GlobalBrain

WikiPedia:Global_Brain is a good article, no need to reproduce it here. 1 Instead, just our particular thoughts on the Global Brain.

HiveMind” is a word CommunityWiki uses that is more general than “GlobalBrain.” HiveMind is a super-theme that includes many themes, such as HyperSocial, OrganizedCulture, CyberneticEconomy. Read the HiveMind page for an overview of all of them.

When most people talk about the GlobalBrain, they are talking about all of these threads. Here, we are beginning to differentiate them. IdeasLikeStarsAndSymphonies: As you zoom in, you start to see differences.

On this page, we specifically collect ideas related to the organism, and the GlobalVillage.

Internet Communication as Global Brain

In a sense, the “Global Brain” is what we’re talking about when we say things like: “Bloggers amplify ideas.” We are imagining that there is some kind of larger mind, and that good ideas are propagated by bloggers. (Or commenters, or WikiZens?, or whomever.) Whether or not this is true- it’s the story that matters here. That there is sort of a large collective mind, and that it has a shared perception of the importance of ideas, and that bloggers perform a service to this larger mind.

In particular, we think of the filtration roles, the gate-keeper roles: important ideas percolate up through a series of gate keepers, all the way up to the A list bloggers, and then that announces to and upgrades the remainder of the nodes. Again, we’re not saying this is true, we’re not saying this if false, we’re just saying: “This is the story,” and that’s one story of the Global Brain.

Global Brain as a Flag

Does the Global Brain mean anything? Is it just a silly label? (Yes, but we could do worse, see: HiveMindName.) Is it a simple story that sounds nice, but doesn’t do anything?

On the one side, the Global Brain is simply what we have: a complex system of communications and controls that decide what happens. It is cybernetic, we use electric signals to communicate by TV, we have complex trade and political interdependencies between countries, etc., etc.,. In this sense, the GlobalBrain already exists, and it is just a label for refering to these parts, and thinking of it as a brain. We use the phrase to say: communication paths matter, let’s think about this as a dynamic, interactive system, where the parts connect with other parts.

On the other side, the Global Brain is almost a commandment. It’s an aspiration. It is a flag, or banner. The GlobalBrain is a part of a utopian vision. (And I do believe we should work toward utopian visions.) The Global Brain suggests electronic communication, connected people, democratic structure, distributed power, organization, and liberal/enlightenment values. The phrase can connect with Anarchists, Communists, Capitalists, Environmentalists, Social Democrats, Scientists, what have you. Does it “mean anything?” I think it does- It is a commandment. And it says: Use computers. Think about social organization. See ourselves as part of a larger system. Connect with people. Check all of those: are those under the command that is “Global Brain?” Yes, yes, yes, and yes.

People who are interested in these ideas find sympathetic interests and character in the name “Global Brain,” so I think that’s a big part of what it is.

Groups, the Organs of the Global Brain

It’s also what we’re talking about when we talk about whether or not GroupsAreReal?. When we join a group, are we submitting ourselves to a partially mechanical entity? We can choose to stop interacting with a group, we can choose to defy a group, but when we open ourselves to a group, we are open to being influenced by the group. And there do seem to be some constraints on groups that cause them to work somewhat mechanically.

Groups are forming, today, right now, as you read this, forming what we call OrganizedCulture. Conceivably, law may delegate to Internet-enabled civilian groups, as described in DemocracyOfGroups.

Disagreements

The Global Brain does not mean that people must all think alike. By this view, all people may already a Global Brain. We see contradiction and difference throughout society. Is this unfamiliar? No, not really: Just look inside your own mind- you probably have some things that you firmly believe in, and you probably have things that you leave to possibility, and you probably have things that you are divided over. The same thing seems to be true of nations as well, and even the entire world.

The Global Brain is Large. It’s larger than a community, which is itself larger than a cluster of cliques. There are groups that are against other groups in the Global Brain. And yet they work, quite willfully, towards the benefit of the others, even though they may disagree with them. Cisco sells to China, even though American culture is generally against Chinese censorship. We may buy products from people we may strongly disagree with. For instance, oil, from Saudi Arabia.

UnifiedGlobalBrain

A “brain” implies some degree of unity and coherence. If we are a global brain right now, we are a highly schizophrenic brain. (Though a schizophrenic brain is a brain, nonetheless.)

We are clearly becoming connected: the GlobalVillage, by way of the InterNet. Soon (within 10 years,) we will experience PervasiveComputing: The material and Internet worlds will merged, we will always be OnTheInternet, to one degree or another. We will likely see a more OrganizedCulture: people, us, will segregate into groups. But this will bring more discrimination into the world, not less.

However, it’s conceivable that we can build and order our groups in such a way that conflicting groups are separated, the security of groups is near guaranteed, and such that groups complement one another, rather than war with one another. We may develop such that we see ourselves as fulfilling roles, fleshing out the human (or trans-human, cosmic,) spirit. Even if it is not achievable, it may well be a worthy goal.

Demographics, Global Brain Visualization

The global brain may be recognized as such when we have advanced demographic tracking, and advanced visualization software.

There may be a day when we can ask: “Show me all the organizations in the world.” We may see a gigantic map, constructed by software, of every single publicly visible group in the entire world. We would be able to zoom in on any particular group, and see it’s relationship vis-a-vis other groups.

