So it doesn't matter so much what the neurons are made of. It's how they're organized and wired together.
Correct. Unless you believe in some magic substance attached to our brain that exudes consciousness, which certainly no scientist believes, then what
matters is not the stuff the brain is made of, but the relationship of that stuff to each other. It's the fact that you have these neurons and they
interact in very complicated ways. In principle, if you could replicate that interaction, let's say in silicon on a computer, you would get the same
phenomena, including consciousness.
Are you saying the Internet could become conscious, or maybe already is conscious?
That's possible. It's a working hypothesis that comes out of artificial intelligence. It doesn't matter so much that you're made out of neurons and bones
and muscles. Obviously, if we lose neurons in a stroke or in a degenerative disease like Alzheimer's, we lose consciousness. But in principle, what matters
for consciousness is the fact that you have these incredibly complicated little machines, these little switching devices called nerve cells and synapses,
and they're wired together in amazingly complicated ways. The Internet now already has a couple of billion nodes. Each node is a computer. Each one of
these computers contains a couple of billion transistors, so it is in principle possible that the complexity of the Internet is such that it feels like
something to be conscious. I mean, that's what it would be if the Internet as a whole has consciousness. Depending on the exact state of the transistors in
the Internet, it might feel sad one day and happy another day, or whatever the equivalent is in Internet space.
You're serious about using these words? The Internet could feel sad or happy?
What I'm serious about is that the Internet, in principle, could have conscious states. Now, do these conscious states express happiness? Do they express
pain? Pleasure? Anger? Red? Blue? That really depends on the exact kind of relationship between the transistors, the nodes, the computers. It's more
difficult to ascertain what exactly it feels. But there's no question that in principle it could feel something.
Would humans recognize that certain parts of the Internet are conscious? Or is that beyond our understanding?
That's an excellent question. If we had a theory of consciousness, we could analyze it and say yes, this entity, this simulacrum, is conscious. Or because
it displays independent behavior. At some point, suddenly it develops some autonomous behavior that nobody programmed into it, right? Then, people would
go, "Whoa! What just happened here?" It just sort of self-organized in some really weird way. It wasn't a bug. It wasn't a virus. It wasn't a botnet that
was paid for by some nefarious organization. It did it by itself. If this autonomous behavior happens on a regular basis, then I think many people would
say, yeah, I guess it's alive in some sense, and it may have conscious sensation.