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The Evolution of The WWW

By Marcin in News
Tue Jun 27, 2000 at 02:29:40 AM EST
Tags: Internet (all tags)

An interesting article from New Scientist entitled Global Brain talks about the evolution of the Internet, or more specifically the WWW, into what is analogous to a living organism which rearranges itself to provide the information people need.

The author predicts that this change of the internet into a 'Global Brain' will happen within five years. Essentially it means the Internet will be a knowledge source that restructures itself based on what people need.

An example given in the article of an already existing web system created by researchers at Los Alamos called the Distributed Knowledge System (DKS). Basically it's a website that keeps track of where people are visitng and where they're not visitng and rearranges previously static hyperlinks as required. The article says that in essence it finds shortcuts, ie. if a user starts at A, clicks on B, then from B goes to C the system will infer that there is a relationship that's potentially useful between A and C and creates an appropriate link.

The head of the research team (Cliff Joslyn) maintains a page of DKS related links.

The article goes on to say that in the coming years this kind of technology is likely to be adapted to the WWW as a whole. To quote the article, the researchers themselves are unsure as to what would happen if this was implemented on the WWW, "All these innovations combined on a global scale would create a network with complex behaviours that we can't yet conceive of. Would it create Utopia, dystopia or something altogether new?"

I think that something like this would be very useful. In a way I think Google is already trying to do this, ranking pages by how many links they have to them, but this means it can be hard for 'new' sites to get themselves hit via searches because in order to get links they need to be found first. Kinda a circular argument. With this system the Global Brain would see people visitng a new site about X and automatically add its link to other sites about X.. kind of like an automatic webring I guess?

What would also be cool is that a weblog, instead of working the way it does now, could work something like this: We all (we being the K5 readers) register and K5 knows the sites we visit (Yay! Invasion of privacy!) and generates itself based on what people are reading. This would mean you'd get all the most useful information the community is getting, assuming the community shares your interests.

The article addresses the whole privacy thing towards the end, ending with this quote which I think is very amusing: "If, as it seems, the global brain is our inevitable future, and we can't turn it off, our only option might be to blend into the crowd. After all, if you're not exceptionally rich, powerful or clever, the global brain shouldn't need to disturb you. Back up your files, act dumb and keep your head down. There is a growing intelligence out there, and it knows your e-mail address."

I'm interested to see what everyone else thinks about this.


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Related Links
o Google
o Global Brain
o DKS related links
o Also by Marcin

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The Evolution of The WWW | 6 comments (5 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
freenet (4.00 / 2) (#2)
by slycer on Tue Jun 27, 2000 at 12:19:06 AM EST

I believe freenet is based on this type of thing without the invasion of privacy.Ok, maybe it's not using "push" (remember that buzzword?) technology, but it doescache the more requested documents close to the people that are requesting them.(right? I think?)

Interesting concept nontheless

sorry for the double - topical instead of editorial :-)

Re: freenet (none / 0) (#6)
by Alhazred on Tue Jun 27, 2000 at 04:14:29 PM EST

well, its not quite the same thing. Freenet does PHYSICAL caching of stuff near where it is needed topologically on the network. This DKS thing would create INTERFACE pathways between things that are symantically related.
That is not dead which may eternal lie And with strange aeons death itself may die.
[ Parent ]
Utopia (none / 0) (#4)
by current on Tue Jun 27, 2000 at 03:46:26 AM EST

It happens now and then that these science guys go an tell media about their ideas of utopia. Then certain group of individuals believe them, and start acting for them.

Not. Not one of those utopias have ever happened.

the first thing i regocnized in myself was fear of lost freedom. It seems thet we have created a cage of private freedom around us (at least i have) that we can not escape.

The Eternal Meta-Discussion

This is a good thing, as long as anonymity is stri (4.00 / 1) (#5)
by SlightlyMadman on Tue Jun 27, 2000 at 11:37:27 AM EST

This is really where things are heading. I mean, I hardly ever even use search engines anymore, unless I'm looking for something really specific. I have a few sites that post news and information, and I leave it up to them to seek it out for me, and filter the best stuff to the top. There are failings in that system, though. one of the big problems is that it leaves it up to the editors to decide what I see. That's one of the great things about this site, and I think we'll be seeing a lot more of it in the future (if only the message boards were totally user-moderated).

I picture a sort of search-engine type environment, where you have a list of the top rated bits of info, or you can search for your own. When you go out to another site to view the intel, you never leave this host environment. It stays with you, and tracks (totally anonymously) how long you spend looking at it, and allows some sort of user-rating interface. Everything2 is a great example of a system like this, but on a much smaller scale.

Absolute information, generated and moderated entirely by the users. The information gathered must maintain totally anonymous, and should only be used in the user-based mechanics of the system. When we get a system like this really going, it will truly be the highpoint of the information age.

Artificial Intelligence (none / 0) (#7)
by Tin-Man on Tue Jun 27, 2000 at 07:03:41 PM EST

This is an extraordinarially powerful idea. The web would start acting as if it had intelligence. Almost.

Most of the adventures into the realm of AI are held up in the fact that even very complex behavior by an artificially intelligent machine are very predictable. In other words, we can program a computer to play games, and we can predict the outcome.

In this case, though, we would be able to predict on a microscopic level what would happen (a shortcut is created from A to C when a user travels from A to B to C), but we would still have no idea what would happen to the web as a whole. Heady stuff.
The future sure isn't what it used to be!

The Evolution of The WWW | 6 comments (5 topical, 1 editorial, 0 hidden)
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