Visualization software allows us to most immediately grasp vast quantities of data. (Sounds take time to parse and index; Vision is much more immediate.) Don’t think necessarily “visualization” – the real value comes from connecting you (or rather, your brain) with an extraordinarily large database (that is: the demographics of the world’s people and organizations.) That the “visual wire” happens to be the highest bandwidth pipe between the two right now is an interesting artifact of reality.

On the day that we can have a big map of the worlds organizations, and navigate it with ease, then there will be little question about what the Global Brain is. We’ll just point at the map, and say: “It’s that.”

Right now, the closest step we on CommunityWiki conceive towards such visualization is what we call the ProjectSpaceNetwork; a map of FreeCulture efforts. The DoTank may have similar work, we haven’t researched it yet.

The Hive

Finally, there is: the Hive. Sections of society, or perhaps even the whole of humanity, may one day develop into something that, if someone were to look at it from 2005, call: “a hive.”

(This is distinct from what we call “HiveMind” on CommunityWiki, which is a label refering to several things, that came about by path dependency, just the natural history of this wiki.)

Consider that almost all of society participates in something that we call: civilization. Not all, but close to all, yes? The degree of interconnection between people, as a consequence of HyperSocial technology, may result in what a modern day person calls: “Hive.”

Groups of people may start directly sharing experiences. If we have Futures:BrainInaJar technology, complete sensory experiences may be recordable, and playback may be possible. Even more radical, the ability to encode compatible understandings, without harming existing understandings, may be possible.

Science fiction rejections of the Hive are plentiful in science fiction. A favorable treatment of a Hive society can be seen in A Miracle of Science, a webcomic featuring a bona fida Hive Mind on Mars.

For more on this vein, read A History of the History of the Future on KuroShin. Search for “hive mind.” Quotation: “An interesting development is that the hive minds, long established as sinister and evil in SF, are now often the good guys; more ethical and empathic than the barbaric, backward hordes of Earth. The “Edenist consensus” in Hamilton’s books, and the “Conjoiner” faction in Reynold’s; are regarded sympathetically. The hive mind is regarded as an extra level of consciousness, which does not prevent human beings from being individuals at the same time. This may be due to the collapse of Communism in the real world: hive minds can now be considered more objectively, rather than as crude political symbols.” Read also footnote 7 on that page.

The Plan

There isn’t actually much question about what “the plan” is; We more or less instinctively follow it, automatically.

The rough plan towards the Global Brain works roughly as follows:

CommunityWiki

Here at CommunityWiki, we participate by doing the following:

However, we are a clique, not a society, and we have lives and interests other than following the rough “Global Brain plan.” Several of us would likely be surprised to hear that we were following a Global Brain plan, at all.

We value Egalitarianism, the idea that people are equal. We see cultural differences, but we are not supremacists.

We also believe in a theory of Progress, capital P. This is a metaphysical belief. We make no pretense that there is a solid theory under all of this that we can show you. However, we do suspect that there may be such a theory, maybe even a good one, and we may work to find it. But we don’t pretend that we actually have one, or know for sure that it exists. Faith in Progress, regardless of whether it exists or not, helps us to move forward, and help make it real. We hope that it is a dream that is so appealing, that it forces its way into the world.

The disclaimer at the top of HiveMind applies here, strongly: The RoyalWe used here does not mean that there is unity behind these statements. These are not PointsOfUnity. There is difference in agreement and interpretation behind these points. I, LionKimbro, am writing this to summarize a general sentiment held by many CommunityWiki members as I interpret it; I may even be very wrong. Caveat emptor, buyer beware.

Questions

We do not really question whether or not there is a global brain or not, since that is more of a definition argument.

We have expressed differences over whether groups are real or not. The question is over whether a group (consider a Corporation, or a Government, or another large Organization) is stable enough to beconsidered a thing that lives on its own. In brief, the idea in favor is that groups are real by the force of narrative: the stories that are locked into the minds of the participants. The idea is that when the group needs new members, the structure connects with the narratives in someones head, and pulls them, electromechanically (that is, via the machinery used by neurons,) into the group. The idea that groups are not real is based in the individual choices made by human beings, and evidenced by the ability of individuals to destroy, subvert, or significantly change groups.

The relationship between an individual and a group is interesting, mysterious, and, if followed up on, likely insightful. We simply haven’t done it. No one has yet expressed adament opinions on either side, it may be an interesting conversation when it comes up.

The result of this conversation would likely lead greater clarity on just how real the GlobalBrain is, and the possible shapes of relationships between individuals, groups, and the Global Brain.

Our other questions are more about the plan on the way to the Global Brain.

Many relevant questions appear in other pages: How do we bring about OrganizedCulture? How can we build a secure, public, democratic CyberneticEconomy? How do we most quickly develop communications technology (SocialSoftware, HyperSocial technology?) and bring the general public to use it?

We do not question the motive behind the plan: “Are we doing the right thing, or should we instead de-civilize, like the anarcho-primitivists?” Nor do we ask: “Is there some higher priority that we should be working on.” We have, for the most part, already considered, made our gamble, cast our lots, and we’ll see what happens. “The snake, knowing itself, strikes swiftly.”

Links

Documents:

Stories:

To see, to do, to touch:

Commentary:

Criticism:

The other HiveMind threads are relevant: CyberneticEconomy, OrganizedCulture, and HyperSocial.

