the Internet as a series of tubes

We’ve long sought to create a singular artificial intelligence.  I wonder if another aspect of intelligence arises simply from the existence of connections.  Our brain is not composed of intelligence, but rather a mass of connections, neural pathways, which somehow creates an opportunity for intelligence to occur.  The Internet currently seems to be beginning to manifest intelligent behavior in that I can interact with it and gain something from that interaction (“You just checked into restaurant X.  Your friend Alan is here too”).  I wonder if it is our input then that brings this intelligence to life, i.e., we are the intelligence in the giant networked computer “brain”.  I can query the Web to find out where my friends are only because they have stated their position.  A measure of the Net’s intelligence could be based on the data it contains, the questions we imagine to ask, and our ability to ask them.

I feel inspired as an Internet software developer to make the process of interaction, contribution, and connection as easy as possible.  How can I make it easier to contribute?  Simplified markup is one option.  Easy authentication is another.  Improved data collection, such as automated geo positioning via mobile devices, and mining enable us to contribute implicitly.  How can I reduce the barrier to entry?

Yahoo!’s recent brand campaign stated that the Internet is all about “you”.  One way to interpret this is that Yahoo! facilitates contributions to, and recognition of, one’s self online.  I spend so much of my time online it seems like a second home.  So much of my persona involves how I see myself  reflected in the Internet.  Yahoo!, and many other services, tries to make it easy to be online and manifest a personality there.  This is one way to describe of the process of growing the Web.  This propagation of the Web could be summarized as: building physical and logical connections between people, and allowing them to input and retrieve data.  I’m curious to see if the Web does seem to become more intelligent relative to the success of these activities.

A few current touch points involving the simplification of Internet interaction, i.e., interaction with the Net itself, come to mind: establishing network infrastructure (how easy can we make it to set up an internet access point?  this shouldn’t be a bottleneck); creating and maintaining online identities (oauth, openid); storing the collected data in easily retrievable formats (semantic web, search, open gov, freebase, wikipedia); processing big data using mapreduce; server-side processing with web hooks and app engines; providing easy access to the processed data via asynchronous communication, key/value interfaces, convenient off-network “connect” access to social data; using apps on existing networks, and mobile devices, for easy delivery and consumption, esp. iphone and android.