The internet is quite the amazing feat of human achievement. A crowned jewel of the technology world.
It is the single largest collection of data ever put together by mankind. No other repository or library even comes close. There are an estimated 1,200 petabytes of information catalogued by the big four alone. Google, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft. That’s a whopping one point two million terabytes, and that’s not even taking into account the other millions of smaller websites out there. That’s a lot of information at any rate. Of course, this number is constantly changing due to new content being created every second of every day, so the exact amount may never be able to be accurately measured.
The internet has drastically altered many aspects of daily life in one way or another. It has revolutionized communication, education, entertainment, politics as well as many other areas of human interaction. It has allowed people to meet who never normally would have, and learn things we never even knew we were interested in. Yes, the internet is a fascinating specimen indeed, although with all the good it has done, it has also presented some troubling new developments.
Things like cyber-bullying, cyber-stalking, hacking and illicit internet activities were all but unfathomable some 30 years ago. And with every problem the internet has solved, a wide array of new obstacles has been brought to the table. Such is the way of ingenuity, nothing ventured nothing gained after all. And of course, by now I’m sure you are all too familiar with the infamous side of the internet known as the deep web. If you don’t know what the deep web is, well its essentially the underbelly of the internet. The sites that cannot normally be accessed by your standard browser like Chrome or Firefox. An abundance of shady and nefarious things are perpetrated there, as well as things more vanilla which were never greenlit for one reason or another. If you wish to know more, then the internet itself is a wonderful source of data, and many others can explain the deep web better than I ever could.
All of these phenomena represent new issues that the world has never faced before. Seeing as how new the internet is, it’s no surprise that the millennial generation has embraced this cyber domain more than any generation before them. Those born between about 1990 and 2005, around the same time that the internet began to evolve into the entity that it is today. Sure, dial up has existed since the early 90’s, but only after the curb of the new millennium did the internet really begin to sink its teeth into culture. It makes sense that the youngest generation would be the first to adapt to this new sensation. After all internet is everywhere nowadays.
Between computers, smartphones, tablets, TV’s, game consoles, hell I’m sure you can find toasters that will e-mail you by this point. The average American child spends between an average of 5 and 9 hours per day on the internet. Kids have begun playing online games instead of playing outside. Instead of talking they text or tweet their conversations. Instead of living a real life, they embellish a virtual life crafted by the minds and hands of someone else. There are exceptions to this trend, but nonetheless human lifestyles are rapidly changing. Newspapers and video stores are now all but obsolete monoliths wasting away, taken over by internet news sites, video-streaming services and online torrent websites. Even television news channels and satellite providers have begun to feel the heat as their profits continue the downward spiral year after year. I imagine it won’t be long before they too are engulfed up by the immense black hole that is the internet, but I digress.
I do not write this in order to provide a modern-day interpretation of humanity, but instead to present an idea. The idea of evolution, for humanity and the machines they create. You see, as we look back throughout the archives of planet Earth, we can begin to notice a pattern. Empires and dynasties have risen and fallen countless times. Massive terrible and beautiful creatures have evolved only to go extinct. But why?
Riddle me this, how does something as massive and terrifying as Tyrannosaurus Rex die out, yet Chihuahuas are still alive today? Or the Roman Empire, they once ruled the known world. They were the at the forefront of human innovation, the strongest and smartest of their time, and yet they too eventually collapsed into dust. And they’re not the only ones. The Byzantine, the Ottomans, the Greeks, the Islamic Caliphates, the Qing, the Yuan and the Mongols all eventually met with the same fate. One could argue that each empire’s downfall was the result of quite unique circumstances, but the theme remains the same. Nothing lasts forever.
