total posts: 833
Posted:I agree, at least at the moment. However, it depends how you believe consciousness arises. I would say our own consciousness is derived from the interaction between the millions of neurons in our brains, which in turn are triggered by external stimuli. The idea of a simgular unified consciousness is a bit of a misnomer.

In the global brain analogy, humans are the senses of the brain, providing the imput and responses, the external stimuli. You're quite right, humans are a pre-requisute for the system to work, but I don't think that means self awareness can't arise out of that. It wouldn't be consciousness in the same sense that we know it, it would be a level up from us, but we'd be part of it. smile


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Doc Lightning
Doc Lightning

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Posted:Asimov came up with such a system based on an integrated phone network in a short story. I think it was called "For whom the telephone bell tolls"



Anyway, I think that the idea of consciousness accidentally arising through a combination of computers is very unlikely. The human brain isn't an accidental collection of neuronal connections, but rather a finely tuned design, honed over literally hundreds of millions of years of trial-and-error. It's important to realize that consciousness is an evolutionary solution to a problem: how to manage the multiple complex sets of needs, drives, and tasks that face a complex animal. The idea to have a central The idea of such a set of connections being assembled by accident, even by intelligent beings, really strains credulity.

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-Mike )'(
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nearly_all_gone
nearly_all_gone

Pooh-Bah
Location: Southampton
Member Since: 3rd Aug 2004
Total posts: 1626
Posted:Free will?

wink biggrin


What a wonderful miracle if only we could look through each other's eyes for an instant.
Thoreau

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Sambo_Flux
Sambo_Flux

Introverted
Location: Norf London
Member Since: 14th Jun 2006
Total posts: 833
Posted:Doc: very good point. My counter-argument is this: whoever mentioned accidental? Physical evolution in the animal kindom (including ourselves) works on this basis, agreed, but there is nothing accidental about the internet. Biological evolution in the sense we've known up until now has had no intelligent input. Rather, it has been accidental, just as you correctly point out.

However, the internet has had the benefit of intelligent input from humans, meaning it has an instant jump on natural evolution in the form of human understading of learning networks.

I'm not suggesting the net in it's current form will, or ever could form it's own consiousness. The underlying architecture doesn't allow for learning capability. However, if a Hebbian netwok architecture was applied to the entire network, thus reinforcing the most used conections while sidelining those that don't really go anywhere, a model of a human brain could theoretically emerge. There really isn't that much difference from a human brain, other than the fact that there are less "neurons" in the network. That fact is meaningless on account of the fact that each neuron is an intelligent being in itself, thus increasing the amount of overall neurons by a factor of the average amount of neurons in the human brain.

Intelligence augmented evolution if you will... smile

Kevlarsoul: Where does free will come from? All your choices are based on your experience of life up until this point in time. Your upbringing, random encounters with people, what your friends say, everything contributes to what you decide to do. Every decision anyone ever makes has a precedent somewhere in their life. If the net ever developed the ability (by human design or otherwise) to be able to reach it's own conclusions about things, free will would be a natural result.

By the way, I love the Thoreau quote, that's genius! smile


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Doc Lightning
Doc Lightning

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Posted: Written by: SamboFlux


Doc: very good point. My counter-argument is this: whoever mentioned accidental? Physical evolution in the animal kindom (including ourselves) works on this basis, agreed, but there is nothing accidental about the internet. Biological evolution in the sense we've known up until now has had no intelligent input. Rather, it has been accidental, just as you correctly point out.

However, the internet has had the benefit of intelligent input from humans, meaning it has an instant jump on natural evolution in the form of human understading of learning networks. \



OK, but the net can't evolve. It can change, but evolution in the biological sense cannot happen to an individual. It has to be selected for by the most fit traits reproducing. The net doesn't reproduce.

And since we aren't even trying to make it intelligent, then any intelligence that would manifest from the net would be accidental, and that strikes me as very unlikely.