References to here:

Conversations Elsewhere

http://feeds.technorati.com/feed/posts/tag/global_brain returned no data, or LWP::UserAgent is not available.

Translation

Discussion

I’m extracting out the threads from HiveMind. I’d like that page to be shorter, and these sections to be more focused on their particular aspects. That said, they all will link to each other, both in text, and in the links section at the bottom.

I want to include links twice- once in the text in context, and once at the bottom, for convenient reference.

Hope y’all like it!

The section “Global Brain as Flag” came about after some thinking I did after reading CostinCozianu’s comment in RiotsInFrance. Is the GlobalBrain just a name for an idea that doesn’t really mean anything?

The question reminded me of a phrase someone used to describe Cybernetics: “the science that dissolved.” It’s not that it didn’t exist or mean anything, it’s just that it so completely dissolved into every other science, that it ceased to mean anything substantially new.

Does the Global Brain dissolve, too? Yes, I think. It dissolves into political thinking, it dissolves into economic thinking, it dissolves into the coop movement, it dissolves into education, etc., etc.,.

Why then do we have a page on it? Why do we care about it? What’s it doing here?

Well, for one, I wanted to segregate out “Global Brain” (what a lot of people talk about) from some of the other HiveMind themes, which deserve much more particular attention: HyperSocial (personal, group comm. tech), CyberneticEconomy (AboutLogistics,) etc.,.

But I think it also serves as that flag and that vision.

Just to be clear, I did not claim that GlobalBrain was a silly label, but that it may as well turn out to be, and I reserve my judgement for a few decades – if I’ll still be breathing by then.

You have a page here because you believe it’s something new and something important. I fail to get that sense, so I do not identify with this maximalist vision (utopia) because, quite frankly, this page and the referenced Wikipedia entry and the links from Wikipedia forward do not communicate much at all to me. However if this theory/project/utopia turns out something recognizable as results (– something concrete --) then it would be a different story. And the results may turn out to be positive or negative, including positive/negative from different points of view. The result can also be marginal, whereas the GlobalBrain will stand for something but that something will be one minor shade of color in the grand mosaic of many different things.

In the same time, it is very easy to identify a collection of thingies (mass communication, wiki, blogs, internet public opinion, coop something, etc), put them under a virtual umbrella, and give it a name: GlobalBrain. This runs the risk of going counter to the age old wisdom that “there’s nothing new under the sun”. How come that there’s nothing new ? I mean you have computers and internet and wikis and videogames and 3d virtual worlds, and all that cool stuff ?

Well, yes you have all these and they are new and glitzy and they shine quite nicely. But are they of essence or are they just inconsequential tools that may facilitate but do not bring about a qualitative change or a paradigm shift ? This question parallels Dijsktra’s formidable foresight: “Computer Science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes.”. Some people have yet to acknowledge this piece of wizdom.

As far as things of the essence to human nature are concerned nothing in the history of mankind has fundamentally changed it. You can take the Ecclesiastes and read it as if it was written by a contemporary author for contemporary people. You can take Bach’s monumental Mass in B Minor or something as small as the Badinerie from the Orchestral Suite No. 2 and they speak to the contemporary man just as powerful as they did a few hundred years ago, or even more so. And about Utopias, please read the quote I put on Wiki:ReachableUtopia

Here’s a performance test: is this GlobalBrain of yours able to compose a Badinerie ?

Ok, maybe I was being unfair with this GlobalBrain, but what is the best intellectual production that you can point to and say: here this thing is the intellectual output of the GlobalBrain ?

How about its conscience ? Does it have one ? Does this global brain of yours believe in God ? Can I invite him out for the Sunday liturgy (mass) ? I know I can invite Lion to see an Orthodox liturgy.

So, while I have all these question and very little answer so I am skeptical, I wouldn’t be here to bore you with my skepticism. Therefore here’s an (easier) challenge: GlobalComputingUnderground? (aka free/open computing infrastructure). Take this big GlobalBrain utopy, remove the more don quijotesc parts and try to solve the more mundane/technical issue. With some of you (Brandon, Bayle, maybe Lion) I talked about the idea of Wiki:FailSafeWiki. That would be the first step.

I don’t totally understand your criticism. Or, in as much as I understand it, I am sort of confused.

For instance, you said a lot about novelty, and for me, it’s not really so much about novelty as it is about connection.

What did you mean when you wrote: “You have a page here because you believe it’s something new and something important.”

As for the products of the Global Brain: I don’t know, I thought Linux and Wikipedia were kind of cool. Neither of those could have happened before the Internet + mail + cvs + what not, and Wikipedia couldn’t happen before wiki (or something like it.) I see no reason to believe this is the end of communications technology online; I strongly suspect we will see better and better ways of ordering information and social connection online.

I’m not quite sure how to answer your other questions. I mean, I can say: “The Global Brain probably believes in God right now, though it has it’s doubts.” And the reason I would respond like that, is because the Global Brain is made of the thoughts of billions of people, and I think most of them believe in God, but a few of them don’t, and we could imagine that the global brain is thinking this way. But, I don’t think that answer satisfies you: I think you are trying to make a deeper point with your questions, and I’m just not sure what it is.

