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A Sourcebook for the Worldwide Discovery of a Creative Organic Universe
Table of Contents
Genesis Vision
Learning Planet
Organic Universe
Earth Life Emerge
Genesis Future
Recent Additions

II. Planetary Prodigy: An Emergent Sapiensphere Learns on Her/His Own

C. Mindkind Sapiensphere: WorldWise Collective Intelligence

Chorost, Michael. World Wide Mind: The Coming Integration of Humanity, Machines, and the Internet. New York: Free Press, 2011. There really is something “in the air” today, not only a life-friendly genesis universe, but humankind’s emergent, “wired,” cognitive faculty whom is accomplishing this revolution. Michael Chorost is a science writer with a doctorate in computers and cultures from the University of Texas, Austin. His previous book Rebuilt: My Journey Back to the Hearing World, (Mariner Books, 2006) told how he received cochlear, inner ear, electronic implants that restored audio abilities. With his neuroscience background, the result is a well-researched endeavor to imagine, assimilate, and properly avail this enveloping cerebration that so consumes our hours. In our daily midst, it is said, dawns a “coming global intelligence” with a modicum of “collective communication” and “an intentionality and consciousness of its own.”

While works such as Ray Kurzweil’s The Singularity is Near tout a machine takeover, or Kevin Kelly’s What Technology Wants that hypes and fears it, Chorost has a unique, valuable point to make. Early chapters “A Physics of the Mind” and “Your Brain is More Complex than a Galaxy” offer an accessible entry to our thought and emotional processes. Excursions through California encounter groups convey how social rapports can readily form communal personas. These lights illume inklings of a global connectivity just reaching its nascent cogitation, “telempathy,” and self-awareness. While well-intentioned, from his experience Chorost dwells much on bodily technical augmentations. He then cites an inappropriate “hive-mind” model, based on studies of social insects that self-organize into a super-organism. It is curious that so many like projects get close, yet cannot realize an analogous, similarly networked, brain.

A lone 20th century thinker is then turned to for a unique resolve. As the quotes aver, rather than a person or planet dichotomy, a loss of personal identity and deference before this technological tsunami, Chorost seeks the guidance of French philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955), who proposed such a “noosphere” decades ago (see especially The Formation of the Noosphere in The Future of Man). Teilhard’s insight drew upon a constant natural principle which he called “creative union” whereby membership in a supportive community actually enhances and empowers individual liberties. One might broach that most works imply a global continuity of our “left brain” emphasis, what we really need is a global “right brain” above and beyond to conceive a saving genesis vision (e.g. Ramachandran below).

But the French Philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin presents a more positive and encouraging theory of collective mind. Born in 1881, Teilhard was a remarkable combination of priest and scientist. As a Catholic, he was steeped in a theology deeply suspicious of evolution. Yet as a paleontologist, he understood evolution intimately. He aimed to reconcile these competing worldviews in his book The Phenomenon of Man, which was published after his death in 1955. (162) Teilhard saw human consciousness as the latest stage in that evolution. What must come next, he suggested, is the binding of individual human beings into a collective entity. He called this entity the noosphere, the mind-sphere, by analogy with the term “biosphere. (162)

The binding of individuals into a collective mind, he insisted, does not entail the erasure of individuality. To the contrary, it requires its intensification. As a paleontologist he had a rich history of life to draw upon for examples. When single-celled organisms come together in a multicelled one they become more specialized, not less. They form membranes, eyes, nervous systems. (162) Such an intensification of uniqueness is seen in every evolutionary leap forward. When Homo sapiens split off from other primates, its individuals became increasingly specialized in trades, skills, and perspectives. The more unique an individual is, the more leverage he can gain in order to experience life on his own terms. Specialization, individuation, and freedom tend to occur together. (163)

Christakis, Nicholas and James Fowler. Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives. New York: Little, Brown, 2009. Reviewed more in Current Vistas, one of the strongest testaments so far of the evolutionary and historic rise of a superorganic human society that is beginning to learn and think "on its own."

Christensen, Wayne. Self-Directedness, Integration and Higher Cognition. Language Sciences. 26/6, 2004. In an issue on “Distributed Cognition and Integrational Linguistics,” a University of KwaZulu-Natal philosopher considers how persons converse and learn within a social milieu. The premise of this school is that cognitive processes now reside beyond individual human brains amongst people and artifacts such as computers and libraries, broaching on a collective intelligence and thought.

Christian, David. World History in Context. Journal of World History. 14/4, 2003. A scholarly proposal to accompany his book Maps of Time that historians need to situate the study of specific events in a global arena, and then expand further to a cosmic evolutionary frame, in order to fully appreciate what is going on. Once again, a “collective learning” of human societies is noted as the most distinguishing human attribute. Once again, Natural Genesis is based on this very premise that a composite knowledge now graces the earth and needs to be recognized, gathered and documented.

