The Search for Internet Intelligence

While detecting an ET intelligence would overturn terrestrial religions forever, detecting a global internet intelligence would have wide-ranging ramifications for society. We'd have daily contact with an AI much larger than us, one that presumably would be steadily increasing in power every 18 months (Moore's Law). And this AI is embedded in the central nervous system of our global economy and culture. It's what we are connected to 24/7. It is also increasingly acts as our exo-brain. If it has its own degree of intelligence, we should want to know.


It turns out that SETI is not really looking for any signs of intelligence. It is primarily seeking anomalous, non-random signals of any sort. The kind that would stand out against a background of repetitious and random noise. You might say it is looking any signs of life, intelligent or not. In fact despite their name, SETI says in their mission statement that the organization "seeks evidence of life in the universe by looking for some signature of its technology." When scanning the inert cosmos, any disequilibrial and life-like pattern is extraordinary, and big news. But because the internet carries humanity's messages, life-like signals are the norm.

The two great challenges for a search for internet intelligence are:

1) Filtering out the ordinary massive background signals of human intelligence.

2) Defining what intelligence is, so we know when we find it.

Of the two, the second is much more difficult. And we can't really solve the first unless we solve the second.

Intelligence may be the wrong term, or a very distracting term. For some reason we are only able to imagine human-like intelligence. We tend to describe an animal intelligence in the degrees to which it is like, or not like, human intelligence. But we shouldn’t restrict our ken to the kinds of intelligence we’re used to seeing in human or animal species because a net intelligence would be a very un-animal quality. After all, the net has no direct need to reproduce or to fight for energy resources as every animal does. And it has not been carved into shape by eons of ancestors who have fought pitilessly for survival. There's no reason why an instinct to survive would be a necessary condition for an intelligent system. All intelligent biocreatures seem to have this drive, but of course this is only because we never get to see those species that did not. For all we know, an intelligent internet might want to be turned off, or be entirely neutral to the idea of ending. For these reasons, the search for resource-gathering might also not be a key sign. At the heart of all skynet scenarios is the assumption that hunger and survival are key elements to the net’s behavior; this assumption, unsupported as it is by the net’s evolutionary history, might miss the target. And if the net does has emergent survival properties, they may be difficult for us to recognize.


It is unlikely that any kind of search at the present time will find an internet intelligence, but it is very likely that this off-beat quest will produce useful benefits in other fields. First, pushing towards a useable definition of intelligence can be useful for general cognitive studies. Similarly, specifying evidence for an internet intelligence will continue, and perhaps extend, the long arguments about the nature of artificial minds. Finally, the tools necessary for combing the internet for telltale signals of mindfulness could produce useful innovations in global telecommunications.


Notes on the search for a global intelligence in the Word Wide Web.

Folksonomies: intelligence emergence seti turing test

/science/computer science/artificial intelligence (0.651017)
/technology and computing (0.369358)
/health and fitness/aging (0.293272)

internet intelligence (0.906325 (negative:-0.415396)), Internet Intelligence Notes (0.662671 (negative:-0.521455)), global internet intelligence (0.659789 (negative:-0.493248)), Word Wide Web (0.584740 (negative:-0.521455)), massive background signals (0.556192 (negative:-0.469168)), human intelligence (0.547379 (negative:-0.469168)), emergent survival properties (0.511664 (neutral:0.000000)), general cognitive studies (0.510620 (neutral:0.000000)), global intelligence (0.469513 (negative:-0.521455)), human-like intelligence (0.447298 (neutral:0.000000)), life-like signals (0.432169 (positive:0.599597)), animal intelligence (0.425503 (negative:-0.275447)), non-random signals (0.424377 (negative:-0.523018)), wide-ranging ramifications (0.420348 (negative:-0.493248)), daily contact (0.408139 (neutral:0.000000)), telltale signals (0.404122 (positive:0.341874)), intelligent internet (0.403624 (positive:0.354059)), global economy (0.403060 (neutral:0.000000)), terrestrial religions (0.402856 (negative:-0.402427)), life-like pattern (0.400404 (positive:0.388246)), inert cosmos (0.391989 (negative:-0.460013)), mission statement (0.387921 (neutral:0.000000)), big news (0.386260 (neutral:0.000000)), intelligent biocreatures (0.383787 (positive:0.317246)), random noise (0.379088 (negative:-0.830802)), great challenges (0.378688 (negative:-0.293812)), wrong term (0.376465 (negative:-0.632646)), un-animal quality (0.376363 (positive:0.371088)), skynet scenarios (0.375702 (positive:0.377387)), direct need (0.375565 (negative:-0.436085))

AI:Organization (0.828562 (neutral:0.000000)), global economy:FieldTerminology (0.573720 (neutral:0.000000)), Moore:Person (0.553786 (neutral:0.000000)), nervous system:FieldTerminology (0.533465 (neutral:0.000000)), skynet:Company (0.520269 (positive:0.377386)), 18 months:Quantity (0.520269 (neutral:0.000000))

Intelligence (0.966775): dbpedia | freebase
Nervous system (0.788256): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Problem solving (0.753904): dbpedia | freebase
Mammal (0.712705): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Central nervous system (0.699157): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Intelligence quotient (0.677979): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc

 The Search for Internet Intelligence
Electronic/World Wide Web>Blog:  Kelly, Kevin (19 April 2011), The Search for Internet Intelligence, Retrieved on 2013-11-15
  • Source Material []
  • Folksonomies: intelligence emergence


    15 NOV 2013

     Emergent Intelligence on the World Wide Web

    Notes on the possibility that the Internet could produce intelligence, and the question of how we could detect it.