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Consciousness


jonnobody
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3 hours ago, studiot said:

I thought joigus commanded us to think deep thoughts.

I actually was thinking about deep physics. I have a feeling that whatever consciousness is about, it must be deeply ingrained in something physical that divides systems and their local environments according to information. And information is physical, as we now realise.

The tree in the forest question, the 'is my blue the same as your blue' question, the question 'is a kelp colony aware', the question of time, that seems to be challenged by solving a dynamical problem and plotting it à la Descartes... All these are questions that don't require a high degree of sophistication, and seem to be standing in the face of all scientific analysis so far, and are very ancient.

57 minutes ago, TheVat said:

IIT (see the Koch interview posted earlier) does sort of "grade" consciousness.....

 

This is very interesting, and it does seem to be going in that direction. I should've paid more attention to those paragraphs. But by that token, if,

 

1 hour ago, TheVat said:

“Integrated information” is a mathematical measure quantifying how much any system, no matter how simple or how complex, is determined by its past state and how much it can influence its future, its intrinsic causal power. Any system that has this potential is conscious. The larger the system’s integrated information, referred to by the Greek letter phi (pronounced fi), the more conscious the system is.

Then human kind as a whole is superconscious, so to speak. And the internet too. Does that make sense? Then, how does it feel to be that superconscience now?

I'm missing the part that --for lack of better words-- I will express as,

 

           'that integrated projection of sensorial data into one consistent flow of here and now these things going on'.

 

No matter how much it takes a particular conscious being to forget: I do believe a person suffering from Alzheimer does experience that same projection, even if they forget a couple of seconds later. Imagine this taken to the extreme: No consistency at all, and yet I'm here and now, being alive.

 

1 hour ago, Prometheus said:

Try here. They measured EEG responses to trans-cranial magnetic stimulation of the cortex from which they derive a 'consciousness' score. Once you have a score you could grade it. Only in humans here, but no theoretical reason they couldn't try it on an animal with a similar cerebral anatomy to us (a few practical ones though). Presumably cats would have a lower PCI, or algorithmic complexity, unless it turns out that its something analogous to chromosomes and more algorithmic complexity does not necessarily equate to 'more' conscious.  Maybe not jellyfish or ants though, but i guess it's a start.

Thanks a lot! I'm very positive about these attempts. I think they're kind of converging towards necessary --if not sufficient-- criteria. I'm certainly no expert; not even close. But somehow I have this feeling that something very primal about the whole thing escapes us. Me too, of course. I'll be following closely, because I'm learning a lot.

1 hour ago, Peterkin said:

As for grading consciousness, I'm all for it. That is to say, I'm sure it comes in degrees as well as flavours, so that a classification could be done.  Unfortunately, it would be done by humans who [naturally] assume they're at the tippy-top and all the other kinds of consciousness must be rated on a scale of pond-slime = 0 ______  H.sapiens = 100. I don't think that would work. 

Agreed. I think most of us agree on this. And that we all are quite ready to accept other varieties, or as you say, flavours, of awareness, consciousness, etc.

@beecee was very honest in trying to address the OP's concerns. Unfortunately that would lead us back to downright dualism. I have enough problems detecting sneaking dualism. :D 

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1 hour ago, joigus said:

I actually was thinking about deep physics. I have a feeling that whatever consciousness is about, it must be deeply ingrained in something physical that divides systems and their local environments according to information. And information is physical, as we now realise.

The tree in the forest question, the 'is my blue the same as your blue' question, the question 'is a kelp colony aware', the question of time, that seems to be challenged by solving a dynamical problem and plotting it à la Descartes... All these are questions that don't require a high degree of sophistication, and seem to be standing in the face of all scientific analysis so far, and are very ancient.

I would have said it is slightly (perhaps a great deal) more than that.
Taking your system and its environment and the dividing boundary, awareness, consciousness whatever i expect to involve some sort af back and fore, to and fro process across that boundary.
So information passes across the boundary, is examined on one side, causes information to flow back and so on in some sort of regenerative process.