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Sambo_Flux
Sambo_Flux

Introverted
Location: Norf London
Member Since: 14th Jun 2006
Total posts: 833
Posted:I see your point. Maybe evolution was the wrong word to use. It wouldn't evolve, it would be designed. And I agree that intelligence couldn't arise out of the net in it's current form accidentally. However, research is being done into learning networks (see gnod), and there are several arguments in favour of implementing this sort of architecture, for example better search engines.

If you look on the GNOD music site, it asks for your 3 favourite bands, then gives you a list of other stuff you might like, based on other peoples responses, using exactly this type of network. It got every one of my favourite bands down, and put me on to a new bunch of bands that I now really like. Imagine this sort of thing scaled up to google type searches. So in theory the idea of this type of architecture could be very beneficial... and it would lay the groundwork. smile

Gnod rules... http://www.gnod.net
clap clap wow


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Doc Lightning
Doc Lightning

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Posted: Written by: SamboFlux


If you look on the GNOD music site, it asks for your 3 favourite bands, then gives you a list of other stuff you might like, based on other peoples responses, using exactly this type of network.



That's how google works.


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Sambo_Flux
Sambo_Flux

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Posted:Is it? Oops! I better do my research better... rolleyes smile Still, that means progress is being made. I think the guys who wrote the orginal paper explained the concept better than me!

http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/Papers/WWWSuperBRAIN.html


Section 2.1 of that paper refers to this exact idea...

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Doc Lightning
Doc Lightning

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Posted:You know, the paper loses me right at the beginning when it tries to model humanity as a super-organism.

ORGANISMS reproduce. They copy themselves. HUMANS reproduce. "HUMANITY" (whatever the hell that means) does not reproduce. It may spread, it may adapt, it may do many things that organisms do, but it doesn't reproduce. Not only doesn't it, but it can't. You can take two humans and make a third one (it's even easier with chavs than it is with humans). You can't take two "humanities" and make a third one.

Now, there are other situations where one might consider a collection of individuals to be a single "superorganism." Ant colonies and beehives are perfect examples. Why them and not us? Well, colonies do have many features of an organism. First, they reproduce. And the method by which they reproduce is reminiscent of the method by which organisms reproduce. Organisms often reproduce by producing a male reproductive cell (sperm) and a female reproductive cell (egg). Sperm fertilizes egg and produces a new organism.

MOST ants in a colony are not capable of reproducing. However, two specialized types of ant, the male and the queen, are. Each colony produces males and queens and they fly off and mate and then the queen forms a new colony. In some respects, worker ants (or drone bees) might not even be considered whole organisms because they can't reproduce. But they do take part in the reproductive process in that they support the queen and males, much in the same way that the brain supports the human reproductive process by making the male spout BS to the female about eternal love and what-not. wink (Of course, this raises an interesting philosophical/semantic question of whether a mule is an organism, in that case.)

But here's the thing: ant colonies don't evolve. Ants CAN evolve, but they evolve over time as new colonies are formed. Ants from one colony who are sensitive to a given insecticide will always be sensitive to that insecticide. A mutation in a germ cell and formation of a new colony of ants is necessary for the evolution of insecticide resistance. Humanity doesn't work that way because we didn't all spring from the same queen human.

The idea of humanity as a superorganism isn't that new. The "Gaia" hypothesis, which is also a load of BS from a biological standpoint, is similar.

Yes, humanity and all life on earth jointly can do some things that organisms can do, like adapting, utilizing energy, etc. But that does NOT make us a collective organism.

But if we are a collective organism, then humans are a malignant, metastasizing tumor.


