In our world a new technology is created, applied to one human, and then immediately destroyed. Max has been the test subject of a complex project involving computer science, evolutionary programming, and genetic engineering. Long story short, Max's brain was somehow linked to the entire internet, both indexed and non-indexed sites. Any bit of information that has ever been located in the Internet is now accessible to Max with the ease of accessing his now massively expanded long term memory. My question: **How much of an impact can Max have on the modern world with the information of the Internet available to him in a fraction of a second? **

Before any wise guys comment that we already have this power (smartphones/pcs), the point I'm trying to advance here is that Max is able to navigate the environment far more efficiently and precisely than we are, seeing as the information is simply memory to him.

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    $\begingroup$ <wiseguy> None. He'll spend all his time watching cat videos. </wiseguy> $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Jan 21 '16 at 20:15
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    $\begingroup$ The question is very open ended. The most obvious answer is "that depends on the bandwidth available", in a fraction of a second Max might not be able to download anything. $\endgroup$ – Thucydides Jan 21 '16 at 20:38
  • $\begingroup$ A fraction of a second is tiny for the human brain. We do a lot of things in parallel to make up for how slowly it operates. Are you interested in what effects Max's brain can have on the internet in that time, or what effects Max's conscious mind can have on the internet? Considering it takes 100-300ms just to make a conscious decision, no matter how benign, a fraction of a second may not be enough to really make conscious headway, but random artifacts caused by random brain firings may be faster. How much bandwidth does Max have to work with? $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Jan 21 '16 at 20:58
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    $\begingroup$ He'll spend the next thirty years trying to repent for everything he has seen and read. $\endgroup$ – Xandar The Zenon Jan 21 '16 at 20:59
  • $\begingroup$ Nice question, welcome to the site. $\endgroup$ – James Jan 21 '16 at 21:03

I see a limitation, but it depends on how he perceives the information. This is getting into some murky waters surrounding the mysteriousness of consciousness.

What does it mean for him to know, really, any of the information on the internet? Is it something his brain can access but he has to interpret the data himself, with his own human intelligence? Or does his brain immediately provide the necessary relationships between concepts? For example, if he uses his knowledge of Crispr (gene-editing method) to conduct or lead a biochemistry experiment, does he also recall all the complexities and consequences of that experiment?

It's an interesting question, and I think it has an impact on how he shapes the world.

Assuming the latter and that he can dispose of useless information (cat images), he'll be a real life Dr. Manhattan. Unfortunately, he won't know the future. He's limited to the information that's available. He's the best and ultimate contributor and distributor of information but he won't have access to esoteric information that others don't have.

Some fantastic uses of him:

  • Medical science. He can diagnose anything. Every diagnosis and symptom will be available to him. Every ICD-10 code. Every gene. Every protein. Every chemical. Everything that's documented will be available to use at his disposal to drive medical science.
  • Physics. He has access to all of the known published papers from Arxiv to Icarus. And since he has every piece of information known about atomic theory and quantum mechanics, he'll be invaluable to solving the problems like the ones around pure nuclear fusion reactors or bringing a low-cost approach to sending rockets into space.
  • Engineering. He can be contracted to solve incredibly complicated engineering problems. With his knowledge and expertise, we'll constantly have new inventions and machines that will be boosting our prowess in countless number of fields.
  • ...

As you can see, there's a pattern. With instant access to all of our information, Max can use the biological complexity of the brain and the information to solve a lot of problems. Even if it's a lot of information, he can start using his abilities to help scientists remove information from the brain as part of his first priorities so he can start focusing on useful information only.

Then by providing relevant, concise, and cutting-edge knowledge, our technological growth (which in turn breeds more technological growth) will be boosted tremendously.

Exactly like how Dr. Manhattan was. Minus the mind-reading and future-sight, of course.

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  • $\begingroup$ You're making the pretty big assumption here that having access to data is equivalent to Understanding it. Unless Max is also incredibly intelligent, he's going to hard a hard time doing at least the first 2 of those three examples (I can't speak for the complexity of Engineering). He would be a useful resource For doctors, but not necessarily a great doctor himself. Similarly, he would be a great resource For Physicists, but not necessarily able to understand the concepts himself. If it were that easy, I could go learn to be a Doctor from Wikipedia. $\endgroup$ – Ieuan Stanley Jan 22 '16 at 10:37
  • $\begingroup$ I stated in my answer that I was leading with the assumption that he can recall all the information needed to understand a subject fully. $\endgroup$ – The Anathema Jan 22 '16 at 14:06
  • $\begingroup$ I can see that, I'm just saying that I don't think it's a reasonable assumption that it's remotely possible to achieve that level of understanding from mere data :) in my opinion you've made an unreasonable assumption in order to exaggerate the effect of such an ability. $\endgroup$ – Ieuan Stanley Jan 22 '16 at 14:39
  • $\begingroup$ It isn't unreasonable to me. The information is indistinguishable from information that he's memorised by reading a school textbook. From my example, he wouldn't just have information of Crispr. He'd have information about every gene that would be impacted, and how every change to each of those genes will impact the organism. These conceptual relationships are what we call "understanding." He understands more than the world's best experts. I'd say his faults would be in things like muscle memory - he's probably not a good pianist. As for other things, I think he does understand it. $\endgroup$ – The Anathema Jan 22 '16 at 15:22
  • $\begingroup$ Then we differ in opinion :) I see your point but I don't think it works that way. It would be too much information to process simultaneously. There's more to intelligence than just memory and data, I think you're simplifying too much over something we don't understand well enough to say either way. That's why it's a matter of opinion! $\endgroup$ – Ieuan Stanley Jan 22 '16 at 16:36

