Turn on, jack in, zone out – the coming of the global computer hive-mind

Metaverse cyberpunkKevin Kelly admits he’s not the first person to postulate that “a superorganism is emerging from the cloak of wires, radio waves, and electronic nodes wrapping the surface of our planet. He also reckons that cloud computing is amplifying the effect:

The majority of the content of the web is created within this one virtual computer. Links are programmed, clicks are chosen, files are moved and code is installed from the dispersed, extended cloud created by consumers and enterprise – the tons of smart phones, Macbooks, Blackberries, and workstations we work in front of.

Nova Spivak agrees – which makes sense, as he’s trying to build Web3.0, a.k.a. the Semantic Web – but suggests that we’ll avoid a Terminator-esque ending because human consciousness may be the key to the whole thing:

What all this means to me is that human beings may form an important and potentially irreplaceable part of the OM — the One Machine — the emerging global superorganism. In particular today the humans are still the most intelligent parts. But in the future when machine intelligence may exceed human intelligence a billionfold, humans may still be the only or at least most conscious parts of the system. Because of the uniquely human capacity for consciousness (actually, animals and insects are conscious too), I think we have an important role to play in the emerging superorganism. We are it’s awareness. We are who watches, feels, and knows what it is thinking and doing ultimately.

Maybe that sounds a little bit Mondo-2000 techno-hippie nineties-retro to you, hmmm? OMGZ maybe Spivak is a victim of terrible brain changes wrought by teh ev1lz of teh intarwubz!!!1 OH NOES:

Researchers have found that the brains of ‘digital natives’ are developing to deal more efficiently with searching and filtering large amounts of information, and making quick decisions. On the down side, that behaviour is changing the brain’s neural patterns impairing the social skills of heavy web users (what’s new?) and even triggering an increase in conditions like Attention Deficit Disorder.

Well, it looks like the internet must have eroded the fundamentals of cause and effect, too… who knew? I guess there’s no point in delaying the inevitable, so I’m off to get my cerebral jack fitted so I can transcend the limitations of this stupid meat prison. The future is within our grasp, brothers and sisters! [image by Katiya Rhode]

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