Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Google Consciousness: The Antisocial Network

Graphic pushing the latest arrival in social networking: Google Plus.

When he sent me a Google Plus invitation last week, my friend C. jubilantly declared that Google has finally hit on a, "Facebook killer, Skype killer, Twitter killer." Everyone is stampeding off Facebook's guerilla marketing ghetto to join the new network. I'm always struck by the intense popular desire for things on the Internet that are practically impossible on the Internet: exclusivity, no ads, peace and quiet - and ironically - individuality through mass conformity.  The herd is running as fast as it can to the newest place on the Web where 'you can just be yourself,' a 'real individual,' again.  One more time!  That's its selling point - it's the anti-Facebook.

I have written about problems with Facebook (here, here and here).  Facebook annoyingly erodes natural memory, reviving acquaintances from decades ago, who under normal circumstances would have faded into obscurity; it attacks privacy behind a smiley face; its highly sophisticated and integrated marketing platforms and harvesters sell private data to God only knows whom; and its info leaks recently came home to the Mother Ship, when Harvard sociologists got into hot water for turning the entire Harvard class of 2009 into unwitting guinea pigs, making them them the unconsulted subjects of a university Facebook study.

Now, we have this shiny alternative. Paul Allen estimates that despite the fact that Google Plus launched on 28 June, is in beta 'field-testing' status, and you can only get into it by invitation, it will have 20 million users by this weekend:
According to independent analysis done by Paul Allen, founder of Ancestry.com, Google's new social network Google Plus will hit 20 million users by this weekend. And he estimates that the current user base has already surpassed the 10 million mark. What's most surprising about Google Plus, however, is how quickly it has grown. The size of the user base has increased by 350% in just 6 days, says Allen.
Six days! Imagine if people mobilized like that to do something good in this world.  The exponential growth of the Internet is hard to grasp.  I was going to wait to put up this post until later this month, but by that point, Google Plus will probably be at 1 billion users and this will be old news.  Some social media strategists think that this rapid network growth will open the doorway to new utopias (see below the jump).

"The Antisocial Network" (12 July 2011) © Jonathan Rosenberg. Image Source: Scenes from a Multiverse.

Why do people assume that Google is more benevolent than Facebook? It's known that Google is using its search engines to study the interface between humans and machines as a template for artificial intelligence. It also tailors its search results according to who its algorithms think you are (see here). The blogger at Radio Free Penzance, who likes to keep an eye on these matters, has posted a TED talk that suggests that Google's search algorithm may already be sentient. What?

Video Source: TED.

Caption for the above video: In this talk, Social Media strategists and developers Rome Viharo and Maf Lewis reveal the likelihood that Google's search algorithm may already be sentient, what it means, and what it represents as a metaphor for collective problem solving. Mentioned are Egypt 2.0, Revolution 2.0, Guillermo Arevalo, Francois Demange, Daniel Dennet, Francis Heylighen, The Shipibo of Peru and Ayahuasca. Wikileaks, Anonymous, Facebook, Wikipedia, 4chan, Reddit, Stumbleupon, Google, Rene Descartes, Dualism, Global Brain movement.

There is even a non-Google-affiliated blog called Google Consciousness, which follows the path of the surprising evolution of a lowly, 10-year-old search engine into a community, then into a sentient machine intelligence, motivated by human users.  I'm amazed by the naïveté, arrogance and blindness of these algorithm-scribbling virtual reality speculators, who think they can trace and control the ghost in the machine.  They are so certain that this evolution will lead organically to peace, cooperation, consensus and democracy.  They think that algorithms will produce what they call a "shared narrative about historical events"!

I wonder how long it will be before one of these projects goes viral in a way that is beyond the control of its project developer (an event I anticipated here), when the popular consciousness of every user online is mobilized - and manifest.  A sentient interface, operating beyond all our previous conceptions of trade, law and governance, beyond anything world history has ever seen, with potential power that will make Julian Assange and co. look like blind amateurs.  One of these days, if we don't watch it, a social network will spontaneously form a government. Imagine what and who could rise to the top in that melée to form a new order.  Imagine the concepts this interface would generate of community, friendship, sex, entertainment, economics, war - and divinity?

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  1. Google+, Facebook and all the like are beneficial. In a way they are the acting hand of the natural selection on people who have a lot of time to spend in front of a PC (oh no iPad) but not enough will to renounce the psychological advantages of virtual experience in favor of real life.
    Short of society moving to the next step in the weirdness scale and having a sudden breakthrough in human cloning, people spending so much time with their processors are statistically less likely to live offspring. Sad but purifying.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Anon. I don't think that people think that when they engage in social networking they are actually removing themselves from the gene pool. Food for thought - (as I step away from the computer and turn it off ...).