Wikipedia invites us to do the following disorienting math: a chaotic process, with unpredictable and wildly uneven contributions, made by nonexpert contributors acting out of variable motivations, is creating a global resource of tremendous daily value.
Here Comes Everybody - Clay Shirky - pg. 139
Which reminded me of something Wallace Shawn says in the film My Dinner With Andre:
Well, the meaningless fact of the fortune cookie or the turtle's egg can't possibly have any relevance to the subject you're analyzing. Whereas a group of meaningless facts which are collected and interpreted in a scientific way may quite possibly be relevant. Because the great thing about scientific theories about things is that they're based on experiments that can be repeated.
My Dinner With Andre - By Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory - Film by Louis Malle
Both of these quotes are getting at something important that I haven't figured out how to articulate well yet. There is a way, somehow, that intelligence can derive meaning out of meaninglessness. Something like that. It's something that no other process we have yet observed or devised can do. It's a bit circular, I suppose, in that it is only intelligence itself that seeks meaning - so that I guess you could define meaningfulness as "stories that satisfy intellectual curiosity", but it really seems more fundamental than that.
To me, at least, this still seems like maybe the defining mystery in sentience. There is a way in which it transforms mere consequence into structure. I wish I could say this better. I'll probably keep taking stabs at it here until I get a good formulation.