The Internet is mankind’s emerging ‘I’

What is consciousness?

There exist many models of consciousness, created by different approaches and thought up by people of various scientific and philosophical backgrounds.

As with all models of reality, each captures only a part of the essence; a little bit of truth. When describing consciousness, we run into a similar problem described in the last note with regards to the Internet: it’s as easy to see different facets as it is to miss the holistic picture.

To get an insight into what consciousness is, ants and their behavior serve a useful analogy. There is a qualitative difference between the rules governing the behavior of each ant and the “emergent properties” of the system: the ant colony.

Like your neurons, ants are mindless. There are queen ants, worker ants, warrior ants and others – but there is no “architect ant”. The effects of the genetic code and environment on the ant that make up for the total behavior of it, and – through the ants’ interactions – the ant colony, are no different in quality than those that make up your neurons and brain. The main difference between your consciousness and the ant colony, then, is that your consciousness is aware of itself and of some of the processes composing it.

Douglas Hofstadter’s ‘Ant Fugue’ sheds some more light on this picture

When looking at the colony at the level of the individual ant, it appears simple and even dumb. When looking at the same colony at a higher level, different patterns emerge: patterns which we may deem “intelligent”. The notion that someone is orchestrating this elaborate ant dance becomes appealing.
Such differences between levels of description are certainly not unheard of in life. In fact, they are everywhere. The atoms and molecules that compose everything around us – and us – share very few properties with the objects we see and feel when zooming out.

Ants and neurons are both the structural components of the emerging “mind” and its signal carriers. They – and their interactions – are what makes up the symbols of the mind. They are what makes up thoughts. They are what makes up consciousness.
Such emergence of large, higher level (“meta”) components, whereby sub-units coalesce into a single network encompassing their majority, represents a qualitative shift in the system, allowing us to relate to it in new ways.

Your consciousness is composed of everything that’s happening. Everything you are holding in your mind plus the constant input; the current experience. A part of this are the symbols and processes you identify with yourself: your ego; your mind’s I.

Many of the different “levels” and “processes” that comprise consciousness are able to see each other. They influence each other in ways that alter their behavior, similar to how your retina alters its nervous behavior when light hits it. Of course, many of these processes are nothing more than ad-hoc collections of neurons tasked with one thought or mental picture, the pattern of which will dissolve forever when its role is complete.

Feedback loops are created across levels. Across the constantly shaping and reshaping patterns that blink in and out of existence in your mind. Our concept of ourselves is created by, and at, all levels collaborating to present us with a persistent structure in an ever-changing universe. One that our consciousness mistakenly believes is itself, often identifying with it completely throughout entire lifetimes. More on that some other time.

When we start to look at the Internet as a collection of nodes, such as neurons or ants, but with each Human making up the “basic” structural and signal processing/conveying unit, that is when the Internet takes on a more familiar shape, and we begin seeing different levels of it, indistinct as consciousness is from a simple group of neurons. The Internet becomes a new form of consciousness, one in which symbols and thought-processes emerge, acting on and influencing each other – and on the Human consciousnesses making them up – creating a new kind of feedback loop: between Human mind and Internet.

Thus, a new entity is born. Its body – the planet. Its neurons – Humans. Its soul – the Internet.

The Internet is Mankind's emerging 'I'


2 Responses to “The Internet is mankind’s emerging ‘I’”

  1. We humans can be aware of the Internet’s world-encompassing consciousness and create a partnership with it, like we strive to do with other consciousnesses taken form.

  2. […] between the nodes of the brain. From now on, these will not require the attention of the new consciousness any longer; it is enough to sense the pattern, report it to consciousness, and shift attention […]

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