I mean: “Is the global brain a person?” Clearly not. But, you could post an invitation on Slashdot to your church, and see how many people come. You can attract some attention of the “Global Brain,” right? But I don’t think it’s going to give you it’s undivided attention, unless you do something really, truely, absolutely outrageous, that attracts the world’s attention.

Do that, and you’re going to get a wikipedia page, and an encyclopedia entry, and a bunch of interviews, and pictures of you will fly through the air all over the place, etc., etc.,.

I still feel I have not addressed what you are really meaning to get at, though.

In a certain respect, all those famous symphonies you were talking about are a product of the Global Brain. I mean: I don’t think the composers invented all those instruments himself, no? And while he was composing, perhaps someone else was bring him some food, no? And long after he died, the musical scores were carried by countless people, reproduced, transcribed, riffed on, copied, manipulated, changed, etc., etc.,. Yes?

That the fusing of several elements goes through one primary coordinator is not so shocking to me; There are many many sorts of WeldingProcess where: You set things up, get all these resources, put them all in a circle around some center point, have some monks at the corners perform some chant, feed to the center person, and that one person puts all the resources together in order to finally produce some magical artifact.

Location and promotion of the individual that puts all this effort into producing something very special (and of value to so many!) is a common thing. But then, so is gathering hay and putting it all together into one place, so that a truck can pick it up and carry it away, as well. It’s just the principle of concentration. Hives are singular places where bees concentrate their honey making.

But again: I’m fumbling to answer points that I’m not sure what they are.

I have much sympathy for Costin’s sceptical point of view. When TeilhardDeChardin started writing about a Noosphere, this didn’t change the then existing world. Nowadays a lot of exciting things are happening in that direction and I feel there is a kind of awakening or transition that can be seen. But what is the point of it. If one wakes up, when is the point where he is awake? When a human being comes into existence, when does his life start? There is a fundamental problem between not-being and being that is even philosophically difficult. Probably this ends in a definition problem.

To the topic: I’m also a bit sceptical about GlobalBrain because there should be some consistency in it. If there are lots of components in this brain that have no connection, work independently or against each other, then there isn’t “one brain”.

The valid and interesting points of Costin’s contribution are “why should we talk about one brain” or “which phenomena that we see are constituting the GlobalBrain and - if we want that development - how can they be supported”.

There is still the question - that nobody of us asked - whether a GlobalBrain will be good or bad for us individual humans. Typically new things are seen positiv, but a GlobalBrain may lose its ability to be pluralistic, a no-one can stop it if it goes crazy. There is a lot of SF about that, although there the GlobalBrain is typically a technical device - but situation could be even more severe it isn’t purely technical.

I’m sorry to say that if you claim that the works of Bach are a product of a GlobalBrain because somebody else worked for the food,etc, than we won’t get anywhere because we do not speak the same language. By the same logic my stomach should be regarded as an intellectual entity.

So no, your global brain doesn’t look like a “brain” to me (or a higher order consciousness, or whatever other catchy phrase) because it’s not at all comparable to a real mind and a real consciousness in essential rather than inconsequential aspects. I suspect that a lot of Wiki:WoodenLanguage I can gather from Wikipedia and related links (Global Brain FAQ, etc) are self reinforcing discourse rather than substance. If these things are real “thought processes”. as they say, deriving a real collective intelligence then, in principle, this extraordinary, higher order brain should be comparable with Bach or Shakespeare or Feynman.

Nor could I ascribe Linux to be the output of a Global Brain. Its sources are quite clearly marked as to which person contributes what portion, which one gets the responsibility and the blame. It’s a collective work for sure, but it’s not a global brain, not even a collective brain. And while Linux is not yet as cool as Microsoft Windows, there’s no “Microsoft Brain” at work in producing Windows.

The closest example of intellectual output could be Wikipedia. Wikipedia might be cool in places (like for example the page on Johann Sebastian Bach is quite), it is lackluster mediocrity in others, while there’s also a distinct third category where it worse than sucks – it is worrysome, and reminds me of things like the Animal Farm.

To me, Wikipedia looks very much like the product of a “culture” – where the word culture may not turn out to have the same weight as in say, “German culture”, to the same extent that a collection of a Romanian folk tales is the product of Romanian folk culture – that is not the same as being the product of a “Romanian brain”.

And as a cultural phenomenon, this “global culture” can turn out to be either a passing fad (as in hippy culture, dadaism, disco, hip hop culture, etc ) or it can foster perenial and universal cultural values. But the later possibility has yet to be proven in practice.

Well, I think you nailed it: We’re not speaking the same language.

I had hoped to make it clear on this page, that I wasn’t talking about something with known genuine substance. For instance, it says, at the top: “We are imagining that there is some kind of larger mind,…” And I meant that to be interpreted as: “Oh, they don’t mean there’s a real brain here, they are using a Global Brain as a metaphor for something.” And I was also hoping that it was clear that this “something” that the metaphor stands for is, itself, somewhat vague.

That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, it’s just: We don’t know if it exists or not.

Getting more specific, we end up in “Are groups real or not.” This is an allusion to an old conversation AlexSchroeder and I had.

I was arguing the side of: “I think groups are real. I think that groups exist. I think that they are real, bona fida, mechanical entities.” And Alex was arguing the side of: (paraphrasing:) “I don’t think groups are real. I think it’s just people. People can do whatever they want. They can disband, they can disembark, whatever. Groups are not mechanical. Groups are just an illusion.”