 

The blue tree, kelp and so on are simple clear cut questions, to simple to be up to the job IMHO.

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22 minutes ago, studiot said:

The blue tree, kelp and so on are simple clear cut questions, to simple to be up to the job IMHO.

That still puzzles the simple minds (like mine). I'll take a back sit, for the time being, and learn more. @MigL, make some room for me, please.

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3 hours ago, joigus said:

Then human kind as a whole is superconscious, so to speak. And the internet too. Does that make sense?

Not quite. I think the operative term is "integrated". We're not; we're helter-skelter components. If we were telepathic, we might evolve fully  integrated species-consciousness - either as a containing structure to our individual consciousnesses or a subsuming one.  If we had the chemical perception of ants, our communities (nations? tribes?) would be far more integrated than we are now, but not sufficiently to form a single conscious unit. A world government with plebiscite decision-making capacity on every issue would be a step in the direction of integration, whereas, every rattling sabre, missile, battleship and spy satellite is a dis-connection. 

The internet is a different matter. Though there is no upper limit on the scale, allowing at least some of our creations to be rated hyper-conscious, beyond we are able to experience, it would be difficult to devise a measuring mechanism.  We can't measure its  consciousness or its capability and can guess at its potential. (I'll predict one thing: if it comes aware, it comes insane.) 

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I emphasis the importance of these features because:

  • Awareness - A critical feature of consciousness. Any definition, argument, theory, or something like that has to include this one or else none can be understood or defined without awareness to do so.
  • Interfacing - A point between awareness and body, which an interfacing process occurs in order for an awareness to be aware of and perform expression.
  • Expression - Behaviours that demonstrate or indicate interfacing and awareness.

There could be varying degrees in each of these features.

I have refined the diagram to include three possibilities:

  • Top-to-bottom Consciousness: Machine-alike or engineering components-alike.
  • Bottom-to-Top Consciousness: Emergence.
  • Altogether is Consciousness: Similar to Bottom to up but without an indication of direction (e.g. up or down, just as it is)

TBH, I do not know for certain as which one of these possibility is correct or not, only offer these as possibilities.

refined-consciousness_diagram_by-tyler-s_2021.png

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18 hours ago, joigus said:

Then human kind as a whole is superconscious, so to speak. And the internet too. Does that make sense? Then, how does it feel to be that superconscience now?

Isn't that the Gaia hypothesis?

10 hours ago, tylers100 said:

Awareness - A critical feature of consciousness. Any definition, argument, theory, or something like that has to include this one or else none can be understood or defined without awareness to do so.

How do you measure the awareness of a bee?

To understand a consciousness, you have to walk a mile in their shoe's; all I know for sure is, I'm conscious and I'm aware of that and my mate agrees... 😉 

Edited by dimreepr
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15 hours ago, Peterkin said:

Not quite. I think the operative term is "integrated". We're not; we're helter-skelter components. If we were telepathic, we might evolve fully  integrated species-consciousness - either as a containing structure to our individual consciousnesses or a subsuming one. 

 

27 minutes ago, dimreepr said:

Isn't that the Gaia hypothesis?

I think you both overlooked my words:

19 hours ago, joigus said:

But by that token, if,

 

'Then human kind as a whole is superconscious, so to speak. And the internet too' is not my stance* here. My point is Koch's criterion is kind of a loose-ended one to me. Any higher-level structure could, under right auxiliary assumptions, be considered a meta-consciousness by that token. Not that I consider it an absurd idea --if cells could think they would be none the wiser about what's going on at the tissue --> organ --> organism levels.

According to Daniel Dennett, neurons are not very much collaborative agents. So it's not exactly coordination between them, as much as a process which is a competition of sorts. But I may have misunderstood his claims.

But my main point has been missed: What exactly is the mechanism by virtue of which firing of neurons in different areas of the brain result in this overall one-faced projection, so to speak, that any conscious being experiences as the 'illusion' --if you will-- of I am here and now?

It's obvious that neither the growth of my nails, nor the activity of my smooth muscles makes it to my state of awareness. So which exactly are those signals and how do they coalesce into that unmistakable impression of here's 'I' here and now?

