I read George Dyson's Darwin Among the Machines
way back in 1998. Its subtitle is The Evolution of Global Intelligence
; in it, Dyson tries (I think---I was never quite sure) to give both a history of the idea that somehow we are evolving toward some collective species-wide mind, and a glimpse of what that mind might look like. Nothing in it quite lives up to this quote from the introduction:
In the game of life and evolution there are three players at the table: human beings, nature, and machines. I am firmly on the side of nature. But nature, I suspect, is on the side of the machines...
but it's still a thought-provoking read.
I mention this because of this story
over at Nature
: the UN High Commission for Refugees is creating an overlay for Google maps so that people can see in near-real time what's going on in places like Darfur. If self-awareness is one of the hallmarks of intelligence, things like this might count as steps toward that global mind Dyson was writing about. We may have less personal privacy than ever before, but it's also harder and harder for us to bury our camps, gulags, and torture chambers in our collective subconscious and pretend we don't know about them. Progress, of a kind...