And, it’s a conversation that we never got to have in more detail, and it’s a conversation that we never made a decision about. Neither of us is firmly entrenched in our opinion, we are open minded to each others side.

I’m kind of itching to have the conversation at some point, actually. I think I have some good arguments: Many groups are extremely stable, and have existed for centuries. The people in the roles change, but the roles survive. Roles adapt and change over time, but the corpus as a whole seems to be pretty long lived. I can think about: “Why do people go to work in the morning, rather than stay in bed?” And I think I can argue that the machinery is pretty stable. If someone decides not to go to work in the morning, there are systems in place so that someone else does go to work, thus perpetuating the machine.

Now, if it turns out that groups are real, we perhaps need to take this Global Brain much more seriously. Because that means that there’s all this machinery at work, and it’s going to be there for a long time, and it’s probably something that can be studied, modeled in computers, understood, adjusted, etc., etc.,.

If groups are not real, then that is interesting to: We can practice unheard of freedoms, and disolve groups with ease. We can live in a world of majestically ephemeral symbols, and blow crystal bubbles made of thought into the air.

I disagree that the global brain requires consistency.

I mean: is your brain consistent? Maybe yours is, but mine isn’t..! My mind is a lot of different tensions pulling in different directions, arguing with one another.

Ideas don’t need to have a sudden impact in order to mean something. Some are purely descriptive. MarshallMcLuhan talked about the Electronic Age of the GlobalVillage. Did something have to happen, right away, for his ideas to mean something? No. It does alter people’s predictions, though: It causes them to consider things in a different way, and to generate a different kind of thoughts. (…which leads, eventully, to different kinds of actions.)

What is the point of it? The point is to have a scenario for thinking about the future. In the case of the Global Brain, the point is to think of ourselves as members of a larger, super-national civilization: Working for the entire world, in a complementary way. Under “Global Brain as Flag,” I listed a number of commands that come out. The point is to redirect our strategy in a way that reflects these affirmations and observations: things that we find are interesting and agreeable, things that make us move, have motive force.

I’m not sure about what the thing about waking up or not waking up is about. If you are talking about the global brain “awakening”: There’s no need to pinpoint a moment in time. “From this moment onward, the Global Brain is awake. Before, it was sleeping.” We could instead just say: “The Global Brain has one of those mornings where it takes an hour to wake up, and goes through all these different degrees of waking up.”

If the question is “which phenomena constitute the GlobalBrain, how can it be supported-” I would say that the most controllable one that we see is OrganizedCulture. Solving the InterCommunityCooperation problem, developing Internet demographic visualization tools, building up WikiNodes, SisterSites, establishing WebOfTrust, etc., etc.,- these things all work towards establishing the GlobalBrain. Many of these are things that we are already doing; Calling the end product the “Global Brain” (or more specificly:) “Organized Culture” just gives us a label for the thing that comes out of the other side of our actions. Less controllable (by us) is CyberneticEconomy, which we can see in more radical turns in things like AmazonsMechanicalTurk?, some of the scenarios described in AboutLogistics, etc., etc., etc,.

You wrote “There is still the question - that nobody of us asked - whether a GlobalBrain will be good or bad for us individual humans.”

I disagree strongly; many of us have asked that, at many points in time. I’ve brought up the quote from CityComeaWalkin many times here: “When the City Come-a Walkin’, we’ll all be obsolete.” Being obsolete is not a positive connotation!

Up above in the questions area, it specificly lists: “*How do we diagnose the health and development of the Global Brain?” followed by: “How do we ensure that the Global Brain turns out good, not bad?”

I hope it is clear that this is not TechnologicalDeterminism, nor that it is clear that things will turn out well.

In the questions section, there is a very clear address to the group-individual question. I think that we are asking those questions. We may not be answering them right now, but we are asking them.

The Global Brain could easily be horrible. It is very easy to envision a CyberneticEconomy gone horribly wrong; That’s what CityComeaWalkin is all about. We have read in the news about Internet data carriers talking about how to charge Google extra money just because they’re Google, or to block SIP traffic because they want to charge extra for their own Internet phone traffic, etc., etc.,. We could imagine that if the CyberneticEconomy takes place, things could go even worse: All transactions could be mediated and controlled by the maintainers of the pipes. People could be manipulated into actions that individually look innoculous, but in aggregate are extremely harmful. There are all sorts of things that we could envision going wrong. Hence the question: “What kinds of things do we look for, to see if things are going right, or things are going wrong.”

I think these are open questions. I wonder about them, but I don’t have answers. I mean, despite the obvious: Ecological destruction, slavery, etc.,. On the “things going right” side, the obvious is stuff like an end to war, prosperity for everyone, etc., etc.,.

Whether Global Brain turns out to be good or not is irrelevant before you realize that it’s not actually a brain-like thingie: it has social processes but it does not have “thinking processes”, neither does it have processes commonly associated with a consciousness. To claim that it’s “like a brain” is, I think, a form of self delusion.

If you were to use PlainEnglish?, you’d call it global internet culture or some such. Lawrence Lessig talks about the Free Culture, other people talk abiout the online culture, to rename it as GlobalBrain has some hype factor that can be motivating for the more SF inclined, but on the other hand risks damaging its credibility. The more skeptical people would ask “who are you kidding here” ?

