I finally got around to reading a futuristic Wired article pointed out on Slashdot.
The bulk of the article is a retrospective look at how people have thought about and used the Internet. The really interesting part, however, begins with the last few paragraphs of page 4. While the Slashdot crowd focused on the prediction of a web-based OS and its ability to heal itself, the truly remarkable forecast is the emergence of real artificial intelligence from the net itself. The author recognizes that this "planet-sized computer" is as complex as the human brain, and is growing exponentially. It has already exceeded the "20-petahertz threshold for potential intelligence" proposed by Ray Kurzweil. Our participation in and behavior on the world-wide web might provide this being with the knowledge and programming necessary for consciousness to evolve. In the very near future the human race may be presented with a global network that has become self-aware.