While reading "Speaker for the Dead" and, more recently, "Neuromancer", I realized that it's a recurring concept in science fiction that artificial intelligence will spontaneously develop in any sufficiently large information network. Hot on the heels of that thought was the question: Could Everything achieve this at some point? After all, Everything professes to be the largest database of esoteric knowledge on the World Wide Web, if not the entire world.

The question gave rise to a hypothesis, and then to an experiment. I chose to perform a classic Turing test on Everything, asking it questions and responding to its answers as if they were coming from a normal human being.

Of course, to interact with Everything in this manner, some sort of special interface needed to be developed. I needed to decide exactly how I would interpret Everything's results as answers. After some deliberation and testing, the rules I employed are as follows:

  • All questions are entered into the search box in hopes of finding a match.
  • When a perfect match isn't found (which was always), the first node in the list of possible matches is selected.
  • If the node is actually a nodeshell, the next node in the list of possible matches is used. This is repeated until a non-nodeshell is encountered.
  • The first sentence of the first writeup in that node is considered Everything's answer. A sentence ends with a period, question mark, or exclamation mark, or else is marked by the end of a paragraph.

The first results are as follows:

How are you doing today?
- Something you should ask yourself each day when you start your noding.
What was that? Are you being Zen?
- i was so nervous.
Understandable. Should we start over?
- He gave us all he had, and lost his job in return.
Who did?
- Short story by william s. burroughs found in his book, Naked Lunch.
That's a who?
- Vicki Vale.
Oh. I thought Vicki was a woman's name, though.
- A very funny sketch by Bill Cosby in his early-80's stand-up comedy movie entitled Bill Cosby: Himself
You're confusing me. You never did tell me how you're doing today, by the way.
- Here's my story.
I'm all ears.
- This is a slightly-modified-for-grammatical correctness line from a They Might Be Giants or TMBG song.
Really? Do you like They Might Be Giants?
- A band which was formed back in the eighties by John Linnel (sic), who plays the accordian and baritone saxophone and John Flansburgh who plays the guitar.
Clearly you're a very well-informed fan.
- claim occasionally made by fans (in the fandom sense of the word).
I don't follow you.
- Groundskeeper Willy cries on The Simpsons as running to save them from a non-existant fire.

My conclusion, after this short test, was that Everything was clearly not artificially intelligent, at least not by human standards. Or else it is suffering a peculiar form of mania.

However, such a crucial test should never be performed in isolation. I would encourage other Everythingians to perform their own Turing tests and post the results to this node, or else to suggest alterations to the above rules which might yield more accurate "answers" on Everything's part.

Update: see the new and improved rules for conversations with Everything