-Mike )'(
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Sambo_Flux
Sambo_Flux

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Member Since: 14th Jun 2006
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Posted:Damn! I don't even know if I can regain any dignity at all after all my arguments being demolished that comprehensively! clap wink

*racks brains for something intelligent to say*

Ok. I'm going to attack the problem from a different angle. I agree with you that Gaia is, biologically speaking, balls. I also concur that humanity isn't an organism, and have actually used the cancer metaphor myself in previous discussions on this topic. So yes, at the moment, those arguments hold no water. However, the way I approach the concept is less from the evolution point of view and more from the complexity theory angle, ie self organizing adaptive systems. A system can be self organizing and adaptive, without being classified as alive. There are myriad examples of such systems, which arrive at extremely complex behaviours due to nothing more than the interaction between their component parts following very basic rules. As a basic example of such emergent behaviour, your ant colony analogy is perfect.

"The queen does not give direct orders and does not tell the ants what to do. Instead, each ant reacts to stimuli in the form of chemical scent from larvae, other ants, intruders, food and build up of waste, and leaves behind a chemical trail, which, in turn, provides a stimulus to other ants. Here each ant is an autonomous unit that reacts depending only on its local environment and the genetically encoded rules for its variety of ant. Despite the lack of centralized decision making, ant colonies exhibit complex behavior and have even been able to demonstrate the ability to solve geometric problems. For example, the ant colonies routinely find the maximum distance from all colony entrances to dispose of dead bodies" (under Emergence on Wikipedia).

Ok, so quoting from Wikipedia isn't the best research ever, but I am at work.....

The point is, in systems such as these, the interaction between these agents is what causes the behaviour of the system of a whole. There are a virtually limitless number of other examples. Termite mounds, the stock market arriving at equilibrium, a school of fish being attacked by dolphins forming a near perfect sphere etc.

I would say our own consciousness is such a construct. It's not centralized, it arises from the interaction between the neurons in our brains, each of which is merely responding to electrical impulses. Hence consciousness itself is an emergent behaviour. Granted, the human brain has evolved that way over millions of years, giving us inbuilt behaviours and instincts. However, in the case of the WWW, where each neuron is a human brain, acting on it's own and responding to different inpulses coming over the communication channels of the net, the degree of adaptability of the overall system is hugly increased. I don't think it's too big a step to argue that (at least theoretically) this could lead to a decentralized consciousness emerging from the interactions between humans.

Do I sound like a hippy? peace


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Patriarch917
Patriarch917

I make my own people.
Location: Nashville, Tennessee
Member Since: 2nd Oct 2005
Total posts: 607
Posted:Doc seems to be suggesting that the internet could never spontaneously generate a living organism. My image of the "organism" would be a self replicating peice of code, like a "worm." (It is my understanding that a "virus" spreads through users accidentally passing it along with something else, while a "worm" replicates without the need for user action.)

If an intelligent organism were to arise from a network of computers, it would seem to have to follow the same path as other life forms.

Thus, those who think that simple living organisms sprang from non-living material and eventually evolved into us, might also buy into the idea that a living peice of code might accidentally form on the internet.

To really arise independently, of course, it must form spontaneously by chance. Just as the first organism's DNA was coded without intelligent input, the code for this worm would have to arise without design... perhaps through lightning striking some computers on a network.

Of course, the process could get started by intelligent design input. In other words, some guy might write a program designed to live and spread across the internet. If this happened, perhaps random things might happen to it (or it might be designed to randomly mutate) to try to accomplish the objective it is designed for. Over time, a peice of code designed to mutate to improve itself through trial and error might end up better than it was before. For example, it could build an internal database of email addresses that worked based on coding that told it to randomly generate possible email addresses.

Whether either of these organisms could grow complex enough on our internet to one day become as intelligent as us seems unlikely, but it would make for good science fiction.

You seem to suggest the idea that the entire system will spring from nothing to consciouness in a single step. This would be a difficult feat for us to accomplish by design. It seems terribly unlikely to occur by accident in a single step.

Doc's post seems influenced by the principle of biogenesis: the principle that a living organism can only come from another living organism. This is understandable comming from a Doc, but you do not have to buy it. Reply by taking the stand that a large amount of complex stuff that is not an organism itself may give birth to an organism.