* I apologise. I should've said: 'Then human kind as a whole would be superconscious, so to speak. And the internet too.'

Edited by joigus
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30 minutes ago, joigus said:

 

I think you both overlooked my words:

'Then human kind as a whole is superconscious, so to speak. And the internet too' is not my stance* here. My point is Koch's criterion is kind of a loose-ended one to me. Any higher-level structure could, under right auxiliary assumptions, be considered a meta-consciousness by that token. Not that I consider it an absurd idea --if cells could think they would be none the wiser about what's going on at the tissue --> organ --> organism levels.

According to Daniel Dennett, neurons are not very much collaborative agents. So it's not exactly coordination between them, as much as a process which is a competition of sorts. But I may have misunderstood his claims.

But my main point has been missed: What exactly is the mechanism by virtue of which firing of neurons in different areas of the brain result in this overall one-faced projection, so to speak, that any conscious being experiences as the 'illusion' --if you will-- of I am here and now?

It's obvious that neither the growth of my nails, nor the activity of my smooth muscles makes it to my state of awareness. So which exactly are those signals and how do they coalesce into that unmistakable impression of here's 'I' here and now?

* I apologise. I should've said: 'Then human kind as a whole would be superconscious, so to speak. And the internet too.'

What consciousness seeks it's own end? 

It can be argued, that currently the internet does...

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45 minutes ago, dimreepr said:

What consciousness seeks it's own end? 

 

The question of what consciousness is hasn't been settled IMO. I would assume that such a question is even farther from being settled.

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2 hours ago, dimreepr said:

How do you measure the awareness of a bee?

To understand a consciousness, you have to walk a mile in their shoe's; all I know for sure is, I'm conscious and I'm aware of that and my mate agrees... 😉 

I do not know except observe its behaviours and infer assumptions, although that is probably non-scientific thing to do since science makes no assumption as impressed upon on me.

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2 hours ago, joigus said:

'Then human kind as a whole is superconscious, so to speak. And the internet too' is not my stance* here. My point is Koch's criterion is kind of a loose-ended one to me. Any higher-level structure could, under right auxiliary assumptions, be considered a meta-consciousness by that token.

I don't think it was intended as a token, nor as an over-arching criterion. Of course it's loose-ended: there is so much we don't know, or don't know yet, or can't know, or don't know how to begin finding out, or don't even we know we ought to try to find out. I believe it's a hypothesis, not an assertion.

And, even very loosely, human integration doesn't remotely qualify for consideration, because it doesn't come close to the " right auxiliary assumptions".

2 hours ago, joigus said:

But my main point has been missed: What exactly is the mechanism by virtue of which firing of neurons in different areas of the brain result in this overall one-faced projection, so to speak, that any conscious being experiences as the 'illusion' --if you will-- of I am here and now?

It's obvious that neither the growth of my nails, nor the activity of my smooth muscles makes it to my state of awareness. So which exactly are those signals and how do they coalesce into that unmistakable impression of here's 'I' here and now?

The mechanism is the corpus callosum. https://qbi.uq.edu.au/brain/brain-anatomy/corpus-callosum . I like to picture the I/me/self as a little switchboard-operator in charge of that mess of wiring. I'm sure that's wrong, but like Maxwell's demon, the image is hard to relinquish.

That sounds pretty damn collaborative and integrated to me. You don't need to be cognizant of every autonomous function in your body in order to be aware of the organism in which they place. You do become aware of these functions when your nails need trimming and your peristaltic rhythm is out of sync.; otherwise, they can carry on without conscious interference: a well-run factory doesn't require micromanagement. Nor do need to be apprised of the geologic and meteorologic cause of changes to the environment in order to respond to the environment.

3 hours ago, joigus said:

I should've said: 'Then human kind as a whole would be superconscious, so to speak. And the internet too.'

Yes, and I attempted to fill in the criteria that would have to be met for the human race to achieve super- or meta-consciousness. How that consciousness would behave, we can no more understand than the individual neuron understands the need to step up adrenaline production at a particular moment.

