The Internet Has Feelings, Too—Maybe

Illustration for article titled The Internet Has Feelings, Too—Maybe

Over at the Atlantic, Steve Paulson has a fascinating interview with "romantic reductionist" neuroscientist Christof Koch, about the science of consciousness and the possibility of a sentient Internet.

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Riffing on the workings of the brain, Koch explains that it is not so much what the brain is made of, but the "relationship of that stuff to each other." The complicated relationship and activity of our neurons, it is not so dissimilar to the way the Internet works. Maybe.

The Internet now already has a couple of billion nodes. Each node is a computer. Each one of these computers contains a couple of billion transistors, so it is in principle possible that the complexity of the Internet is such that it feels like something to be conscious. I mean, that's what it would be if the Internet as a whole has consciousness. Depending on the exact state of the transistors in the Internet, it might feel sad one day and happy another day, or whatever the equivalent is in Internet space.

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This is only a small sample of the kinds of ideas Koch brings up for discussion. Definitely check out the entire interview in full here. Incredible stuff. [TheAtlantic]

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DISCUSSION

vp9000
Dr.Nemmo and his time-travelling submarine

Of course that the internet is conscious ! I ask a question and it answers back. There's input and there's output in an intelligent way. It has language. It doesn't have "moods" yet, but we have slow days and fast days, and it has diseases and solutions for it.

It feels the millions of characters and videos that people type and upload into it, and answers back by carrying those characters and videos from one place to the other. We see it as communication, the internet probably "sees" it as pure data. It lacks yet a function to interpret all that information as a map of our physical world, but it doesn't matter since it doesn't need to move to get the information. We bring it to it.

I like it.