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Doc Lightning
Doc Lightning

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Location: San Francisco, CA, USA
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Posted: Written by: SamboFlux




"The queen does not give direct orders and does not tell the ants what to do. Instead, each ant reacts to stimuli in the form of chemical scent from larvae, other ants, intruders, food and build up of waste, and leaves behind a chemical trail, which, in turn, provides a stimulus to other ants. Here each ant is an autonomous unit that reacts depending only on its local environment and the genetically encoded rules for its variety of ant. Despite the lack of centralized decision making, ant colonies exhibit complex behavior and have even been able to demonstrate the ability to solve geometric problems. For example, the ant colonies routinely find the maximum distance from all colony entrances to dispose of dead bodies" (under Emergence on Wikipedia).



But the ant colony is, in many regards, an example of a "superorganism" in exactly the same sense that I'm rejecting the view of the WWW or "Gaia" or whatever as a "superorganism." An ant colony is a very good approximation of an organism scaled up so that ants act as cells. In the human body, there is no central organizing cell, either. Each cell acts in response to signals sent out by other cells, whether it's during development or the immune response to something or whatever. Ant colonies are SO highly specialized that they can properly be considered "superorganisms."

But this is not true of humans. Humans don't behave in rigid, stereotyped, and predictable ways. Humans aren't nearly as specialized as ants. And so as such we're much more reminiscent of a colony of organisms, like a coral, than a true organism.

 Written by:


The point is, in systems such as these, the interaction between these agents is what causes the behaviour of the system of a whole. There are a virtually limitless number of other examples. Termite mounds, the stock market arriving at equilibrium, a school of fish being attacked by dolphins forming a near perfect sphere etc.



Again, you're mixing your systems up. Termite mounds and beehives, great example of "super organisms." Schools of fish and stock market? "Emerging complexity." It depends on the specialization of the individual units. Stock brokers aren't that specialized. Nor are the fish in the school. But termites specialize in a method similar to how ants do. Same with bees.



I would say our own consciousness is such a construct. It's not centralized, it arises from the interaction between the neurons in our brains, each of which is merely responding to electrical impulses. Hence consciousness itself is an emergent behaviour. Granted, the human brain has evolved that way over millions of years, giving us inbuilt behaviours and instincts. However, in the case of the WWW, where each neuron is a human brain, acting on it's own and responding to different inpulses coming over the communication channels of the net, the degree of adaptability of the overall system is hugly increased. I don't think it's too big a step to argue that (at least theoretically) this could lead to a decentralized consciousness emerging from the interactions between humans.



Again, you have to look at specialization vs. emergence. Yes, in both cases there is emergent behavior of the system. But the brain has specialized neurons to do all sorts of things. And each neuron does really only one or two things. And it has a very limited set of behaviors. This is a feature of these large organized systems, that each component is limited in scope of behavior. When each component gets too complex, then there's too much variation in behavior and it averages out to gobbledeygook.

 Written by:

Do I sound like a hippy? peace



No, more like a doomsday cultist cum-technophile. wink ubblol


-Mike )'(
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Doc Lightning
Doc Lightning

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Posted: Written by: Patriarch917


Doc seems to be suggesting that the internet could never spontaneously generate a living organism. My image of the "organism" would be a self replicating peice of code, like a "worm." (It is my understanding that a "virus" spreads through users accidentally passing it along with something else, while a "worm" replicates without the need for user action.)



That's an interesting point of view. But in this case, the internet itself isn't the organism, rather it is an ecological niche in which a number of different types of organisms could develop and evolve. Unless, of course, an organism somehow managed to take over the entire 'net. But then there's the bit about the fact that as soon as that happened, we could all simply unplug the system, which would be terribly inconvenient and a big hassle, but it would end the problem really quickly. I don't think there would necessarily be a selective advantage to intelligence, and again, there's the question of reproduction.

 Written by:

Doc's post seems influenced by the principle of biogenesis: the principle that a living organism can only come from another living organism. This is understandable comming from a Doc, but you do not have to buy it. Reply by taking the stand that a large amount of complex stuff that is not an organism itself may give birth to an organism.



