Could highly-connected networks (such as the Internet) become conscious as some have speculated? In what ways might it makes sense to talk about an emerging Internet consciousness? What form would it take, and how would we know when it is manifest? Are there any ethical implications that arise from the possibility that we are collectively contributing to the creation of an artificially conscious networked entity?
These were some the questions that were tackled at Are Networks (Becoming) Conscious?, one of four workshops at the ColLaboratoire Summer School for Master’s and early-stage PhD students, held at Plymouth University in August, 2016. Our workshop was attended by a group of postgraduate students from psychology, neuroscience, new media art, philosophy, computer science, and education. Throughout the course of the week, we grappled with thorny questions around terminological and epistemological differences that underscore any inter-/multi-/trans-disciplinary engagement. But by taking the approach that the workshop was a “temporary autonomous zone” (a concept that Roger Malina brought to our attention in his keynote talk) in which ideas were allowed to thrive, our group arrived at a model of distributed cognition and a playful, exploratory piece of software that might serve as an example of how intelligence (and possibly consciousness) might evolve within the Internet. We presented these at the end of the week to the ColLaboratoire participants.
This site documents the work we made during that workshop. We hope that it will continue to spur discussion on the subject!
ColLaboratoire is a project of the CogNovo programme and was funded by the Marie Curie Initial Training Network, FP7-PEOPLE-2013-ITN, grant number 604764.