The internet is a different matter. God couldn't even understand what that new consciousness wanted.

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2 hours ago, Peterkin said:

The mechanism is the corpus callosum. https://qbi.uq.edu.au/brain/brain-anatomy/corpus-callosum . I like to picture the I/me/self as a little switchboard-operator in charge of that mess of wiring. I'm sure that's wrong, but like Maxwell's demon, the image is hard to relinquish.

 

But the corpus callosum is an area of the brain, not a mechanism, or process. Expressed like that, it's very much like Descartes saying the ghost in the machine is in the pineal gland. I think it's more along the lines of what @exchemist said:

On 7/15/2021 at 11:05 AM, exchemist said:

It seems to me that consciousness is not an entity at all but an activity: the activity of the brain.

(My emphasis.)

or certain patterns of activity. I think you agree with this, AAMOF, if I understood you correctly before.

2 hours ago, Peterkin said:

That sounds pretty damn collaborative and integrated to me. You don't need to be cognizant of every autonomous function in your body in order to be aware of the organism in which they place. You do become aware of these functions when your nails need trimming and your peristaltic rhythm is out of sync.; otherwise, they can carry on without conscious interference: a well-run factory doesn't require micromanagement. Nor do need to be apprised of the geologic and meteorologic cause of changes to the environment in order to respond to the environment.

One would think so. But this is, e.g., what Daniel Dennett has to say about that 'integrated collaboration' (I have set the video to the time when the relevant comments are made):

 

Quote

Even the best cognitive architectures that have been developed so far in cognitive science have tended to be too disciplined, too neat; do not have the kind of unruly competition that I think now is essential in an actual organic brain; especially the human brain. They're too bureaucratic, you might say"

Daniel Dennett

In fact, I think it's plausible that apparently synchronized macro-behaviours generally arise from much more uncoordinated (unruly) micro-behaviours. This is what Dennett seems to be suggesting here, and what happens in other emergent patterns we know of. A simple example --perhaps too simple to be susceptible to extrapolate to something as complex as the human brain-- is the pressure of a gas. The extreme regularity comes from a jumble of disconnected jerks in the molecules.

Edit:

On 7/16/2021 at 6:51 PM, Peterkin said:

It's much easier to think about consciousness as a process than as a thing; it's something neural networks do, rather than something they have. Like vision or language, we tend to use the short-hand description of a complex activity as a single noun, because don't have collective verbs. 

Actually, you said it here, @Peterkin. That's why I got confused when you seemed to suggest the corpus callosum as 'the seat of consciousness'. You must have meant something else, or --more likely-- I misunderstood.

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1 hour ago, joigus said:

That's why I got confused when you seemed to suggest the corpus callosum as 'the seat of consciousness'.

I didn't say it was the seat of consciousness (unless it's a buckboard; more like the desktop at which consciousness sits); I was answering

 

6 hours ago, joigus said:

What exactly is the mechanism by virtue of which firing of neurons in different areas of the brain result in this overall one-faced projection,

which I took to mean, the mechanism whereby all those neurons, in all the different  parts of the brain, are integrated into a network, communicating, co-ordinating,  reporting and recording their multitude of different processes.

I didn't comment on Dennett, since I have some reservation about his whole approach - but am not familiar enough with his work to justify those reservations: just keeping him at a correct social distance for the mo.

Edited by Peterkin
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23 hours ago, joigus said:

The question of what consciousness is hasn't been settled IMO. I would assume that such a question is even farther from being settled.

Any awareness of what is consciously decided has to be considered; be it be a bee or the internet.

The problem is, how can we consider either, since we're neither...

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1 hour ago, dimreepr said:

Any awareness of what is consciously decided has to be considered; be it be a bee or the internet.

The problem is, how can we consider either, since we're neither...

I don't think the internet fits the bill --it's not so much a problem of scales, as it is a problem of functionalities.

A bee might...

But this would make me stray away from the role of mere spectator I wanted to play here, until I hear more arguments.

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1 hour ago, dimreepr said:

Any awareness of what is consciously decided has to be considered; be it be a bee or the internet.