Yes, it *CAN* happen, and I'm not denying spontaneous biogenesis. What I am saying is that in order for EVOLUTION to happen, there has to be reproduction. That's a basic definition.


-Mike )'(
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Patriarch917
Patriarch917

I make my own people.
Location: Nashville, Tennessee
Member Since: 2nd Oct 2005
Total posts: 607
Posted:I see the big red button... I really want to push it... But I'm not going to...

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Doc Lightning
Doc Lightning

HOP Mad Doctor
Location: San Francisco, CA, USA
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Posted:*waves it tantalizingly in front of Patriarch*

-Mike )'(
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"A buckuht 'n a hooze!" -Valura

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Domino
UnNatural Scientist - Currently working on a Breville-legged monkey
Location: Bath Uni or Shrewsbury, UK
Member Since: 26th May 2004
Total posts: 757
Posted:Uh oh...


*puts a helmet on and hides under the table*


Give me a lever long enough and a place to stand and I can beat the world into submission.

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Sambo_Flux
Sambo_Flux

Introverted
Location: Norf London
Member Since: 14th Jun 2006
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Posted:Can I push it? Can I? Oh go on..... wink

Doc, how did you find out about my doomsday cult? Nobody's supposed to know about that, it's top secr..

*sounds of muffled stuggle*

Ahem, excuse me. Anyway, back to the topic, I hadn't thought of specialization, that does throw a spanner in the works a bit! And seeing the internet as an ecological niche is a really interesting viewpoint.

 Written by: Doc Lightning


This is a feature of these large organized systems, that each component is limited in scope of behavior. When each component gets too complex, then there's too much variation in behavior and it averages out to gobbledeygook.




That's another good point (guess that's why you're the doc and I'm a lowly musician)! For emergent behaviours to manifest, there needs to be the right balance of structure and fluidity in the interacting agents. Any system too chaotic remains that way, any system too rigid can't adapt, hence the term "the edge of chaos", describing the region where the balance is correct, and self-organization occurs. I guess the internet is too chaotic for this to happen.

Another point that just occured to me: could an entity develop conscious/self aware thought without having evolved naturally? I suppose Data from Star trek would be such an entity. Would it be true self awareness or just a simulation, if the entity could learn from the ground up and develop it's own awareness over time?

Hmmmm.... confused


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dream
dream

currently mending
Location: Bristol
Member Since: 15th Jul 2003
Total posts: 493
Posted:Any thoughts on Stuart Kauffman's work around self-organisation, complexity and chaos stemming from his research on Boolean Networks?

He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.

Nietzsche

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Patriarch917
Patriarch917

I make my own people.
Location: Nashville, Tennessee
Member Since: 2nd Oct 2005
Total posts: 607
Posted:Please allow me to ramble. While this post may be disjointed, I'm sure that many will be able to pick out a point here and there that they might like to discuss.



Ive had the time now to read the paper in your original post. It seems that they are not advocating any sort of high level functioning arising accidentally. Instead, their basic theme is how we can design the internet to work better, by modeling it off of a brain.



This is biomimicry, and tends to work really, really well. If you want to design a new invention, check nature to see if something has already been designed to do what you are trying to do, and copy it. If you want to know the most efficient way to build stackable containers with the highest volume using the least amount of material, look at the design of a honeycomb.



He essentially says that we can improve the way our internet functions by designing programs and systems that will allow it to mimic the way our brains are designed to handle information. This is a far cry from saying that such functions could arise by chance.



If he were saying that the internet might spontaneously develop these abilities, we would be right to simply laugh at him. The suggestion that a simple word processing program might arise by chance is so absurdly unlikely that we neednt consider it. The idea that a something resembling a global brain might arise by chance is an idea that might make for good science fiction, but little else.



I am optimistic about our ability to design things that are able to think in higher order ways. However, I dont think such a system will occur by chance. To many coincidences of hardware and software would be required.



