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Could the Net Become Self-Aware?

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Free University of Brussels Professor Francis Heylighen

Free University of Brussels
Professor Francis Heylighen

The Internet is similar to the human brain in that it has a complex network of nodes for holding, processing, recalling, and transmitting information. The Web may also exhibit a level of consciousness. Francis Heylighen, an expert on consciousness and artificial intelligence at the Free University of Brussels in Belgium, describes consciousness as a system of mechanisms for improving information processing by adding more control over which of the brain's processes get the most resources. "Adding consciousness is more a matter of fine-tuning and increasing control . . . than a jump to a wholly different level," Heylighen says.

A self-aware Internet could constantly work to improve itself, by reorganizing and filling in the gaps in its own knowledge and abilities. Scientists could wake up the Internet by having it monitor its own knowledge gaps and work to address them.

"The outlook for humanity is probably better in the case that an emergent, coherent and purposeful Internet mind develops," adds Ben Goertzel of the Artificial General Intelligence Research Institute. Heylighen believes the Internet could be made more self-aware within a decade.

From New Scientist
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Abstracts Copyright © 2009 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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