Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The hive mind

In the same year that computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee had the notion of the worldwide web, 1988, cognitive scientist Marvin Minsky, the pioneer of Artificial Intelligence, published his book The Society of Mind. This persuasively viewed human intelligence as the result of a vast number of individually basic cognitive processes, a neurological collective with no central organising principle. 'What magical trick makes us intelligent?' Minsky asked. 'The trick is that there is no trick. The power of intelligence stems from our vast diversity, not from any single, perfect principle... Minds are what brains do.' The idea of the worldwide web was similar in kind. Its 'intelligence' would not be centrally generated, it would live in the simple links between its evolving pages, little neurological pathways; it was a 'hive mind'. Wikipedia is, so far, the best demonstration of that possibility.
The Observer on Wikipedia.


Apathy Jack said...

Yeah, that's all fine and dandy, and today everyone is talking about how swell Wikipedia is and gosh isn't it great to have all of those groupblogs and open source whateverthehell.

Tomorrow, Skynet wakes up, and we're all fucked.

I'll be in my bunker if anyone wants me...

Lyndon said...

Jack - Much as I hate to take that seriously, I always think like this when people worry: if something like the net were to spontaneously develop independent intelligence, it would surely be alien to one that evolved through the imperitives of living.

Specifically, I don't see why it would have the urge to do anything even if it could, or that it need, for example, have any attachment to its continued existence.

I once wrote an interactive essay somewhat related to the post. If you have a look hopefully you'll be able to access the text - it's not especially intuitive.