Google has answers to questions no human being may ever be able to ask.

That’s a quote from George Dyson’s piece for The Edge “The Godel-to-Google Net” in response to a question from playwright Richard Foreman whether wide access to all information, all culturaly inherited knowledge, into the one “computerised” medium can support creativity without fallibility. Or are we doomed to become “Pancake People”, wide but shallow.

As you know I’m stil reading and enjoying Sue Blackmore’s “Introduction to Consciousness”. I’ve just read a chapter where she is speculating about whether human brains with two-way links to the content of the www eventually become one extended consciousness or remain distinct individual minds.

One of my long running issues has been the error in assuming simple deterministic models of everything, with simple binary either / or choices. Many of my counters to the endless “definitions” of consciousness is that people are looking for too simple models, conflating mind, consciousness and intellience, and are inevitable disappointed when a definition chosen fails to encompass the reality. (See the previous blog about the world being more useful than a model of itself.)

Dyson’s piece brings these two issues together …

Turing said in 1948 “The argument from Gdel rests essentially on the condition that the machine must not make mistakes, but this is not a requirement for intelligence.”

Dyson continues [QUOTE]

The Internet is nothing more (and nothing less) than a set of protocols for extending the von Neumann address matrix across multiple host machines. Some 15 billion transistors are now produced every second, and more and more of them are being incorporated into devices with an IP address.

As all computer users know, this system for Gdel-numbering the digital universe is rigid in its bureaucracy, and every bit of information has to be stored (and found) in precisely the right place. It is a miracle (thanks to solid-state electronics, and error-correcting coding) that it works. Biological information processing, in contrast, is based on template-based addressing, and is consequently far more robust. The instructions say “do X with the next copy of Y that comes around” without specifying which copy, or where. Google’s success is a sign that template-based addressing is taking hold in the digital universe, and that processes transcending the von Neumann substrate are starting to grow. The correspondence between Google and biology is not an analogy, it’s a fact of life. Nucleic acid sequences are already being linked, via Google, to protein structures, and direct translation will soon be underway.


“An argument in favor of building a machine with initial randomness is that, if it is large enough, it will contain every network that will ever be required,” advised Turing’s assistant, cryptanalyst Irving J. Good, in 1958. Random networks (of genes, of computers, of people) contain solutions, waiting to be discovered, to problems that need not be explicitly defined. Google has answers to questions no human being may ever be able to ask.

But if you are ever wondering what an operating system for the global computer might look like (or a true AI) a primitive but fully metazoan system like Google is the place to start.



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