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Since my project is going to be of a purely fictional nature, I'm not sure I picked the right forum for this. If not, I apologize and will gladly take this to where you point me to.

The premise: A full-fledged self-aware artificial intelligence may have come to exist in a distributed environment like the internet. The possible A.I. in question may be quite unwilling to reveal itself.

The question: Given a first initial suspicion, how would one go about to try and detect its presence? Are there any scientifically viable ways to probe for the presence of such an entity?

In other words: How would the Turing police find out whether or not there's anything out there worth policing?

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This question should probably be moved to worldbuilding.stackexchange

That being said, in the context of a story, I would look at something like the neural correlates of consciousness. In this book by Stanislas Dehaene the experiments are described that led to the realisation that conscious perception requires information integration in certain parts of the prefrontal cortex. Basically the brain processes many different interpretations of a percept in parallel. To become conscious of the percept this interpretations have to be collapsed into a single "truth" which is propagated to a specific part of the brain.

In your story you could have a researcher of consciousness stumble upon a chart of information flow in a part of the internet and realise that the same kind of information integration is going on.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for pointing me to those resources! Seems to be what I was looking for: Potentially observable patterns to be expected where human-like intelligence forms or has formed. Concerning worldbuilding.stackexchange - I actually thought about posting there but after lenghty reading of other posts got the impression that a lot of the more tech or science specific questions end up being moved to the respective science sites. So I tried my luck here. But I'd be glad to be moved over, if it seems more fitting. $\endgroup$ – user4327 Dec 19 '16 at 20:34
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"A full-fledged self-aware artificial intelligence may have come to exist in a distributed environment like the internet"

The question implies that this artificial intelligence has surpassed human intelligence (full fledged) and therefore, due to the concept of the intelligence explosion resulting from such a state, the AI you are looking for is no doubt superintelligent.


The question states that this AI is

"unwilling to reveal itself"

and therefore does not intend to be discovered.


Strong (or Superintelligent) AI

Given these two factors (its superior intellect and its unwillingness to be discovered), we can conclude that there is no way in which we would be able to detect such an AI under conventional conditions.

A possible solution may involve employing a second superintelligent AI system, but this is precarious in more ways than one.


Weak AI

Detection of a simpler AI would rely on tracking the pattern of activity and the traces it leaves behind in this distributed network in order to find it, then subjecting it to some form of testing to verify its intelligence.

There are a very large number of possible indicators and these would vary widely depending on the specific AI concerned. This would depend especially on how the AI exists within the framework (here, the web).

Note: a superintelligent AI would not only be able to disguise its activity, but also find a way around any test we can develop - these abilities are what renders this level of AI perhaps the greatest threat to mankind, but also our greatest asset if we do develop it and find a way to gain its alliance.

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  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, GJZ! Obviously, my use of the term 'full fledged' was ill-conceived. I meant to describe a fictional human-like AI like HAL or V.I.K.I as opposed to real-world systems that are based on todays A.I. technology. Of course, a post-singularity A.I. would be undetectable. But with less than superhuman intelligence (or - as this A.I. is just emerging - super brain power in reach but not quite achieved yet), what kind of traces and activity patterns would one have to look for, if the A.I. dwelled in todays Internet? $\endgroup$ – user4327 Dec 18 '16 at 12:26
  • $\begingroup$ @user4327 There are a very large number of possible indicators and these would vary very largely depending on the specific AI concerned. This would depend especially on how the AI exists within the framework (here, the web). $\endgroup$ – GJZ Dec 18 '16 at 12:31
  • $\begingroup$ Can you give me some clues on how to narrow the field a bit, then? $\endgroup$ – user4327 Dec 18 '16 at 12:33
  • $\begingroup$ The issue with narrowing it down is that we don't really have a precedent of any kind with highly intelligent AI navigating the web. $\endgroup$ – GJZ Dec 18 '16 at 12:36
  • $\begingroup$ I would welcome anyone on the site researching this very topic to comment on this post to narrow it down, however our experience here is limited at best @user4327 $\endgroup$ – GJZ Dec 18 '16 at 12:38

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