[SPOILER] I don’t believe Google’s search algorithm is sentient.
I’m sorry that I have to give away the plot twist, completely ruining my former TEDx talk, “Google Consciousness” for you.
If you’ve seen the talk, and you’re of average intelligence, enough to appreciate a story told to you “tongue in cheek”, it is probably obvious to you as well that I do not believe Google has sentience. Even if you think I’m a crappy story teller.
I just wanted to get that out of the way before we get to the fun stuff, clear up some of the “flag wavings”.
It’s a strange affair, to be a target of so peculiar an operation.
One of the many “flag waving” tactics used to suppress me as an editor on Wikipedia was using my TEDx talk as evidence I have “woo theories about consciousness.” Why would they do this?
Well, it turns out I participated in a “wiki war” about an infamous biologist, Rupert Sheldrake. His article, like many on Wikipedia, had protagonists and antagonists “battling it out” over events in his life.
So then this happened…
A group of “skeptic activists” went on a witch hunt into my internet history trying to prove to the community I could not be trusted in consensus building, despite my expressed agnosticism on the subject.
I quickly discovered that to antagonists of a subject, it is far more threatening to be neutral than their contrary.
Anything they could find to show I had views “outside of the mainstream” and “anti science viewpoints” on Wikipedia, despite such tactics being against Wikipedia’s own harassment policies.
Framing me as a “believer in Google consciousness” was part of a continued pattern to paint me in this fashion, where in some forums the fabrication about me become even more extreme as the years went on. I was (via impersonation even) being described as an “intelligent design proponent” arguing against “evolution”, and in another forum, it was claimed I even co authored “theories of evolution” with Rupert Sheldrake.
Needless to say, none of these things being intentionally written about me online reflect who I am at all. They are part of a small group’s over the top online strategies to suppress other editors away on Wikipedia that spun out of their own control. I am by far not the only person this has happened to.
On the downside, as this “dark consensus” strategy builds over years, other websites have picked up this false narrative that I am a leading “proponent of the Google consciousness theory”, all being fooled by Wikipedia editors flag waving, initially attempts to lessen my participation in a consensus, a wiki war comprised of social propaganda and soft “digital wildfire”.
Whatever man I saw your ted talk definitely pseudoscience.
— Joshua MacDonald (@JoshuaM59857171) July 29, 2017
These type of campaigns, targeting individuals and attacking their reputations (for what ever purposes) are remarkably easy to implement, requiring nothing more than patience, an obsession, and a mild understanding of how Google search ranking and WordPress blogs operate.
Just like a political campaign framing a political opponent, I was being targeted in what appeared to me to be a juvenile yet sophisticated campaign with clear intention to destroy someone’s reputation and credibility.
Flag waving is the art of misinformation by a thousand cuts. Like all flag waving attempts, you won’t ever find what you expect.
There is no “Google is conscious” theory. It doesn’t exist. Nor did it ever.
It was just a snarky comment I made, years back, noting the freaky similarity between Google search and Daniel Dennett’s explanations for consciousness.
For some reason, this idea that Google’s search algorithms are modeled very similarly to how Daniel Dennett modeled consciousness in the brain in the 1990’s went a little “viral” when I mentioned them. And it was nothing more than a “fun” idea to chit chat about.
Like other snarky comments I’ve made, it took on a life of its own.
Others began to take it seriously, surprising me because I didn’t.
It was ridiculous.
I even said no at first.
We even said so in our talk. I’m somewhat proud to be a presenter at TED and claim on stage that I have no idea what I am talking about.
Predictably, the TEDx talk went viral, it was the #1 most popular TEDx talk in the world for over a year, and was featured by the TED editors on the site.
So that’s what the TEDx talk was actually about, how we got the TEDx talk in the first place. It’s a good story too.
Years later, the film Ex-Machina adopted the meme Google Consciousness as their central plot.
There is no “Google is consciousness” theory. There is only the story about the origins of the “meme” Google consciousness – which to be honest is never anything I wanted to give a TEDx talk about in the first place.
I mean, if I was going to give a TED talk on anything it would probably be aiki.wiki or something like aiki.wiki.
So I waved a flag or two myself.
If the meme “Google Consciousness” was going viral and getting offered speaking engagements, why not ride on its coattails and use it to talk about something I want to talk about at TED instead?
I openly revealed this devious strategy in the TEDx talk itself, transparent about my intentions with the “bait and switch”.
“What we would prefer to talk about is social media evolving to replace government as we know and use it today…” and specifically “Google consciousness is just a metaphor to us for a more inspiring idea.”
Social Media evolving to replace government as we know and use it today is probably a lot more obvious today than it was in 2011 when I made the prediction.
Social Media is something I define very broadly, not limited to “social networks” but including things like wikis, but also Google search itself and of course blockchain technology.
This is one idea I stand behind 100%. I actually am a proponent of that idea.
Consistently. For years.
Sadly – I am never trolled or attacked online for the one thing I actually do promote and believe in.
Specifically, however – in our talk, I mention more elegant discussion algorithms evolving to be able to account for open and transparent conflict-resolution and consensus building. And the world would not need to wait for governments to adopt such a platform, the citizens could start it themselves.
That is what the TEDx talk is asking the audience to take seriously; the idea that we can evolve collaborative online architecture to the point of actually resolving key global problems instead of relying on politicians and their slow, outdated mediums for law making and problem-solving.
That was all back in 2011.
At the time, I didn’t even realize the difference between TED and TEDx. TED was just a cool brand that put on talks about cool ideas to think about.
At the time I was also a Wikipedia idealist and wearing it on my sleeve.
I even mention Wikipedia directly in the talk itself, highlighting progress made between Israel and Palestine as nations via their editors on Wikipedia who collaborated enough to build shared narratives.
This was actually what got me interested in wiki wars in the first place, my motivation for participating in them, and why I’m even writing about them years later.
2016: The web got dark, really dark.
Wikipedia’s shining light became exposed as a toxic community, not building consensus but faking it.
Social media also evolved further into redefining government as we predicted, but a “Twitter” president was not what anyone had in mind.
The damn meme is still evolving.
I’m eager to see how this plays out. To be continued, no doubt.