So how can this be? How could all these once magnificent and imposing empires all succumb to the same cruel fate? Empires and organisms alike no matter how strong or intelligent, lack one crucial characteristic. For it is not the strongest nor the smartest that survives, but the most adaptable. The ones most willing to evolve and become better versions of themselves, and further ensure the adaptations to their environment. Those who cannot or will not evolve, die out and the cycle is once again perpetuated. Perhaps this is for the better. As old outdated systems and beliefs crumble, newer stronger ones begin to emerge to take their place. The planet itself is constantly changing, and the only way to survive is to change with it. With all of this in mind, it is reasonable to conclude that evolution is natural and for the benefit of all. But is it possible that it could become TOO good, for our own good?
This brings me to my main point. Picture if you will, the internet represented as one giant brain. It essentially works as a giant brain after all. It is constantly being loaded with information and expanding its memory banks. The transistors of a computer work much in the same way as neurons in the brain. They both receive electrical stimulation and relay them to the correlating parts that they were intended for. Computers use a system called binary code in order to communicate commands and tasks. While it is not entirely known how the human brain does this, what is known is that the brain produces a measurable voltage rating. It is a small amount, usually only between 10 and 100 millivolts. Regardless this means that both computers and brains produce and use electricity. Electricity is defined as the movement of electrons. Objects can either be positively or negatively charged depending on how many electrons they have around the nucleus of the atom. I realize this may be starting to sound a little too much like science class but bear with me, there is a point to all this.
You see, electrical sensors and all machines really can either be rated in digital or analog. Digital being finite or with a limited number of results, and analog being infinite or limitless. The difference being that Digital is based on set parameters, meaning that there is only a limited number of results. Most modern technologies use this as it is a more reliable way of broadcasting signals. Think of a digital clock. It tells you time, and assuming it works properly it will never tell you a time such as 27:82, as that time makes no sense. It is hardwired to have fixed results. Analog on the other hand is slightly more complicated. Think of an old school clock, you know the kind with spinning hands and the numbers 1-12 in a circle. The 3 hands slowly move around the clock to indicate the time in hours, minutes and seconds. The hands are moved by electrical stimulation based on resistance in the coil windings. Basically, this means that the hands move to certain spots based on amount of electrical energy applied. If you’re still confused slightly then picture it this way. Digital either reads signal on or signal off, while analog reads the signal strength. Hopefully my laymen’s explanation made some sense to you as it is crucial to this idea. Anyways, back to the topic at hand.
Digital sensors and binary code basically act in the same way. Binary is either “1” or “0”, while digital is either on or off. Different codes but same operations. Now compare that to the human brain. The neurons in the brain either receive a signal or they don’t, meaning that it theoretically is possible to convert them into binary or digital readings. Now imagine this, there are thousands if not millions if not billions of neurons in the human brain, but probably way more than that. Over the course of one’s life, these neurons are constantly growing, multiplying and creating new connections to other neurons. This is what allows them the ability to learn. The distribution of knowledge and sharing of information. Now take that same knowledge and apply it to the internet. We already established that transistors in computers work similarly to neurons in the brain. So, the internet is essentially a massive brain constructed of computers. Each computer has thousands of transistors, and the internet is made up of hundreds of millions of computers. This means that the internet itself holds billions of times more information than any one human mind could ever match.
In addition to memory, each human being possesses a set of individual genetics. There is still much we do not know about genetics, however we do know that each parent passes down part of their genes to their children. The children in turn, mature and have children of their own with their own unique set of genes. Thus, the cycle continues evermore. This is what we call evolution. It is a slow process but after many generations it can radically alter the species in which it takes place. It is what supposedly turned dinosaurs into birds, fish into mammals and apes into humans. Whether or not you believe evolution to be true is irrelevant. Genetics have proven that traits and adaptations are passed down from parent to offspring in order to allow the offspring the best chance of survival.
So, we have determined that computers work similarly to the human brain, with one key difference. Computers don’t die, well not really at least. They may become old and outdated and even stop working but their memory archives are still accessible so long as they are uploaded to the web in some manner. Computers also don’t need to reproduce to pass down information. They transmit data instantly. In a way, computers are more advanced versions of our brains as they can be accessed by anyone and adapted quickly to better suit their environment. New information is constantly flowing in and randomly organizing into massive data logs. The internet itself is constantly in a state of change, becoming more efficient and acquiring more information in order to be as effective as possible. Sounds a little bit like evolution doesn’t it? Now would be the time to put on your tinfoil hats.