Now is this culture good or bad ? How do you foster this culture ? Those are interesting questions. We are talking very much of an incipient culture that is in danger of being overhyped. As a culture (not a brain mind you) it has yet to create perennial, universal values that you can point to with certainty and say: this thing will be here a few centuries going forward, the way that you can point to Bach’s little Badinerie and say: they’ll listen to it for another era or so.

And there’s hardly much reason to worry: it does not look like the “cities will come a walking” any time soon. Countless people thought they were part of the culture that would fundamentally change the world (hippies, communists, etc, etc, etc). It turns out that the world is much more resilient than anybody could have imagined.

No, the cultures have dialogs and change in response to one another.

There is a thinking process.

It comes from all the groups and organs talking and fighting with one another.

(So, it is a Global Brain.)

Nobody declared that the Global Brain necessarily results in universal values.

Even within a single individual’s brain, values shift and churn in response to the Times.

If there is a metaphysical agent that is King here, it is surely: the Times.

I fail to recognize any kind of meaning in the words that you put here. Are you sure you talk Wiki:PlainEnglish ? It may upset you, but as far as I am concerned calling it global brain is part of the hyping effort that this incipient culture is putting up in order to compensate for its lack of substance.

My prediction is that if it continues along this path it will end up being just as relevant as the hippie culture (with which it shares some similarities).

You are thinking that this is something that it is not.

The Global Brain has been here since the first person, the first tribe, etc.,.

But my goal is not to impress you.

Do you have a word for the system of systems?

Do you have a word that encapsulates the ideas of: there are governments, there are corporations, there are groups of people doing their own thing, there are newspapers and mass media communication channels, there are personalities, there are languages, there are all these signalling systems that go around and shoot messages and leave documents for one another.

Do you have a word for that? Because we do: It’s called the GlobalBrain.

Now, perhaps you’ve just never had interest in talking about the whole system, or looking at it as a whole system.

In which case, you have no need for the word, and it means nothing to you.

We do talk about this sort of thing, and we do have a word for the upper bound on all those things, taken together. We call it the GlobalBrain.

Now, if you have plainer compact language for the concept then great, I’d love to hear it. But we fished around, (and boy, did we fish around: HiveMindName discussion,) and I figured, eventually, “Let’s just go with GlobalBrain.”

I decided on that because it seems to be what most other people use.

Some say “NooSphere,” but that seems less PlainTalk to me than GlobalBrain; If someone hadn’t heard the term before, they’re not going to get it.

We had to pick something.

Maybe you’d be happier if we called it GlobalSystemOfOrgansAndSymioticExchange?.

If I am impressed or not is unimportant. But I suspect that if I am unimpressed, a lot of other people will be much less so. So by using a different language you burn up opportunities for collaboration, you isolate into a little island [those most people that use GlobalBrain are outside mainstream culture and science as far as I can tell].

The problem is not so much the label “brain” in itself but that in chosing this you overload a very simple concept with a muddled meaning. And when you go on to say, hey, this “system” is really like a brain, and its intellectual output is Bach’s Badinerie or anything and everything that people created at all, then you lose me as audience. You’ll lose many more like me, and no matter how nice are your intentions: if it walks like hype, quacks like hype, the conclusion is unescapable: it probably is hype.

So you want to denote the whole set of humans, interactions, evolution, etc. There’s another bery simple and unconfusing term for that: human civilization. As in “the history of civilization” or in “Yucatan one can admire the vestiges of Maya civilization”. How do you think it sounds “in Yucatan one can admire the vestiges of the Maya Brain” ?

But guess what: just using the word civilization decreases the hype factor and doesn’t promote the thesis that this named set of thingies (individuals, cultures, governments, interactions, myths,books, copmputers, etc) are brain like. That’s so much better, because you have the Wiki:BurdenOfProof, and you do not want to create the appearance that you discharged it too superficially.

If I was some researcher trying to promote the concept, I’d create a wiki page, book, etc: CivilizationAsCyberneticSystem? or CivilizationAsHigherOrderIntelligence?, CivilizationAsBeing?, where I’d work really hard to present the case that civilization is really a form of “brain” (consciousness, AI, cybernetic system ) and what utility can be derived from considering the new theory (what insight the new theory provides). The later part is crucial, I can also make a theory by considering the row of nicely aligned trees on my street as a system and derive some vacuously true statements on them, but that theory is no good even if entirely consistent. See if this new theory is accepted and only after I’d prudently move forward to name the thing GlobalBrain. A new scientific theory will always be accepted if it provides value (puts food on the table).

It’s not necessarily a community wiki problem: the choice has been made for you. There are books, conferences, a whole scientific subculture on GlobalBrain. Who knows, maybe it will make it to mainstream science. But again, maybe not. Maybe it will turn out to be pseudo-science. The way they go about doesn’t smell quirw right to me.

Again, it’s not exactly my problem, they have their circles, their peer reviewers, their conferences. If they make it to mainstream I’ll know sooner or later. Until then, for me it was just as good an example of empty label as many others could be, one of the many buzzwords hovering around this day and age.

Actually, the original name for this page was “HumanCybernetics?.”

Go look at the HiveMind page, and then do a search for “HumanCybernetics?.” Dated Nov 4.