Congratulations! You've just created the singularity and encapsulated it in a handy portable container, a human skull. You've even attached a body to that intelligence, allowing it to interact with people and the physical world.

Like any competent, potentially world-conquering intelligence, Max will want to take care of a few issues before applying his power to anything concrete.

  • To avoid future competition, he will need to erase all human knowledge of the process by which he was created. This should be a breeze because he is by default, the most powerful hacker that has ever lived. Every username/password pair for any internet connected database is already known to him. Logging in as each of his creators, he can edit or delete all of the notes about his creation.

  • Funding his own survival will be his next task. With the login credentials for every bank account, he won't be lacking for pocket change. Taking 1% from every account with more than $10,000 in it, he can easily pay for a hardened bunker and stock it with enough supplies for a lifetime. If he is not into direct theft, he can just use high level passwords at Visa and the Fed, to issue himself an unlimited line of credit.

Now it's time to answer the OP's question. How much of an impact can Max have on the modern world with the information of the Internet available to him in a fraction of a second?...

Did I mention that he knows all of the nuclear launch codes?

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    $\begingroup$ I like that we ended up on opposing sides of the ethical spectrum. $\endgroup$ – The Anathema Jan 21 '16 at 21:41
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    $\begingroup$ Why are you assuming the launch codes are in a database connected to the Internet? That's the last place I want them connected to... $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre Jan 21 '16 at 21:52
  • $\begingroup$ @TheAnathema, you win on the scale of impact. Humanity plus a benevolent singularity is infinitely bigger than a malignant singularity on an otherwise lifeless world. $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor Jan 22 '16 at 0:34
  • $\begingroup$ @Frostfyre, I certainly hope you are right, but it is my understanding that human stupidity is the only thing in the universe which cannot be over-estimated. $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor Jan 22 '16 at 0:38
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    $\begingroup$ This answer seems to betray a misunderstanding of cryptography. Just because he has access to the whole internet doesn't mean that he has the cleartext of passwords, nor can he easily crack any encrypted passwords he has without typing them all into a computer by hand. If he is able to immediately recall any sites that have completely broken crypto, he could get passwords that way, but a script-kiddie can do that just as well. $\endgroup$ – porglezomp Jan 22 '16 at 2:07

Only in non-text search

The vast majority of the internet is already very well indexed by key word and can be searched in "a fraction of a second" a quick sample of google searches shows they complete in under 3/5th of a second. Most of the time spent learning from the internet is not in finding the information but in understanding it translating it from words on a screen to structures in you head. When you want to look up what quetzalcoatl was what fraction of the time do you spend getting to the Wikipedia page and what fraction do you spend reading it?

Any student of foreign language will tell you that reading mi llamo es means my name is not the same as knowing it. Max can remember the contents of the page but does not necessarily understand them. Its like having instant recall of all physics text books you won't instantly become an expert, because most fields call on you to apply knowledge not just regurgitate it. He will be great at trivia though.

He is also limited by processing power and encryption. Just because he has more memory than a server farm does not grant him the thought/processing speed of a computer. He may be able to look up a formula for a math question quickly but then he has to solve it at the same rate as the rest of us. His normal math ability also means he not have any special ability to break into encrypted information.

What will he be good at?

Current search systems are really bad at searching anything that is not text. Image based search is still very inaccurate. Audio search only works on a very carefully defined limited data set, published recorded music. There is no smell or taste search. Max would be amazing at any field were recognizing things other than by text was common. Doctor does this spot look cancerous? Spotting spies like Chuck with the intersect. Where was this picture taken? These are questions he can answer well.

