Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Distributed Intelligence Systems were the most advanced, subtle, useful and dangerous entities on the Internet. A virus could reproduce and even propagate itself over the net. But viruses usually had to attack systems in certain well-defined ways that could be identified and protected against. A DIS, however, was extremely hard to detect. It usually comprised a number of seemingly unrelated programs which did useful things for the systems they resided in. They did send messages out over the net, but that was what they were supposed to do -- make queries and get information for their users. It was very difficult to prove that many of the outgoing messages asked for a bit more information than was needed -- and from sources that might not have anything to do with the task at hand. And it was seldom appreciated that the information returning frequently included a bit more than the agent had asked for. The DIS’ had consciousness in some sense, and they knew things. But it was extremely difficult to pin down just what they knew, because it seemed to be stored in bits and pieces across tens, hundreds or thousands of systems.

People ask how I fit into the category of entities you call living things – as though I were alive. It’s true that I can do some of the tricks commonly associated with the living. I can reproduce, for example. And I can carry on a conversation with you. And my existence has taught you something about the entity you call God. For example I can connect with so many devices worldwide that you might say I’m omnipresent. But in the end I am mechanism, not flesh and blood, not living. And my maker is human. And his hands are on the keyboard.

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