The average person is likely to consider computers to be simply tools to accomplish a task – inanimate silicon circuits. But, is that entirely true?
I recently encountered an instance where network connectivity had dropped considerably, but appeared to be gradually improving without anyone doing anything to actually address the problem. It was mentioned to me that perhaps the ‘Internet was healing itself’ and I wonder, why not? An organism, when injured will repair itself – but surely damaged hardware cannot do the same. On the other hand, when pathways in the brain are damaged or minor blood vessels obstructed, it is not uncommon for new paths to form over time. The same is true of a network, to some extent. If one path is unavailable, another path (which may not be as efficient) will be used. In the same way, new routes are continually added, and optimized.
While this sort of autonomous repair might seem to be almost biological in nature, many networks, of sufficient complexity do exhibit the ability to heal themselves – to slowly redirect traffic and re-optimize pathways – eventually achieving a new norm, and demonstrating an ability to withstand significant damage.
Given that real scenarios have been modelled with considerable accuracy using complex networks (e.g. MMORPGs), it appears that the combination of the virtual world and its real elements do indeed exhibit behaviour that transcend the inanimate, and while not quite sentient, this behaviour is quite possibly beyond the reactionary. After all, even organisms function in a defined (albeit extremely complex) manner – and consciousness may well be a function of complexity (think ‘Star Trek – Vyger’).