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.
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.