Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Kevin Kelly about the web 2.0 and neural networking

In the following,I'm referring to and partly quoting from a passage in an article from the Wired, by Kevin Kelly.

In the 1990s, the big players were often talking about media convergence. They peddled the image of multiple kinds of signals entering our lives through one box - a box they hoped to control. By 2015 this image will be turned inside out. In reality, each device is a differently shaped window that peers into the global computer. Nothing converges. The Machine is an unbounded thing that will take a billion windows to glimpse even part of. It is what you'll see on the other side of any screen.

And who will write the software that makes this contraption useful and productive? We will. In fact, we're already doing it, each of us, every day. When we post and then tag pictures on the community photo album Flickr, we are teaching the Machine to give names to images. The thickening links between caption and picture form a neural net that can learn. Think of the 100 billion times humans click on a Web page as a way of teaching the Machine what we think is important. Each time we forge a link between words, we teach it an idea. Wikipedia encourages its citizen authors to link each fact in an article to a reference citation. Over time, a Wikipedia article becomes totally underlined in blue as ideas are cross-referenced. That massive cross-referencing is how brains think and remember. It is how neural nets answer questions. It is how our global skin of neurons will adapt autonomously and acquire a higher level of knowledge.

The good old Kevin Kelly has a very thought provoking article in the Wired

he human brain has no department full of programming cells that configure the mind. Rather, brain cells program themselves simply by being used. Likewise, our questions program the Machine to answer questions. We think we are merely wasting time when we surf mindlessly or blog an item, but each time we click a link we strengthen a node somewhere in the Web OS, thereby programming the Machine by using it.

What will most surprise us is how dependent we will be on what the Machine knows - about us and about what we want to know. We already find it easier to Google something a second or third time rather than remember it ourselves. The more we teach this megacomputer, the more it will assume responsibility for our knowing. It will become our memory. Then it will become our identity. In 2015 many people, when divorced from the Machine, won't feel like themselves - as if they'd had a lobotomy.

Legend has it that Ted Nelson invented Xanadu as a remedy for his poor memory and attention deficit disorder. In this light, the Web as memory bank should be no surprise. Still, the birth of a machine that subsumes all other machines so that in effect there is only one Machine, which penetrates our lives to such a degree that it becomes essential to our identity - this will be full of surprises. Especially since it is only the beginning.

There is only one time in the history of each planet when its inhabitants first wire up its innumerable parts to make one large Machine. Later that Machine may run faster, but there is only one time when it is born." Says Kelly.

You and I are alive at this moment.

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