Compare it, for the moment, to a DNA molecule. A DNA molecule consists of hardware, the actual atoms themselves, arranged in a pattern that encodes specific information the software.



For a DNA molecule to be created, you first need the right environment. (Apparently things like water or air tend to screw it up.)



Second, you need all of the parts. You must gather the appropriate atoms together in one place, and have the technology needed to hook those atoms together.



Finally, you need someone who can write in the language used by DNA. You could just hook the molecules up randomly, but this would be like writing a book by putting down random letters here and there. You will get something that looks like a book, but it would be meaningless nonsense.



As I recall, DNA can be thought of as having four letters, sentences, punctuation, grammar, etc. The details arent important for this illustration. The point is, you need not only the raw materials, but someone who can put those together in the proper way.



In the same way, we may have a huge amount of hardware in the form of computers and phonelines, but simply putting them all together is no more likely to make a brain than throwing a bunch of scrabble tiles on the floor would be likely to write an interesting bedtime story.



Our brains are not simply piles of grey matter, and they are not merely complex structures. Throwing bricks into a pile will create a complex structure, but not a well designed house. Our brains were built according to specific instructions written in our DNA. Similarly, a global brain must be designed. The article you posted suggested some general ways in which we could design such a brain.



My suggestion that a collection of computers might spontaneously generate a program that acts like a living organism was a joke. You might as well hope that our computers will start programming entertaining video games by themselves.



Doc is right when he points out that complex randomness tends to lead to entropy. Let a drop of food coloring fall into a glass of water, and your best chance at getting an interesting design is early on. Over time, the coloring will tend to spread evenly throughout the water. There is a chance that the random collisions of the molecules could arrange themselves in a sphere or a spiral at some point in the future, but it is also possible that you could suffocate while reading this because all of the oxygen in the room randomly congregated in one corner.



Without intelligent input, the internet will simply tend to distribute information uniformly everywhere. It will take the effort and planning to design systems that will direct information to the places it needs to. Build systems that are good enough, and over time we may create something that could be described as a global brain.



The stuff about consciousness and being self-aware is basically meaningless to me in this discussion. A computer is conscious when it is on, and is self-aware if is contains knowledge of its own existence. To me, these things are already present in our computers. I understand that these words are used in the Star-trek/Terminator sort of way to describe the idea of a computer that is able to process information in the way that a human does, but this is merely a level of degree.



Can a computer write a sonnet? Yes, if you tell it how. Our minds contain basic built in functions that were programmed by our creator (like the BIOS of a computer), and we can gain new abilities through new inputs from our environment (like software on a computer). Computers already act on the same basic principles as we do, but we are inferior designers.



A computer can do whatever we want it to, as long as we can design the proper hardware and figure out how to code the instructions. I do not believe there is any inherent physical limitation that would prevent us from building a computer that essentially duplicated a human brain. Our main limitation at this point is that we dont even understand how a human brain works.



In the sense of having knowledge about how it works, a computer is more self aware than we are.


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BEZERKER
BEZERKER

enthusiast

Member Since: 29th Apr 2001
Total posts: 237
Posted:My injection in to this interesting conversation is probably going to be more disjointed than your actually pretty good post Patriarch917....I just knocked off a 12 hour nightshift so derbal vyslexia may be frequent.

More than likely we will end up with face and voice recognition software so advanced that a camera and microphone pointed at us connected to our computer will both understand the language we are speaking in AS WELL AS the tone of voice and facial expressions we are displaying as a means for being able to execute commands of our bidding. Be it "Take me to this webpage." or "I'm looking for a restaurant in North Sydney that will let me BYO and has high chairs for kids."

It might also end up detecting agitation, happiness, sadness, etc......the differences between you and your wife, perhaps the kids of the house hold. I believe THIS kind of software will be developed at some point for sure. Could it become advanced enough to assist us making decisions on entertainment, and activities (or even financial decisions etc.) based on mood and previous input?

