14 Apr 2018
A libertarian utopia of free and equal netizens—all interconnected, sharing all available data with maximum transparency and minimal privacy settings—has a certain appeal, especially to the young. It is romantic to imagine these netizens, like the workers in [Fritz] Lang’s "Metropolis", spontaneously rising up against the world’s corrupt elites, then unleashing the might of artificial intelligence to liberate themselves from the drudgery of work, too. Those who try to look forward without looking back very easily fall into the trap of such wishful thinking.
Since the mid-1990s, computer scientists and others have fantasized about the possibility of a 'global brain'—a self- organizing 'planetary superorganism'. In 1997 Michael Dertouzos looked forward to an era of 'computer-aided peace'. 'New information technologies open up new vistas of non-zero sumness,' wrote one enthusiast in 2000. Governments that did not react swiftly by decentralizing would be 'swiftly...punished'. N. Katherine Hayles was almost euphoric. 'As inhabitants of globally interconnected networks,' she wrote in 2006, 'we are joined in a dynamic co evolutionary spiral with intelligent machines as well as with the other biological species with whom we share the planet.'
This virtuous upward spiral would ultimately produce a new 'cognisphere'. Three years later, Ian Tomlin envisioned 'infinite forms of federations between people...that overlook...differences in religion and culture to deliver the global compassion and cooperation that is vital to the survival of the planet'. 'The social instincts of humans to meet and share ideas,' he declared, 'might one day be the single thing that saves our race from its own self destruction.'
'Informatization,' wrote another author, would be the third wave of globalization. 'Web 3.0' would produce 'a contemporary version of a "Cambrian explosion"' and act as 'the power-steering for our collective intelligence'.