It's either my worst nightmare or the dawn of a wonderful new future, but scientists are claiming that it's very possible that the internet could become self-aware and know exactly what you're looking at.
The claim comes courtesy of New Scientist, as part of their "Unknown Internet" series of articles. Worryingly enough, they quote chairman of the Artificial General Intelligence Research InstituteBen Goertzel as suggesting that a self-aware internet may already be here:
The internet behaves a fair bit like a mind [already, i]t might already have a degree of consciousness... The outlook for humanity is probably better in the case that an emergent, coherent and purposeful internet mind develops.
Others, such as Francis Heylighen, research professor at the Free University of Brussels, don't share such optimism, but do think that we're not that far off from a conscious web, no matter how disappointing that may be:
Adding consciousness is more a matter of fine-tuning and increasing control... than a jump to a wholly different level [but w]e probably would not notice a whole lot of a difference, initially.
Personally, I'm already scared of the idea of an internet that complains that I spend too much time online looking and should get out and get some fresh air and sunlight.
Flickr image by whatterz.
Unknown internet 2: Could the net become self-aware? [New Scientist]