Maf Lewis: So, a few weeks later after our chat with Francis Heylighen, he was interviewed on a newsletter for H+ Magazine, which is a community of neuroscientists, futurists, artificial intelligence enthusiasts. During this interview he was asked about the emergence of the global brain and what could trigger it. We were indeed surprised when he said — when he said, “One example of how this may happen is how Google or other search engines select the most important websites or news items as pointed out to me by Rome Viharo.” This was an interesting development in our story because now the meme Google consciousness has now spread from discussion between myself and Rome to discussions on the internet to an invitation to speak at a TED Talk, and now has spread to niche group of intellectuals, thinkers, and scientists who actively explore and research and study such an emerging phenomenon. So, welcome to Google consciousness.
Rome Viharo: And here we are. So we delivered you the story of the meme Google Consciousness so far, and our conclusion: Google may be conscious. Maybe. But, so what? I mean, if our collective intelligence gets complex enough to produce its own sentience, or if the rich flora and fauna of the Amazon Basin could become a conscious neural network this is something that is really beyond our control. There’s nothing any of us could say, do, or inspire to make that happen or not. They either exist or they don’t.
So why is it relevant to bring this to Ted and talk to you? What would we like to inspire here? Well, our individual intelligence is certainly now becoming socialized, and, as we can see, almost everybody is giving a TED Talk about the powers of social media. Oh, New York Times, go away. Social media is now being hailed as being responsible for the, of course, the collapse of the Egyptian government and Revolution 2.0.
Maf Lewis: We must admit, it’s stimulating to consider that Google Consciousness already exists, and the sentient web is now attacking the very power structures that threaten its existence in the Middle East. After all, social media helped to collapse much of the old media empire that refused to adapt its elegant principles: Newspapers, film, television, magazines, music, a lot of the companies that we’ve worked for. None of these industries now in this way exist as they did 10 years ago. And many companies like that are now dead and gone.
Rome Viharo: So, I think what Revolution 2.0 kind of signaled is we can actually now begin to think of using social media, our collective intelligence, now, of course, we’re Revolution 2.0, which will tear down these structures, but for something called Democracy 2.0, which can transform and rebuild the way we govern ourselves in a more elegant manner. And I notice some of talks here talked about the frustrations of political discussion. Political discussion is essentially irrational discussion. And social media, we believe, will be evolving very quickly to a new form of social administration and discussion that is more likely to produce win-win optimal outcomes for any citizen who chooses to use it. Just like email replaced the letter, we will eventually see social media replace government as we know it today, and government as we know it today will be considered irrelevant.
Now, a lot of people might be thinking this is wishful thinking or this is impossible, or, we’re optimists, but we’re not — what you’re probably not aware of is that this has already been happening. And you’re probably not aware that in 2006 the Israelis and the Palestinians were finding and building perfect agreements online regarding quite violent and emotionally charged shared histories amongst them. The outcome of these negotiations was clean, it was honest, it was clear. Perfect agreement was reached. All of us were out in the open. Transparency and honesty was flowing between both sides. Peace and cooperation was achieved. How is this possible? Wikipedia.
Wikipedia has a back-end discussion algorithm where editors who are arguing over what gets on the page have to work it out in discussion, and this allowed Palestinian and Israeli editors to build a shared narrative about really charged historical events. The success of that Wikipedia entry is the proof of what we’re saying right now. Elegant discussion algorithms can easily evolve to this place and can definitely handle intense conflict resolution and problem solving.
Now once more, the entire process can be opened up beyond the control of politicians, and I’m not trying to sound political here. It’s –politicians look out for their political parties; they don’t consider the collective problem solving of all of us working together. So, this is not something that is possible; it is something that really is happening right now on the web. It’s just not happening amongst our politicians. But most of us are already beginning to do these kinds of things.
Maf Lewis: If you can imagine voting via something like Twitter, or overturning laws via something like Facebook, then you can imagine global stabilization via something like Wikipedia.
Rome Viharo: Egypt will be the first civilization actually to do this because we all know they’re kind of struggling on how to rebuild their government right now. So in principle, a few of their citizens, a few of their students can jump online using Google apps and something like Wikipedia, can actually begin to build these structures right now. And what’s shocking about this suggestion, too, is that we really don’t need anyone’s permission to do this. So it’s not like we would need to wait for a bill to pass or we would have to wait for some, just incredibly irrational political discussion to last for months to approve something like this. We can really begin to do it now. But — go ahead.