There was a very interesting article in this year's April issue of Scientific American. It basically discussed a non-neural network in the brain, its own complete entity, but one that is connected to the neural network we know and love. It's a slower network that seems to provide feedback and additional processing/learning power. It uses mechanics and chemistry to communicate along its own network and respond/react to the neural one.It's a great article -- I recommend it (I have severely abused it with that synopsis above).
It got me to thinking... first: what if the original pre-brains were cells that communicated electrically and chemically, but with no neural network capabilities? What if the original multicellular ancestor of the brain was just a simple highly-connected, bi-directional network? What if the chemical and neurological networks grew in tandem and developed together, with the chemical network acting as a "meta-network," providing feedback? And, to really stretch things, what if this feedback is what caused the electrical network to develop into a neural network?Now I'm sure you see where I am going with this and how fruity it is...
Like primitive primordial cellular organisms, our society also has a primitive electrical network: the Internet. How can we develop a functional analog to the biological system (the biological system being proven to work and being insanely efficient... for a neural network...)?
Okay, so that's the visionary's question; no need for reasons or justification -- can we do it? Then let's make it! But why would we want to? Do we really want to turn the insanity of the Internet into something resembling a neural network? Perhaps, but that's not the goal; the ultimate goals might be something like these:
- We know the Internet is slow; how can we make it fast? efficient? (fastest paths, memory/learning, ...)
- We know that the Internet is filled with hostiles (spam, viruses, worms, etc.) - how can we safeguard this?
- There will always be something new that the Internet hasn't seen before - how can we integrate anticipation?
This leads to other questions I'm sure people a lot smarter than me have already examined: can we use nature as an analog for developing network communications into something more mature?
- How do complicated organic networks regulate themselves?
- How do they protect themselves from violence?
- How do they self-organize? adapt?
- Are there ways in which we could model these behaviors with special designs (protocols, applications, services)?