AFTERWORD: THE INTERNET IS A BRAIN
The Internet is a brain was the main topic of my 2009 book Wired for Thought: How the Brain Is Shaping the Future of the Internet (Boston: Harvard Business Press). In the book, I outlined a path toward creating a thinking and conscious internet, which I have summarized here. Portions of this appendix come from that book, with the courtesy of Harvard Business Press. More detailed notes are available in Wired for Thought.
Purdue University psychologist James Townsend provides a fun and insightful account of the distinction between serial and parallel processing in the brain and outlines why it is so important. While it is a scientific paper, it is relatively accessible: “Serial vs. Parallel Processing: Sometimes They Look Like Tweedledum and Tweedledee but They Can (And Should) Be Distinguished,” Psychological Science 1, No. 1 (January 1990): 46–54.
Quotes from Dan Dennett in sections II and III come from Consciousness Explained (Boston: Little, Brown, 1991).
Howard Margolis’s quote comes from his book Patterns, Thinking, and Cognition: A Theory of Judgment (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988).
Douglas Hofstadter’s ingenious book I am a Strange Loop (New York: Basic Books, 2007) does a remarkable job of describing parallel processing as a recursive process similar to the feedback of a speaker when a microphone is too close, or a series of mirrors that reflect infinitely into one another. Hofstadter states it this way: “In the end, we are self-perceiving, self-inventing, locked-in mirages that are little miracles of self-reference.”
In Outliers: The Story of Success (New York: Little, Brown, 2008), Malcolm Gladwell argues that there are two components of great success: the first is luck, or timing. The second is practice, which, in many ways, is the mind’s way of automating its strange loop.
The 500,000 dopamine neurons number is, like all neuronal figures, a guess. Neruonbank.org estimates it is between 400,000 and 600,000, referencing two respectable sources: (1) A. Bjorkland and S. Dunnett “Dopamine Neuron Systems in the Brain: An Update,” Trends in Neuroscience 30, no. 5 (2007): 194–202; and (2) S. Chinta and J. Andersen “Dopaminergic Neurons,” The International Journal of Biochemistry & Cell Biology 37 (2005): 942–946.
The example of a cup of coffee spinning in mental rotation comes from Read Montague, Your Brain Is (Almost) Perfect: How We Make Decisions (New York: Plume, 2006), 83.
Plato presented his theory of forms in several of his works. It is covered most extensively in Republic, Book III, V, VI-VII, and IX-X.
Steven Pinker’s quote comes from How the Mind Works (New York: W. W. Norton, 1997).
Daniel Goleman’s quote comes from Emotional Intelligence (New York: Bantam, 1995), 15–17.
The quote from Doug Lenat comes from an interview with Jeffrey Goldsmith published in Wired Magazine in April 1994 with the title “CYC-O.”
The Erik Schmidt quote was originally written in a letter to George Gilder of Wired Magazine back in 2003 and reprinted in an October 2006 article in Wired entitled “The Information Factories.”
Researchers reported on Spaun in a 2012 Science article by Chris Eliasmith, Terrence C. Stewart, Xuan Choo, Trevor Bekolay, Travis DeWolf, Charlie Tang, and Daniel Rasmussen titled “A Large-Scale Model of the Functioning Brain,” Science 338, no. 6111 (November 30, 2012): 1202–1205. You can also read about Spaun in Rebecca Boyle’s article “Meet Spaun, the Most Complex Simulated Brain Ever,” Popsci, November 29, 2012, which is the source of the quote from Chris Eliasmith. Also see Francie Diep’s article “Artificial Brain: ‘Spaun’ Software Model Mimics Abilities, Flaws of Human Brain,” Huffington Post, November 29, 2012.
John Markoff wrote about how entrepreneurs are using data to mine human intelligence in “Entrepreneurs See a Web Guided by Common Sense,” New York Times, November 11, 2006.