Is the Web making us smarter? Professor Nigel Shadbolt will ask this question at a Royal Academy of Engineering seminar AI and IT: where Engineering and Philosophy meet on Wednesday 11 July.

Professor Shadbolt, Professor of Artificial Intelligence in the School of Electronics and Computer Science at the University of Southampton, will tell the Academy that the Web embodies real human knowledge in a way that suggests we are entering a new era. “Questions that were essentially philosophical in nature are now appearing as engineering challenges,” he says. “Can intelligence emerge as a consequence of a large number of interactions and transactions on the web?”

“The Web is only as clever as the people on the ends of it but by connecting so many of us together in real time it can amplify our individual intelligence,” says Professor Shadbolt. “New ways of working are already emerging and they are better than anyone expected. Wikipedia – the collective encyclopedia – is a thing of real quality created by collective social engagement.”

Professor Shadbolt sees the Web as enhancing our problem-solving ability. “Medical diagnosis is starting to change, with doctors able to discuss their diagnosis in real time over the internet –this has the potential to lead to better decisions.”

“There are 120,000 new blogs every day – and we can see already how they are affecting – and democratising – the media and politics. Suddenly it is possible to mobilise quarter of a million signatures to a petition on the Downing Street website within days. And the public are helping meteorologists to carry out serious science by effectively networking their individual computers to run climate models.”

Notes for editors

  1. Founded in 1976, The Royal Academy of Engineering promotes the engineering and technological welfare of the country. Our fellowship – comprising the UK’s most eminent engineers – provides the leadership and expertise for our activities, which focus on the relationships between engineering, technology, and the quality of life. As a national academy, we provide independent and impartial advice to Government; work to secure the next generation of engineers; and provide a voice for Britain’s engineering community.

For more information please contact

Jane Sutton at The Royal Academy of Engineering