29 October 2005

A Must Read: "Turing's Castle," by George Dyson

George Dyson, described as a historian of the future, recently visited Google on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of John von Neumann's proposal for a digital computer. His reflections, published online in the current edition of Edge, is a brilliant reflection on both Google as "14th-century cathedral — not in the 14th century but in the 12th century, while it was being built. Everyone was busy carving one stone here and another stone there, with some invisible architect getting everything to fit." Moreover, it is an equally brilliant reflection on the relationships among human biologically-based cognition, the computer's algorithmically-founded digital logic that operates on "bits that represent structure (differences in space) and bits that represent sequence (differences in time)," and the emergence of H.G. Wells's vision of a "World Brain":
"The whole human memory can be, and probably in a short time will be, made accessible to every individual," wrote H. G. Wells in his 1938 prophecy World Brain. "This new all-human cerebrum need not be concentrated in any one single place. It can be reproduced exactly and fully, in Peru, China, Iceland, Central Africa, or wherever else seems to afford an insurance against danger and interruption. It can have at once, the concentration of a craniate animal and the diffused vitality of an amoeba." Wells foresaw not only the distributed intelligence of the World Wide Web, but the inevitability that this intelligence would coalesce, and that power, as well as knowledge, would fall under its domain. "In a universal organization and clarification of knowledge and ideas... in the evocation, that is, of what I have here called a World Brain... in that and in that alone, it is maintained, is there any clear hope of a really Competent Receiver for world affairs... We do not want dictators, we do not want oligarchic parties or class rule, we want a widespread world intelligence conscious of itself."
This is a marvellous reflection, and perhaps provides a different perspective to our journey through the third communications break boundary.[Technorati tags: | | | ]

1 comment:

gianluca said...

the risk of a dictatorship still exist though.
it may happen at a certain point that this interconnected world brain start managing your single mind.
that would be the biggest superego ever acting on earth.
no body to blame and the 'group' as the decision maker.
I don't know if we are doing anything to avoid this risk.