A concept came up today in my email discourse that I quoted in my last post. My friend asked me what I thought about this concern, which is quoted from a New York Review of Books article: “the digital cloud will merge or be merged — will ‘mash up’— to form a single, communal, autonomous intelligence.”
What follows was my response that I wrote to my friend. It is relevant in a major way to handschooling and the connection it provides to students to what is known by humankind, now networking in the digital cloud.
As to the cloud turning in a brain, I have never seen how folks make that leap. I have been challenged with the idea for decades. When I was a child, my science prodigy older brother assured me that robots would reproduce themselves and take us over. The AI people have been trying to make a fundamental step that has eluded them for a very long time. But I do not see how any of that is even an issue in relocation of “the sum total of what is known by humankind” (from a Webster’s definition of knowledge) into the open internet. That sum total can be expected to elegantly organize itself online as the network it is — rejecting junk and exhibiting idea patterns using the best nodes.
If you were to take the knowledge bits now embedded in every curriculum, textbook, library, specialized human brain — breaking everything into separate bits — and dumping them all into the open internet, what do you think would happen? Would they mash themselves together in weird ways and begin thinking on their own? How can anyone suppose something like that? There is no basis and no mechanism given.
What is absolutely amazing is that in the past 20 years, that dump has actually happened! The relocation continues to greater and greater levels of detail — such as now the contents of thousands of printed book flowing online as searchable hypertext. The contents of the enormous virtual dumping ground are not turning into a thinking giant. What are they doing? Ted Nelson put best: “Everything intertwingles.
The result is a complexity in which emergence causes the best bits of, for example, algebra to link to each other and rise to the top of search engines. Order out of chaos is what to expect from intertwingling — not autonomous intelligence. The junk falls away as networks of the best nodes link into meaningful patterns.
The blogosphere is a clear demonstration of these network vetting laws at work. There are millions upon millions of blogs, with only a few gorillas in any topic (note the long tail effect). The fact that this natural network vetting is not how educational resources are selected is scandalous. (Contrast ongoing Texas textbook wars).