Maf Lewis: Remember, Rome and I are hired to game such things as Google algorithm, and we have done this for worldwide brands, celebrities, musicians, and so forth. We have been in some very unique situations with extraordinary budgets, observing behaviors of the web that few academics ever would see.
Rome Viharo: So right now I just request that every — that everybody listen, Maf is actually going to explain now how to game Google, how search engine optimization works.
Maf Lewis: Definitively.
Rome Viharo: Definitively. But keep in mind Daniel Dennett’s explanation of consciousness when you hear how Maf explains how search engine optimization works.
Maf Lewis: So, my favorite metaphor these days is the viral phenomenon or internet celebrity. Google SEO is the relative social influence of fame on websites on the internet that win out in competition with rival websites for domination of search return activities in various ways. On the internet there is a certain turmoil going on — the pandemonium — and many different contentful websites vying for King of the Mountain, vying for first place on Google. And the ones that win, and by definition something always wins while you search, that is what you discover on Google. Therefore, is Google conscious?
Rome Viharo: And if Google was conscious of this, what would we be to Google? Would we become, then, spirits to Google? Some of us look like gods and elves and Elvises, and all these kinds of odd-looking things that have crept up into our collective human psyche. So at first, I looked at this idea of Google consciousness as really a snarky rebuttal to Daniel Dennett’s idea. And I put the hypothesis out on social networks that catered to these sorts of parties. And I, almost as a tease or taunt, I just kind of put the question right to them. If Daniel Dennett is correct about the brain producing consciousness, then ha ha ha ha, could we not expect the first result on Google to also be consciousness. And I didn’t expect anybody to take the idea seriously, and I was immediately surprised by the response. These academics and believers in what Daniel Dennett and a few others are saying, actually agreed. They were like, “Oh! Yes! We actually can start considering Google being conscious.”
So, apparently Google consciousness, the idea, the meme Google consciousness, already began to take life because these very discussions that we were having online began to go viral on sites, such as StumbleUpon and Reddit.
Maf Lewis: So, we have no idea of what consciousness is. And we’re really not sure which model of consciousness to favor. We just thought it was fun to create a model of consciousness based on social media. By this stage I was getting intrigued in how to chat with Neil, here, at TedxCardiff. Neil also became intrigued and invited us to present Google consciousness to you, right now.
Rome Viharo: And this was actually unbeknownst to me. These were just playful discussions. It wasn’t meant to be anything serious, and Maf went ahead and got us a Ted Talk. And I was like, “Maf, are you crazy? We don’t know what we’re talking about.” So we were, of course, thrilled by giving a Ted Talk. For people in social media this is like going to the Super Bowl. But, very intimidated by this very heavy subject matter, so we had to reach out for help.
So, we reached out to professor Francis Heylighen of the Vrije University of Brussels. And he is one of the primary founders of cybernetics. He has a PhD in mathematical physics. He is considered the godfather of the ‘global brain movement’ or the idea that the internet can, indeed, become sentient. There is talk amongst this crowd that due to advances in technology we can definitely begin to consider the internet becoming sentient and a global brain forming. And we can actually expect this a little sooner rather than later.
Now, what would this be? What effects would it have? Simply greater organization on the web that would, of course, trickle into society. He suggests that consciousness is actually a very simple process; it’s not complex at all. And it centers around selection. So consciousness simply is our brain’s act of choosing, which information to become aware of. He was quite encouraging and thought actually considering Google as a contender for being consciousness was a step in the right direction. So, Maf and I were very thrilled and a little relieved because we actually found that there is a little credibility to this idea.
Maf Lewis: He suggests that the internet can become sentient because the links of the semantic web could be turned into the equivalent of neural network connections in our brains, i.e. links with a variable strength that adapt their strength to experience.
Rome Viharo: Now, Maf and I, we believe that Google already counts for this. It already counts for what he is talking about right now. Especially by “stronger links” he means that links that get shared more or thumbed up or down. These behaviors are directly related to our user experience online. Google implements these things as well as sites, such as reddit, iReddit. Some redders out there, they would be laughing right now.
So, consider. We would be an intrinsic part of Google consciousness. Google is simply the thin silver lining between those who are seeking knowledge and those who are revealing knowledge. Google is simply the result of our collective user experience.