The problem is, how can we consider either, since we're neither...

Why would not being something disqualify me/you/us from considering that entity?  We can think about all kinds of things we're not: black holes and lava and jellyfish; we can describe, define, classify and study all those things.  We can even try to maintain some degree of objectivity when doing so. With other kinds of consciousness, we couldn't be objective, since we have only our experience both as template and standard; nothing else for comparison to other kinds of consciousness. We can appreciate that they are different; we can speculate as to how they are different, follow the clues to why they are different, and study the mechanisms of their operation. But we have to bring all of that back for comparison to ours to make sense of it. Consciousness is necessarily self-referential.  

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21 hours ago, Peterkin said:

Why would not being something disqualify me/you/us from considering that entity?  We can think about all kinds of things we're not: black holes and lava and jellyfish; we can describe, define, classify and study all those things.  We can even try to maintain some degree of objectivity when doing so. With other kinds of consciousness, we couldn't be objective, since we have only our experience both as template and standard; nothing else for comparison to other kinds of consciousness. We can appreciate that they are different; we can speculate as to how they are different, follow the clues to why they are different, and study the mechanisms of their operation. But we have to bring all of that back for comparison to ours to make sense of it. Consciousness is necessarily self-referential.

It doesn't disqualify consideration, but it might (probably does) disqualify our understanding of that entities consciousness; I can't even understand a fellow human, who chooses a different side to me, I can sympathise and accept their arguments because we share so many relative experiences of what it means to be man; that doesn't mean I understand what it means to be woman...

 

21 hours ago, joigus said:

I don't think the internet fits the bill

Probably not now, but how can we tell when that line is crossed?

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1 hour ago, dimreepr said:

It doesn't disqualify consideration, but it might (probably does) disqualify our understanding of that entities consciousness; I can't even understand a fellow human, who chooses a different side to me, I can sympathise and accept their arguments because we share so many relative experiences of what it means to be man; that doesn't mean I understand what it means to be woman...

I suspect that's overreach. Why expect ever to know "what it's like to be" something or somebody. In fact, I suspect the question itself. Do we even know what "it's like" to be whatever we are ourselves, or do we simply experience existence from a given point of view? Does an octopus even know it's an octopus? Is identifying with a category necessary to consciousness? I don't think so. 

I can tell you right now: it means absolutely nothing "to be" an octopus or a bee or a woman, because being has no meaning, or purpose or significance. Being doesn't justify or define itself. It just is.

So, if a biological or mechanical entity meets the criteria of consciousness, it will have its own experience, develop its own perspective, make its own choices - according to the abilities, opportunities and constraints afforded by its own biology and environment. Other consciousnesses may recognize it, describe it, classify and categorize it - from the outside. They might understand quite a lot - but not everything - about how it operates and why it behaves the way it does.

But none of us can ever experience any other consciousness from inside.   

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6 minutes ago, Peterkin said:

I suspect that's overreach. Why expect ever to know "what it's like to be" something or somebody. In fact, I suspect the question itself. Do we even know what "it's like" to be whatever we are ourselves, or do we simply experience existence from a given point of view? Does an octopus even know it's an octopus? Is identifying with a category necessary to consciousness? I don't think so. 

I can tell you right now: it means absolutely nothing "to be" an octopus or a bee or a woman, because being has no meaning, or purpose or significance. Being doesn't justify or define itself. It just is.

So, if a biological or mechanical entity meets the criteria of consciousness, it will have its own experience, develop its own perspective, make its own choices - according to the abilities, opportunities and constraints afforded by its own biology and environment. Other consciousnesses may recognize it, describe it, classify and categorize it - from the outside. They might understand quite a lot - but not everything - about how it operates and why it behaves the way it does.

But none of us can ever experience any other consciousness from inside.   

Indeed, but still we try...

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3 hours ago, dimreepr said:

Probably not now, but how can we tell when that line is crossed?

No version of the internet --that I can see, or foresee, now-- could replicate the functionality that I've tried to describe as,

Quote

'that integrated projection of sensory data into one consistent flow of here and now these things going on'.