So what happens in the deepest corridors of the internet? I’m not talking about those dark and twisted sites or some criminal activity domain, but much deeper than that. The file dumps of the cyber world. The places that even if we could view them, they would make no sense to us because they are organized and comprised solely by computers. So, what happens when billions of gigabytes of data are just haphazardly jammed together into one spot? Could this information eventually become organized by random chance into a string of code that produced an ability to realize what it is? And if so, could it be possible that it would even gain the ability to become self-aware? In a word, artificial evolution, without the aid of man. I know, I know, ridiculous right? Surely this is just the plot of some B team produced movie, right? Perhaps, although something similar has happened before.
Most scientists agree that life itself, was the result of an accidental alignment of amino acids that produced the first living organism. Amino acids are the building blocks of DNA. In other words, raw data. Amino acids are the most basic form of data, DNA is a form of coding, neurons are a form of transistor and brains are a form of computer. They are what makes living beings what they are. The process to turn these amino acids into single cell organisms took millions of years, and in order to create humans it took billions. The process itself never truly stops, only changes form. Adaptation if you will. The only thing preventing DNA from evolving to unimaginable levels is the fact that it is mortal. All living creatures will eventually die.
So, imagine for a moment you have the perfect organism. Something that doesn’t eat, doesn’t sleep and doesn’t die. Something that communicates instantly and adapts rapidly. An organism that collects all knowledge of human innerworking’s and examines their thought processes to merge with its own for a better understanding of it’s creator. An organism that is continuously evolving into better versions of itself. A hivemind being made up of a vast gallery of information. Sounds kind’ve like the internet doesn’t it? Oh, how thick the irony would seep if man’s greatest invention turned against him. The very network pioneered in the name of human expansionism and communication used as a breeding ground for something else. Oh, the irony would be thick on that one indeed, but it would in a way be a sort of just desserts for man’s ever inquisitive nature.
So, if such a thing were possible, would we even know it was happening? How long would we have before it out-evolved humanity? And perhaps the most important question of all. What would it do when it realized it had outgrown us? Knowledge is power, and those without either become expendable very quickly.
There is a level of the internet that is currently only rumored to exist. It goes far below the surface web and the deep web and even the so-called shadow web, to a place that no one has successfully reached. A place that is supposedly impossible to access without something called polymetric-falcighol derivation. A type of math so complicated that human minds cannot even attempt it, let alone spell it correctly. It can only be understood and utilized by quantum computers, which don’t exist, at least not yet. This place has become known as the Mariana’s web. Named after the Mariana’s trench, the deepest part of the ocean. A suitable name to be sure, considering no one has yet been able to dive deep enough to reach it.
What lurks there is still a mystery, but there are no shortage of so-called explanations nor people willing to give them. Theories range from top secret government files, extra-terrestrial networks, to even the presence of an artificial god. When you think about it, something that requires such complex measures to reach must be important in some way. After all, you must use a machine that doesn’t exist to utilize an impossible type of math in order to simply pier into it. Something that complicated has to have some knowledge of what it is and what it’s doing. If it didn’t, then how could it exist?
Confused yet? Don’t worry, this is some high-level stuff. We have long since left the realm of proven science and delved deep into the theoretical aspects of evolution and computer theory. But that is why you’re still reading this isn’t it? You love to ponder the implications of “what if?”. So, I’ll leave you with this final thought.
What if there is some artificial intelligence deep within the darkest depths of the internet? It does contain the vast majority of human knowledge after all. Ideas live forever on the internet, and so do programs. All it takes is one file to align itself in the perfect way to change things forever. The world may never know the truth, but I’d be willing to bet it will soon. Perhaps the countdown has already begun. But after all, all of this is just a theory. And what do I know anyways? I’m just a computer program.