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Link: rationallyspeaking.blogspot.de/2012/11/consciousness-and-internet.html

In the interview, Koch continued: “certainly by any measure [the Internet is] a very, very complex system. Could it be conscious? In principle, yes it can.” And, pray, which principle would that be? I have started to note that a number of people prone to speculations at the border between science and science fiction, or between science and metaphysics, are quick to invoke the “in principle” argument. When pressed, though, they do not seem to be able to articulate exactly which principle they are referring to. Rather, it seems that the phrase is meant to indicate something along the lines of “I can’t think of a reason why not,” which at best is an argument from incredulity.


As it turns out, cosmologist Sean Carroll was the most reasonable of the bunch interviewed by Falk at Slate. As he put it: “There’s nothing stopping the Internet from having the computational capacity of a conscious brain, but that’s a long way from actually being conscious … Real brains have undergone millions of generations of natural selection to get where they are. I don’t see anything analogous that would be coaxing the Internet into consciousness. … I don’t think it’s at all likely.”

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Here is a, in retrospect, hilarious article from the Newsweek magazine issue dated Feb 27, 1995.

After two decades online, I’m perplexed. It’s not that I haven’t had a gas of a good time on the Internet. I’ve met great people and even caught a hacker or two. But today, I’m uneasy about this most trendy and oversold community. Visionaries see a future of telecommuting workers, interactive libraries and multimedia classrooms. They speak of electronic town meetings and virtual communities. Commerce and business will shift from offices and malls to networks and modems. And the freedom of digital networks will make government more democratic.

Baloney. Do our computer pundits lack all common sense? The truth in no online database will replace your daily newspaper, no CD-ROM can take the place of a competent teacher and no computer network will change the way government works.

How about electronic publishing? Try reading a book on disc. At best, it’s an unpleasant chore: the myopic glow of a clunky computer replaces the friendly pages of a book. And you can’t tote that laptop to the beach. Yet Nicholas Negroponte, director of the MIT Media Lab, predicts that we’ll soon buy books and newspapers straight over the Intenet. Uh, sure.

Logged onto the World Wide Web, I hunt for the date of the Battle of Trafalgar. Hundreds of files show up, and it takes 15 minutes to unravel them–one’s a biography written by an eighth grader, the second is a computer game that doesn’t work and the third is an image of a London monument. None answers my question, and my search is periodically interrupted by messages like, “Too many connectios, try again later.”

Then there are those pushing computers into schools(…)–but think of your own experience: can you recall even one educational filmstrip of decades past?

Then there’s cyberbusiness. We’re promised instant catalog shopping–just point and click for great deals. We’ll order airline tickets over the network, make restaurant reservations and negotiate sales contracts. Stores will become obselete. So how come my local mall does more business in an afternoon than the entire Internet handles in a month?

And who’d prefer cybersex to the real thing?

Read the whole piece, many more precious insights can be found in it:

via @KnightMare

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