Presumably multi-cellular organisms evolved with a central nervous system first.
Consider the slime moulds: they are composed of individual amoebas, which have the ability to collect into a plasmodium group, whereby the membranes of the individuals are subsumed into forming a large multi-nuclear ‘super amoeba’. The collective plasmodium forms or dissociates according to the availability of food and the consequences and interactions between individuals is chemical, including temperature and humidity. It is tempting to ascribe this ability to the primordial mechanism by which multi-cellular organisms first formed into self organised entities. If so, then a rudimentary brain, or central nervous system, would be an expedient next step, to ensure mutual collaboration within the collective.
A brain is composed of nerve cells, these cells are composed of a body that grows and interconnects under chemical influence via dendritic protuberances that reach out to neighbouring cells, the interface between a dendrite and neighbouring cell body, is called a synapse. Information passes from cell to cell as an electro-chemical impulse; the pulse travels within the cell over distance determined by a special ‘dendrite’ called the nerve axon, which branches into dendrites that terminate at the synapses. These synapses determine the progress of the impulse to neighbouring cells; they process the impulse into a chemical response, the so called neurotransmitters, which are compared against the receiving cells chemical and physical receptiveness.
The computer can be considered as an elaborate synapse when part of the internet; connected to other synapses via the axons of the telecommunications systems. The ‘brain’ is then the physical matrix that we call the internet, composed of computers, servers, routers, and telecom exchanges. The software of the internet, the ‘world wide web’, is the ‘mind’ of the brain. The people that play on the internet are the neurotransmitters; the hormones that help give it life and emphasis. Johnny connects to the game servers, his sister to the social sites, his dad to the library, and mum to the shopping sites; each in their own way will contribute to the data traffic which in turn will determine how the physical network shapes and grows as the companies that provide the various services, accommodate the modes of their customers in accordance with the market economy. Therefore the food of the internet is money; it breathes in electricity and exhales thought.
In this rudimentary analogy, the internet as brain, there would be no singular set of eyes and ears such as higher order animals, but the vague input of sense from a myriad of users and devices. For example there is great effort to create ever better face recognition software; such achievements could lead to the internet having the potential equivalence of a billion eyes if connected to every cctv in the world.
And as for the language of thought, consider how Google translation works, without grammatical or syntactical rules, it simply compares words within phrases against respected standards, then allows the database to grow from the world of casual internet translators. The programmers of this software need not be multilingual to have created the program, and yet it works with the same efficacy as a child’s ability to learn their mother tongue, by continually gathering data examples from those around them.
Could the next steps include the ability to make moral judgements and even considered independent thought, based on the concatenation of simple concepts like Occam’s razor, and of learning by examples and comparing these against giant searchable databases? Admittedly the development and implementation of simple concepts into successful software, takes clever and sophisticated programming, but once achieved and proven, the fruits of one success can then be utilized in the next project, just as children develop their sophisticated learning in progressive evolutionary steps. With a world of opinion from the ever growing blog sites, and the phenomenon of Wikipedia, the Internet-God-Child has a truly universal education base.
As an aside, consider the atheist complaint against the so called “intelligent design” argument: the sophistications of the world imply a sophisticated creator. This argument is not proof of a god but merely proof of confounded reasoning. So consider the reply by some atheists: “Who designed the designer?” This is a valid challenge from an a priori point of view, but what if our world came between two evolutions; such that an a priori evolution generated a god creating species, whose god in turn generated the subsequent evolution, much in the same way as the fantasy hypothesis that aliens left DNA, and DNA evolved into man. I would conclude that intelligent design is wrong as an a priori argument and redundant as an a posteriori argument; and if simple evolution doesn’t light your candle, then neither would redundancy. The Internet-God would then be a further refutation incarnate of the need for intelligent design as an explanation, since it would be the supreme sophistication made by mere men. And so it will come to pass (the year 2012 is popular with religious ding-bats) that all god religions, created to explain creation, will be consumed by the Internet-God, and the world as we know it will come to an end/beginning (delete where applicable): “All your gods are belong to us!”