Evidence of a Global Super Organism
By Kevin Kelly
What makes the web so powerful? The answer to this question lies in the nature of the global super organism that humankind is currently building. Kevin Kelly, a pioneer in describing where humans and technology are headed, gives us a glimpse of what he calls the One Machine in the following excerpt from his blog post, “Evidence of a Super Organism.”
“In recent years, we've created supercomputers composed of loosely integrated individual computers not centralized in one building, but geographically distributed over continents and designed to be versatile and general purpose. This later supercomputer is called grid computing because the computation is served up as a utility to be delivered anywhere on the grid, like electricity. It is also called cloud computing because the tally of the exact component machines is dynamic and amorphous - like a cloud. The actual contours of the grid or cloud can change by the minute as machines come on or off line.
Google probably has the largest cloud computer in operation. According to Jeff Dean one of their infrastructure engineers, Google is hoping to scale up their cloud computer to encompass 10 million processors in 1,000 locations.
Whenever you are online, whenever you click on a link, or create a link, your processor is participating in the yet larger cloud, the cloud of all computer chips online. I call this cloud the One Machine because in many ways it acts as one supermegacomputer.
I define the One Machine as the emerging superorganism of computers. It is a megasupercomputer composed of billions of sub computers. The sub computers can compute individually on their own, and from most perspectives these units are distinct complete pieces of gear. But there is an emerging smartness in their collective that is smarter than any individual computer. We could say learning (or smartness) occurs at the level of the superorganism.
This megasupercomputer is the Cloud of all clouds, the largest possible inclusion of communicating chips. It is a vast machine of extraordinary dimensions. It is comprised of a quadrillion chips, and consumes 5% of the planet's electricity. It is not owned by any one corporation or nation (yet), nor is it really governed by humans at all. Several corporations run the larger sub clouds, and one of them, Google, dominates the user interface to the One Machine at the moment.
The phrase a "global superorganism” suggests the sustained integrity of a living organism, or a defensible and defended boundary, or maybe a sense of self, or even conscious intelligence.
The One Machine consumes electricity to produce structured information. Like other organisms, it is growing. Its size is increasing rapidly, close to 66% per year, which is basically the rate of Moore's Law. Every year it consumes more power, more material, more money, more information, and more of our attention. And each year it produces more structured information, more wealth, and more interest.
Cloud computers such as Google and Amazon form the learning center for the smart superorganism. Let's call this organ el Googazon, or el Goog for short. El Goog encompasses more than the functions of the company Google and includes all the functions provided by Yahoo, Amazon, Microsoft online and other cloud-based services.
El Goog is sucking in the smartest humans on earth to work for it, to help make it smarter. The smarter it gets, the more smart people, and smarter people, want to work for it. El Goog ropes in money. Money is its higher metabolism. It takes the money of investors to create technology that attracts human attention (ads), which in turns creates more money (profits), which attracts more investments. The smarter it makes itself, the more attention and money will flow to it.
El Goog and the One Machine offer intelligence without human troubles. In the beginning this intelligence is transhuman rather than non-human intelligence. It is the smartness derived from the wisdom of human crowds, but as it continues to develop this smartness transcends a human type of thinking.
While El Goog is constantly seeking chips to occupy, energy to burn, wires to fill, radio waves to ride, what it wants and needs most is money. So one test of its success is when El Goog becomes our bank. Not only will all data flow through it, but all money as well.”
There are several headlines that one can take from this blog. The one I like best is: “The One Machine is increasing in size at a rate of 66% a year. Every year it consumes more power, more material, more money, more information, and more of our attention. And each year it produces more structured information, more wealth, and more interest.” The One machine is simply the biggest example of Scenius ever. Scenius is a term coined by Brian Eno meaning: “…the intelligence and the intuition of a whole cultural scene. It is the communal form of the concept of the genius." Simply put, the web is an exponential explosion of the extreme creativity that people working in groups or scenes can generate.