Global brain

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The Global Brain is a metaphor for the worldwide intelligent network formed by people together with the information and communication technologies that connect them into an "organic" whole. As the Internet becomes faster, more intelligent, more ubiquitous and more encompassing, it increasingly ties us together in a single information processing system, that functions like a "brain" for the planet Earth.

Although the underlying ideas are much older, the term was coined in 1982 by Peter Russell in his book The Global Brain. The first peer-reviewed article on the subject was written by Mayer-Kress and Barczys in 1995. Francis Heylighen, who contributed much to the development of the concept, distinguished in ((Heylighen 2005)) three different perspectives on the global brain, organicism, encyclopedism and emergentism, that developed relatively independently but that have now appear to come together into a single conception.


[edit] Organicism

This perspective sees our planet or our society as a living system. This view can be dated back to 1159 with John of Salisbury. In his treatise of political science the Policraticus he compares society to a creature. Each social class plays a role attributed by God: the king is the head, the Church is the soul, the judges and governors are the eyes and the ears, soldiers the hands and farmers the feet. Thomas Hobbes also compared society to the marine monster, the Leviathan in his famous piece of work bearing the same name. However, it is Herbert Spencer who studied in most details this analogy in his monumental Principles of Sociology. Gregory Stock proposed in 1993 a modern vision of superorganism formed by humans and machines, which he calls "Metaman". In this organic metaphor, the analogue of the nervous system is the global brain. The exchanges of information on Earth are processing at a high rate and speed, similar to the functioning of a nervous system.

[edit] Encyclopedism

In the perspective of encylopedism, the emphasis is on developing a universal knowledge network. The first attempt to create such an integrated system of the world's knowledge was the Encyclopédie of Diderot and d'Alembert. However, by the end of the 19th century, the amount of knowledge had become too large to be published in a single synthetic volume. To tackle this problem, Paul Otlet founded the science of documentation, now called information science, eventually envisaging a world-wide web like interface that would make all the world's knowledge available immediately to anybody. H. G. Wells proposed the similar idea of a collaboratively developed world encyclopedia, which he called a World Brain. Nowadays this dream of a universal encyclopedia seems to become a reality with Wikipedia. Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the web, too was inspired by the free associative possibilities of the brain for his invention. The brain can link different kinds of information without any apparent link otherwise; Lee thought that computers could become much more powerful if they could imitate this functioning, i.e. make links between any arbitrary piece of information. (Berners-Lee 1999, p4 and p41).

[edit] Emergentism

This approach focuses on more spiritual and speculative aspects of the global brain. The global brain is here seen as a higher level of evolution. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in his The Phenomenon of Man made a remarkable synthesis of science and religion and had a vision of evolution towards more complexity and consciousness. He anticipated a new level of consciousness, a network of thoughts which he called the noosphere. This can be interpreted as an early anticipation of internet and the web. Peter Russell also emphasised the spiritual dimension that everyone should strive for, in order to achieve a greater synergy in the superorganism.

The emergence of a higher order system in evolution may be called a "metasystem transition" (a concept introduced by Valentin Turchin) or a "major evolutionary transition" (see Szathmary and John Maynard Smith, Nature, 16 March 1995) .

[edit] Application in Management

The term "Global Brain" has also been applied recently in the management field to reflect the global innovation network that companies can tap into to enhance their innovation agenda. In this perspective, the term relates to the global network of scientists, independent inventors, academic researchers, customers, suppliers, as well as different types of innovation intermediaries who facilitate the innovation process (for example, idea scouts, innovation capitalist, etc.). See: "The Global Brain: Your Roadmap for Innovating Faster and Smarter in a Networked World" by Satish Nambisan and Mohan Sawhney, published by the Wharton School Publishing, 2007.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] Bibliography

Wide audience

  • Russell, Peter. (1982) The Awakening Earth: The Global Brain. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. (emphasis on philosophy and consciousness)
  • G. Stock: "Metaman" (social and economic evolution)
  • J. de Rosnay: "The Symbiotic Man" (new sciences and technologies).
  • S. Nambisan & M. Sawhney (2007): "The Global Brain" (emphasis on global innovation management)

Advanced literature

  • See references about the Global Brain [3]
  • Berners-Lee, Tim (1999) – Weaving the Web. Texere, London.
  • Bloom, Howard (2000) Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century.
  • Goertzel, B. (2001) - Creating Internet Intelligence: Wild Computing, Distributed Digital Consciousness, and the Emerging Global Brain. Ed. Plenum.
  • Heylighen F. (2007): Accelerating Socio-Technological Evolution: from ephemeralization and stigmergy to the global brain, in: "Globalization as an Evolutionary Process: Modeling Global Change", edited by George Modelski, Tessaleno Devezas, and William Thompson, London: Routledge (ISBN 9780415773614), p.286-335.[4]
  • Heylighen F. (2007): "The Global Superorganism: an evolutionary-cybernetic model of the emerging network society", Social Evolution & History. 6 No. 1,p. 58-119--a detailed exposition of the superorganism/global brain view of society, and an examination of the underlying evolutionary mechanisms, with applications to the on-going and future developments in a globalizing world [5]
  • Heylighen F. (2005): "Conceptions of a Global Brain: an historical review", , Technological Forecasting and Social Change [in press] [6]
  • Heylighen F. (2004): "Das Globale Gehirn als neue Utopia" (The Global Brain as a new Utopia), in: R. Maresch & F. Rötzer (eds.) Renaissance der Utopie (Suhrkamp, Frankfurt) [7]
  • Mayer-Kress, G. and Barczys, C. 1995 - The global brain as an emergent structure from the worldwide computing network. The information society 11(1): 1-28. [8]
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