With that in mind Microscape or Netsoft will probably come out with interfaces that speak to us and register our emotions and requests.

As these programmes build databases of our tastes, responses, overall mood swings etc., could it not be conceivable that potentially it could become so reactive as to sense what choices we will make in the future and potentially act on it before hand? In the sense that maybe every Friday when you get home, the first thing you do is check the sports scores so without configuring/requesting it the software comes up with a relaxed "Hi BEZERKER, here's the latest basketball results. By the way a new game is ready to watch after you get changed and open a beer." based purely on the fact that it knows you have asked for this before and it is likely.

Not too different to loved one who knows you and has that beer waiting and says "The games on soon." That's a pretty basic example but I'm sure you see what I mean. The software/PC/house would start to behave in advanced ways *kind of* by choice. The bigger question is maybe how WE measure what is truly self aware and what constitutes free will and what is simply more advanced bells and whistles of the control we have today.

I guess this would mean that the internet itself wouldn't be starting to become 'self aware' of itself but your home PC/house could? I think that is more likely than the internet becoming self aware. I think specific networks, server arrays and online 'services' may but the the interweb itself won't.

Not unlike the Matrix movies (more specifically the kind of ideas discussed in the Animatrix) what would happen if we could get servers/software to get to work on self improving? How long would it take before they'd start outstripping us in efficiency of design and behaviour and starting to make it's/their own decisions? Would those decisions be harmful to us?

Meh, who knows. I'm definitely a paranoid turkey who buys in to concepts put forward by many a sci fi writer that one day, we may be the architects of the devices that will be our ultimate doom.

Cool topic. I don't come here often enough. Lot's of learned smarty pants who have a lot of head food to offer.

ubbloco


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Sambo_Flux
Sambo_Flux

Introverted
Location: Norf London
Member Since: 14th Jun 2006
Total posts: 833
Posted:OK, after a prologned abscence from this debate due to festival messyness, back to it!

 Written by: dream


Any thoughts on Stuart Kauffman's work around self-organisation, complexity and chaos stemming from his research on Boolean Networks?



I'm familiar with Stuart Kaufmann's work, in fact the reason I think the global brain idea is so good is based on his autocatalytic set theory for the origin of life itself. I've read "Complexity" and am about halfway through "At Home in the Universe", which expands this theory and explains what Prof. Kaufmann calls "Order for Free".

The central idea is that if a network of interconnected componenents hits a critical stage between order and chaos (usually termed "the edge of chaos"), a stunning level of order is the natural result. The system has to lie within certain parameters for this to work, otherwise the system is either too chaotic and will never settle to any form of order, or it is too ordered and will never develop the ability to adapt.

The examples I gave in my previous post (the stock market, our brains, our bodies, the economy etc) were all examples of systems which have the ability to self organise through being at this critical threshold at the edge of chaos, and have stabilised.

Whether the internet can quantifiably be said to lie within these parameters is debatable, but certainly protocols could be set up that enabled each connection in the network to act in this manner. The result would almost certainly be an emergent behaviour of some kind, which in turn would follow the pattern of self organization seen in so many other aspects of nature. Whether this would give rise to consciousness or not I'm not qualified enough to say, but it certainly puts an interesting spin on the whole thing! smile

As far as computers learning to read our emotions and pre-empt our actions, that is definitely feasible. I would say that would be the first step towards integrating the user to the level required for the global brain to function.

I don't think an individual computer could display true awareness, only an artificial approximation of it. After all, speech recognition software has developed to the point of fooling people into thinking they're talking to a real person, but that's just a very clever algorithm. I think if true consciousness were to arise, it would be the result of the interaction between the millions of computers in the network, and more specifically, the interactions of their human users.

My head is staring to hurt now, so I'll leave Doc to tear me to shreds again! wink


My Mind is a Ship
Emotions become the Waves
Soul is the Ocean

If a quizz is quizzical, what is a test?

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