Epilogue: The Brain of the New Machine
On a routinely sunny afternoon in Sunnyvale California, a green Mustang convertible pulled into the parking lot of one of the many mirror-glassed corporate offices that line Highway 101. Sunnyvale and its neighboring urban villages, of course, are the home to some of the most incredible inventions of our time. Within a 25-mile circumference, inventors had created the semiconductor, the vacuum tube, the integrated circuit, the personal computer, and more. Today, a new breed of even more competitive high tech innovators is pushing the boundaries even further.
It was for this reason that the young man, as he approached the building, had to go through an elaborate check of security. Since it was a Saturday, it went quickly. He went up the elevator, into a vast space filled with identical looking cubicles. His cubicle had the requisite pictures of his girlfriend and parents, plus dog. The desk in the cubicle, shaped like a horseshoe, was cluttered with books and papers; the two big computer screens were alive with tropical fish, awaiting a more important task.
Sitting down, he began to type rapidly into his keyboard. It was as though he was unleashing ideas that had stormed around in his mind that night—thoughts that he had held in abeyance until he could get back to work. Now, what looked like a vast network of electrical wiring appeared on the screen. Grasping the computer mouse, he moved a few of the branches around. Then he sat back and pondered what he had done.
His thoughts reeled back to his undergraduate years at the Universitá di Roma, where he studied the philosophy of mind, and to his time at Brown University, where he studied linguistics, neuroscience, and artificial intelligence.
The brain, he knew, looked like this:
Then he put his fingers back on the keyboard. Now he brought up an image of the Internet. This is what he saw:
He knew from his studies in graduate school that the similarities were more than happenstance: he was looking at two brains, one more primitive than the other but nonetheless real. He began to type again, more rapidly now.
Had you been standing in the parking lot looking up at the curved glass building, you would have seen him there, the afternoon light dimming into evening, lights coming on in the office, the name of the Internet titan, Yahoo!, glowing bright purple out over the highway. (Of course, intelligence on the web moves quickly these days so if you go to look for him now, you will find him at Google.)
This is not a figment of my imagination; not a fictional character. But a friend and colleague, and one of many high tech entrepreneurs looking for the connection between the Internet and the brain.