Nova Spivack writes in a fascinating essay:
I believe that the Internet (the hardware) is already evolving into a distributed global brain, and its ongoing activity (the software, humans and data) represents the cognitive process of an increasingly intelligent global mind. This global mind is not centrally organized or controlled, rather it is a bottom-up, emergent, self-organizing phenomenon formed from flows of trillions of information-processing events comprised of billions of independent information processors.
f the Web enables the World Wide File System, the emergence of XML enables The World Wide Database. XML enables agents in the system to define, store, retrieve, interact with, and interpret arbitrary data structures with arbitrary precision. Using XML any conceivable syntax and data schema can be defined and shared. XML adds more structure to the information in the memory of the global mind, enabling more sophisticated content and processes to be stored and accessed by agents in the system.
The recently emerging Semantic Web adds yet another layer of sophistication beyond XML. It enables agents in the system to begin to understand and reason about the meaning of information within the system. The Semantic Web enables software to work not merely with data but with concepts. Concepts are information structures that are connected to formal systems of ideas in other words they are meaningful information. The Semantic Web provides standards for transforming ordinary information structures into concepts that can be understood by software programs. Using metalanguages for defining semantics such as RDF and OWL, the Semantic Web makes it possible to connect data elements to concepts in formally defined systems of knowledge called ontologies. By doing this software programs are able to then reason intelligently about the information.
By connecting information to ontologies, programs can begin to process information more intelligently. For example, the content of a medical journal could be linked to a medical ontology that defines medical concepts and their interrelations. Using this ontology it would then be possible to do semantic searches of the journal that are far more intelligent than the primitive keyword searches that are currently used in most search systems today. A semantic search for information about the vascular system” would return articles and data records that refer to the heart, even though the word “heart” was not explicitly searched for. Furthermore, a semantic search for “organs connected to the heart” could make logical inferences across chains of concepts in the underlying medical ontology in order to return articles about the lungs, the liver, the kidneys, the brain, etc., even though none of those organs were explicitly named in the original query.
The Internet (the OS layer), the Web (the data layer), XML (the data schema and syntax layer), and the Semantic Web (the knowledge and reasoning layer) combine to provide the foundation for an increasingly intelligent distributed world-wide mind. They enable all the agents of the global mind to seamlessly share not just raw information, but even high-level concepts, knowledge and intelligent cognitive processes, in a manner that is open and independent of any individual system.