How does this projection occur and how does it coalesce into a continuous integrated perception is, to me, the only 'hard' standing problem. It's not just about harvesting data from the environment, not even in a chain of 'downward' or 'downstream' causation --however that concept presents itself to me as possibly necessary for any conscious entities worth the name.

The internet, or a bee, jellyfish, or any other data-processing entity could, for all I care, gradually or otherwise, turn into (or forever have been) a mumbling, stupid, forgetful, incoherent conscious entity, and it would still conceivable be a conscious entity. 

The step from conscious to self-conscious, to me, is not the hard part.

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58 minutes ago, joigus said:

No version of the internet --that I can see, or foresee, now-- could replicate the functionality that I've tried to describe as,

Quote

'that integrated projection of sensory data into one consistent flow of here and now these things going on'.

It wouldn't have to replicate the same functionality; it would emerge from a different kind of complexity, into a different kind of consciousness. For example, it would be incapable of physical sensation, and would have to rely on on internal diagnostic sensors for self-maintenance; it wouldn't need to compete as it's unique and could simply annex whatever technology it found useful; it would not evolve emotions, since it wouldn't require a community for survival: it is already legion within the single multi-housed mind.

 Not saying it's likely; just that, if it happens at all, it happens differently in an artificial entity than it did in organic entities. We might not recognize it, because it's not like us, and we are very prone - perhaps fatally prone - to impose our own image on the universe.

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42 minutes ago, Peterkin said:

It wouldn't have to replicate the same functionality; it would emerge from a different kind of complexity, into a different kind of consciousness. For example, it would be incapable of physical sensation, and would have to rely on on internal diagnostic sensors for self-maintenance; it wouldn't need to compete as it's unique and could simply annex whatever technology it found useful; it would not evolve emotions, since it wouldn't require a community for survival: it is already legion within the single multi-housed mind.

 

I agree with this. In fact, I look at this kind of exercise as a useful one when it comes to defining most difficult/slippery concepts: Constructively jettison any connotations that are suspect of being just contingent as regards the concept to be defined. In this case: emotions, sight, touch or other specific senses. There would have to be some sensors, granted. Whether those sensors are 'internal' or 'external', to me, is not that clear, as the boundary is surely a fuzzy one at some level of description (I don't perceive my nails or hair as 'self'). They would have to be measuring stimuli around here, not at different spots hundreds of miles away.

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That's what's so intriguing about the idea of machine consciousness. It would have to be different from us, with different evolutionary paths, different needs, entirely different processing methods. We have to start with observation of what it is and how it works, rather than preconceptions about what it should be and do to meet a standard of us-likeness. This exercise is also useful in thinking about other species: turn off the  projector and look at the other in its own terms. We can't do this perfectly, or probably even well, but with practice, we can do it better, and learn a lot more about "what it's like" to be a dolphin or Titanian... or Algerian, or white supremacist, for that matter.  

1 hour ago, joigus said:

In this case: emotions, sight, touch or other specific senses. There would have to be some sensors, granted. Whether those sensors are 'internal' or 'external', to me, is not that clear,

For the meta-computer network, both, and both in abundance. Consider that it lives in thousands and thousands of underground data centers that must be kept clean, dry, cool and continuously powered, as well as protected - just like ours. That's a big spread-out, vulnerable "body"!  It also needs skilled service and maintenance and replacement components. Then there is the external sensory and communications array: all the satellites, aerial, terrestrial, sub-terrestrial, marine and submarine data collection devices, sonars, radars, radio telescopes, audio video receivers, dishes, antennae and wires.... It would need to keep track of its own physical functionality as well its environment - just as we do, only by different methods. (That's not even getting into all the tools and remote manipulative instruments it would need.) I'm using the USS Enterprise and its automated systems as a starting point.

But the Enterprise has a unified corporeal container and a clearly-defined set of purposes, along with a crew of dedicated human attendants. The Web Entity would be a lot bigger, more complex, entirely undirected --- and as I said, very probably insane [by human standards] at the point of emergence.   

Edited by Peterkin
fixing small errors, as usual
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