But see, most people will have no idea what you mean if you say, “Human Cybernetics,” because most people don’t know what Cybernetics means. So I decided on “Global Brain.”

Because, unlike you, most people, if you say, “Well, it’s like looking at the world as if humanity were a gigantic brain,” they follow what you mean. Most people have, actually, thought about this kind of thing at some point in your mind, and they go, “Oh, yes, I see what you mean. I know what you’re talking about.”

Next, as for the theory: We don’t actually have a theory that is “the theory of the Global Brain,” and that’s not really our interest. Rather, the Global Brain is a piece of other theories and explanations.

What are our major ideas? Our major ideas are OrganizedCulture and CyberneticEconomy. This is where you get “hm, that’s interesting.”

Now, as we talk about these things, and in the context of globalization, it naturally results in another thing, a thing we want to name. We choose the name “Global Brain.”

That said, the Global Brain is an interesting thing to chew on and consider. “Hm, what will happen, when we have OrganizedCulture, and what will happen when we have a global CyberneticEconomy? What would that be like?” And then there’s our old friend, the Global Brain idea. “We can reuse our terminology here, and call it the Global Brain.”

The problem with your row of trees, is that they are utterly uninteresting. The neat thing about the Global Brain, is that it’s fascinating.

You are arguing that the idea is useless, unless I can give you specific results, conclusions, applications, machines.

I disagree. I find that, frequently, I discover things by mulling over things. And I think that there are things worth discovering here.

“Good God, man!” I can hear you responding: “You made a page like GlobalBrain, and you didn’t have a fully fleshed out theory behind it?!”

But no. I hold a thistle between my teeth on the porch, watch the wind blow across the yellow wheat fields, and mutter to myself, “Global Brain… Global Brain… Global Brain,…” Just wondering, calculating, considering. Some WordMagic actually is magical, and gives you interesting gifts. Sometimes I get flashes of insight. I come up with ideas that do (or may) have applicability: Things like OrganizedCulture, things like HiveMindTheory, things like CyberneticEconomy.

But really, I actually get a kick out of repeating phrases to myself, and discovering what ideas come out.

I think that this is a valid mode of thinking.

Can I teach him chess or not ? Can he even make an informed decision on whether he feels like being taught chess ? If these things cannot happen with the global brain, how can one still claim that it’s “like a brain” ? Is he a brain in his mother’s womb still after a few millenia of evolution?

Tell me something actionable about these flashes of insights. Something that I can take home and say to myself: I learnt something new today about the global brain. I respect your way of thinking via word magic, rational deduction, or what have you. Whatever works for you. But I wonder what can you teach me, what’s the knowledge you have developped on this global brain. I don’t want the whole theory, just give me a little insight.

Like for example if you ask a mathematician for something nice and simple, he can teach you lots of little, verifiable insights that are graspable by anybody with a brain. Like calculating distances, extracting the square root, Euclid’s algorithm, solving a system of linear equations. If you ask an historian, he will teach you a sweet little lesson on the rise and decadence of empires. Ask a psychologist and he will teach you that the sanguine temperaments are likely to react in certain ways when confronted with adversity.

What is there that I can learn about this GlobalBrain thingie ? Can you focus on a simple, easy to grasp little lesson. Can you point me to a book that you read and taught you such a lesson (no need to duplicate the effort) ?

I think that was my last try.

Sure. I find “lesson” to be patronizing language, but okay.

People all over the place have ideas. Some are interesting, some are not so interesting.

There are people who collect ideas of interest to some group, and then publish them.

By tracking the people who are collecting interesting ideas, people get the benefit of all the good ideas.

This way, after all, they don’t have to go sorting the good ideas from the bad ideas themselves. We’re economizing here: You just have the one person do all the sorting, and then publish it, and there you go.

So everybody gets to hear all the interesting ideas.

People have blind spots though, and so many people follow several trackers.

It’s sort of a redundancy mechanism, too. It works in many respects.

So, this is part of how the Global Brain functions. My understanding is that the physical brain has a similar geometry: groups of neurons detect particular types of patterns, and abstract that information for still other parts.

There you go.

Now, I don’t think you can teach the Global Brain how to play Chess, because it already knows Chess. That is, there are elements within the Global Brain that work very hard to propagate information about how Chess is played, and in maintaining that understanding. (To answer your other question: Yes, there’s a significant chunk of the Global Brain that feels like learning chess.)

That said, if you were passionate enough about Chess, you could probably inspire more interest in the Global Brain for Chess- it is actually quite intelligent, and interactive.

You could campaign for Chess. You could go around teaching people about the joys of Chess. You could help people learn basic steps in chess, and give lessons on the side-walk in basic Chess strategy. You could appeal to all these interests, and raise interest in Chess.

This is because you are part of the Global Brian.

There: You have two lessons now, in the Global Brain. You can model basic situations in terms of the Global Brain.

There is a WordMagic problem here that I think is often seen when talking about new technology.

For example, VirtualReality was supposed to mean something that is much like our sensory reality, but created by computers. That hasn’t happened yet. Yet now the word has acquired another, “lesser” meaning; you can go to VR arcades and play video games that are slightly more immersive, but that no one would confuse with “reality”.