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I think that this question elucidates (for me, anyway) the notion of computer aided human intelligence. This has long been a philosophy, dating back to people like Alan Kay and Doug Engelbart, who thought that computer's real power lay not in their own massive but rigid computational power but their ability to augment and amplify human creativity. Therefore, I think the ability to summon any of the information available on the internet would be a dramatic example of this mind augmentation. However, I think to actually consider this seriously you would need to be more specific. Does the mind connected have some special ability to decode and interpret the information he is getting, or is he just broadcasted visual imagery and blobs of text. My contention is that if its the former what we have is a contender for a new level of human genius. I thin it is possible this person could change the world. If it is simply a streaming of internet data in a variety of forms into the cortex on some premium network connection than the result would probably not be as dramatic. How much more intellectual productive would he/she be? Well, first consider how much more intelligent we are with the aid of computers. How much better are engineers and scientists and artists with near instantaneous access to their shared resources, and communication tools? For example, CERN and the LHC wouldn't have been what it is had it not been for the web. Could a group of scientists all having their ideas hooked up to some graphical IRC channel streaming equations an experimental result graphs as quickly as they blink make some startling changes to the rate of progress within particle physics?

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Mental implants that provide data storage, wireless connectivity, mathematical calculation and other features are a possibility for the near future.

Computers are fast

Certain operations (data storage & retrieval and mathematical operations) computers can do very much faster than humans. In most cases, computers can solve the problems posed by humans faster than human minds can pose the tasks to the computers.

Computers are literal

Human language is often ambiguous. Human minds use many techniques to put conversations/requests into context and interpret what is being said.

Often humans aren't capable of using a natural language to convey information to computers because of the ambiguity inherent in the human language.

Computer languages

Because we can't train computers to speak "human" we train humans to speak computers. Even with the fancy implants, Max will require extensive training in how to use and communicate with them on anything more than a rudimentary level.

You might consider the language for communicate with the implants as a sort of scripting or programming language. As Max develops methods for getting what he wants from the implants by using this "scripting" language, Max will probably develop a sophisticated suite of self-made shortcuts.

Compared to other humans who get the same implants as Max, only at a later date, Max will seem like a magician when he can use his already developed library of utilities to get what he wants.

Human brain interface

The suite of developed scripts will commonly act as a buffer between Max's mind and a direct connection to the internet. He can use his brain to select and queue up jobs to run. Those can be data acquisition, analysis, filtering, etc. He might not / probably won't monitor the processing in real time but will set up the job, get notified when it finishes, and then review the results.

Remember the sum of information on the internet now is staggering so a big part of the scripts job will be to filter out the unwanted information and just get the information that Max needs to Max.

Not so fantastic uses

Unlike the hopeful image you've given (able to diagnose any disease), medicine is far less deterministic than you might think:

  • Many diseases and conditions share symptoms
  • People with the same disease condition present with different symptoms
  • Disease and conditions interact in unpredictable ways
  • Human immune responses are different
  • Drugs have different activity in different people
  • Disease and conditions respond differently to the drugs used to treat them
  • Drugs interact with each other differently in people

Max's internet connection might give him a list of 2000 reasons that he has a headache and a decent filter might reduce that to 20 reasons and even suggested a course of treatment that works for all 20 of those reasons. Still that treatment might fail.

The same goes for physics, engineering, and any other subject. If these subjects were so easily deterministic, then the world wouldn't need scientists and engineers. We'd be able to do it all with Google searches.

In fact one of my biggest complaints about the way search engines have partially ruined humanity's mind is this:

For some topics, it is necessary to have a reasonably good understanding of a topic and the information that goes with it to even pose a good internet search for what you want. If no one commits things to memory (e.g. saying they can just do an internet search), then they miss out on the ability to solve certain classes of problems - they'll never have the information they need to pose the query in the first place.

What does that leave?

  • Information collection and analysis
  • Very rapid solving of numerical problems
  • Able to manipulate the "internet" environment around them (with so many devices allowing you to control them through the internet, this could have interesting ramifications)
  • Instantaneous communication with anyone anytime
  • Good time sense

And another thought

When you deprives some people of social media, they suffer addiction like withdrawal symptoms.

What would happen to Max if he went into an area with no wireless access (e.g. a nature hike)?

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My problem with 'knowing all the Internet' is all the conflicting views and wrong data out there. Just because you know all the research on X doesn't mean that those who ran the study and wrote that got it right.

Interviewer: Does God exist? Max accesses several billion posts both yes and no. Max says what? His opinion?

I: How do we do mythical technology X? Max accesses millions of papers listing humanities failed attempts at X. Max: No. One week later a corporate patents the tech X and monietorizes it.

I: Max person Y has these symptoms, what is wrong with them? Max accesses millions of papers again. Max: Here is a list of hundreds of things that could be the cause. I: Yes we know that but which one is it? Max: I don't know I'm not a doctor.

However this is overlooking the obvious. Anyone who has this ability is a threat to someone else. Govt, media, Mafia, corporates, etcétera. Anyone with something to hide.

The upshot is that Max would be kidnapped and held in a medically induced coma until someone in power decided to kill them rather than taking the risk of letting them live.

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  • $\begingroup$ This reads more like a comment than an answer. Could you please expand more on how that affects the impact Max has? $\endgroup$ – The Anathema Jan 22 '16 at 19:42

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