Why did it acquire this? First, because the terminology which would accurately describe these games is too specific; no one would know what you mean if you advertise a “stereophonic stereographic high-degree polygonal simulated 3D environment arcade (with novel input devices!)”. So you call it a “virtual reality”, even though it doesn’t quite hit the mark in the “reality” department, because it is heading in that direction, so people get the idea.

Second, that term is a flag; the people who work on that stuff are probably interested in “virtual reality”, and the other people who are interested in virtual reality will probably be interested in that stuff, and making that stuff is probably what you have to do in order to bring the vision of real VirtualReality closer to, well, reality. So this kind of thing will be associated with the “virtual reality community”.

Third, because it is in the interest of the promoters of that technology to make it sound more awesome than it is.

I think GlobalBrain is the same sort of thing. There is the phrase “global brain”, used metaphorically or as a flag, and then there is the idea of a global brain, meaning “whatever defines what a brain is, this is one of them, an honest-to-God brain!”.

If you are actually talking about the greater sense, then it is completely appropriate to ask, as Costin did, “OK, if it’s a (human-level+ intelligent) brain, what works of art and literature has it produced? Does it believe in God? Can I have a conversation with it?”. And if the answers aren’t satisfactory, then it’s appropriate to answer, “OK, then I don’t think it’s really a brain”.

But I think this page is talking about the lesser sense of the phrase. It’s not really a brain (yet), it’s just a good metaphor and flag for those who would like to make it more brainlike.

I tend to like to save phrases and use them only for their “greater” sense. So I don’t like to call those things we have today “virtual reality arcades”. And I would prefer to call what we have today a GlobalHumanCyberneticSystem?, and reserve GlobalBrain for the real deal (which we might still want to talk about, because we might have it in the future but not today).

That being said, there are plenty of other communities that use the term GlobalBrain metaphorically, so it’s worth noting that.

Also, since so far we can’t define “brain” without reference to hardware implementation details, we don’t really know what differentiates a “brain” from lesser cybernetic systems yet. So it’s possible that our GlobalHumanCyberneticSystem? could become a brain but that there would still be disagreement as to whether it is or not.

This is a really clear description you’ve given, and it does a good job of describing the phrase.

That said, I don’t think the concept of the “global brain” has ever been elucidated as clearly as the concept of “VirtualReality.” Virtual reality is very easy to understand; You just watch Lawnmower Man, or imagine that you’re already living in a virtual reality.

What would a global brain look like? What would it be? I mean, how would you play chess with it? What do you imagine, Bayle?

I haven’t actually though in that direction very seriously.

I can imagine the HiveMind like in Mars. I can imagine the Borg, like in Star Trek.

But a huge giant enormous brain, I haven’t really given much thought to. I suppose if you had a single cybernetic system that governs on the entirety of planet Earth, that used Earth for it’s body, or something, you could call it a “global brain,” but I don’t think that’s what people are talking about.

And bits of neurons never go flying off from your brain, and then come back later, but humans/cyborgs/machines/whatever could fly off, and come back.

Or, (disgusting,) you could have a gigantic flesh brain covering the Earth. Now that’s really gross.

What were you thinking of?

I’m not defining it any more specifically than you are. I think that as neuroscience advances, maybe eventually we’ll have a better idea of what kinds of algorithms the brain uses (which differentiate brains from other information processing systems), and then if we make our GlobalHumanCyberneticSystem? do something similar, we’ll call it a GlobalBrain. Until then it’s kind of ill-defined.

But I do think that if we have a real GlobalBrain, and if it’s intelligent enough to read and write, then it should be able to pass Costin’s tests; to compose written texts, to tell us what it’s opinion is on various matters, etc.

Hey- I think you are defining it more specifically than me..!

I have difficulty imagining how it could do those things that you are talking about, though.

(Do you have any intuitions about what it might look like?)

Well, I guess the “Mars hive mind” from Miracle of Science is the kind of thing I’m thinking. It’s not, like, a gigantic brain of flesh (see the cartoon Gandahar aka Light Years for that, although even that one wasn’t “global”), but it is enough of a “brain” that you can have a conversation with it, that it can hold opinions, that it could write a musical score.

(beep beep beep) Gan- da- har… (beep beep beep)

Okay, I think I’ve had enough of that Google; Thanks. You can… chill out now, or go help someone else, or something.

(beep beep beep)


These ideas have really caught my eye. (Heart.)

It’s more than just GeekHealth.

I think this is a really important narrative in the Tielhard / Global Brain / “The Machine is Using Us" EvolutionarySpirituality vein.

Footnotes:

1. If we had TransClusion technology on here, as they have in CraoWiki, I would have just transcluded it. But we don’t, so I just put a link to it.

Define external redirect: CivilizationAsCyberneticSystem CivilizationAsBeing PennyArcade PlainEnglish WikiZens GlobalHumanCyberneticSystem GroupsAreReal AmazonsMechanicalTurk HumanCybernetics GlobalSystemOfOrgansAndSymioticExchange GlobalComputingUnderground CivilizationAsHigherOrderIntelligence OrionsArm

EditNearLinks: PervasiveComputing LiveJournal CostinCozianu WebOfTrust InterNet GlobalVillage KuroShin FreeCulture VernorVinge NooSphere CraoWiki TechnologicalDeterminism RoyalWe VirtualReality MarshallMcLuhan WikiNodes

Languages:

The same page elsewhere:
MeatBall:GlobalBrain