Clark, Andy. Supersizing the Mind: Embodiment, Action, and Cognitive Extension. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. The University of Edinburgh philosopher, along with David Chalmers who writes a Foreword, advocates that a person’s mental activity is not confined to a brain, but extends into a technologically communicative society such that ones mindfulness imbues this expanded compass. Our interest is piqued for such a view seems to imply the nascent presence of a local and global cerebral faculty and cogitation.

Clery, Daniel and David Voss. All for One and One for All. Science. 308/809, 2005. An introduction to a special section and update on a worldwide “Distributed Computing.” Typical articles are Service-Oriented Science by Ian Foster and Cyberinfrastructure for e-Science by Tony Hey and Anne Trefethen.

Cobb, Jennifer. Cybergrace. New York: Crown, 1998. An IT professional views the Internet as an embryonic world sensorium with an integrative and spiritual potential to inform, heal and empower a humane earth community.

Combs, Allan and Stanley Krippner. Collective Consciousness and the Social Brain. Journal of Consciousness Studies. 15/10-11, 2008. Wise neuropsychologist elders observe ”similar dynamical patterns” of coherent neural networks to grace both brains and human groups, each capable of a unified sense of awareness, cognition, and knowledge. See also in this issue on Social Approaches to Consciousness a paper by Robert Turner and Charles Whitehead on How Collective Representations Can Change the Structure of the Brain.

Dankulov, Marija, et al. The Dynamics of Meaningful Social Interactions and the Emergence of Collective Knowledge. Nature Scientific Reports. 5/12197, 2015. In a paper that again offers a marriage of physics and peoples, systems mathematicians Dankulov and Bosiljka Tadić, Jozef Stefan Institute, Slovenia, and Roderick Melnik, Wilfred Laurier University, Canada, find condensed matter principles to be similarly exemplified in human sociality where they foster a dynamic, self-organized cooperation. As a result, viable “knowledge building and sharing communities” are achieved.

In modern statistical mechanics, it has been recognized that the collective phenomena arise from interactions among the elementary units via a spontaneous transition to an organized state, which can be identified at a larger scale. Recently, this unifying principle is gaining importance in other natural sciences, for instance for elucidating organization in living systems, emergence of coherent activity in neuronal cultures, and developing computational social science. In social systems, interactions and cooperations among actors can lead to the recognizable collective behavior, for instance, the development of collective knowledge, appearance of common norms or language. The quantitative study of the stochastic processes underlying these social phenomena utilizes the methods of statistical physics supported by analysis of the plethora of online empirical data. Some illustrative examples are the appearance of good and bad conduct in online games and groupings induced by the exchange of emotional messages on social sites. However, a deeper understanding of the mechanisms of collaborative social endeavors remains a serious challenging problem in physics and social dynamics modeling. (1)

Davidson, Cathy and David Goldberg. The Future of Learning Institutions in a Digital Age. http://mitpress.mit.edu/9780262513593. An online MacArthur Foundation report which is also available in paper from MIT Press, and is to be expanded into a 2010 book. Computer revolutions have engendered a world-wide community access to the entire corpus of human knowledge, which then challenges educational endeavors to keep apace.

Davies, John, et al, eds. Semantic Web Technologies. Chichester, UK: Wiley, 2006. The global computer Internet is under revision and reinvention based on a new generation of interactive ontologies and protocols to better foster information accessibility, commerce, and dialogue. The name given is Semantically Enabled Knowledge Technologies whose many dimensions are explored herein from annotation principles to digital libraries.

De Rosnay, Joel. Symbionomic Evolution: From Complexity and Systems Theory to Chaos Theory and Coevolution. World Futures. 67/4-5, 2011. Some three decades after his The Macroscope, the French futurist, author, MIT PhD in biology, continues to envision the imminent appearance of a worldwide “macro-organism,” a planetary person, arising from these universally active self-organizing forces. “Symbionomic” is his composite for the many facets of this scientific dynamical revolution, to designate this globally interrelational “emergence of collective intelligence.”

One of the great challenges of the modern world is the control and management of complexity. After the infinitely large and the infinitely small, we once again find ourselves confronting an unfathomable infinite—the infinitely complex. With its capability for simulation, the computer has become a macroscope. It helps us understand complexity and act on it more effectively to build and manage the large systems of which we are the cells—companies, cities, economies, societies, ecosystems. Thanks to this macroscope, a new vision of the world is emerging, based on a unified approach to the self-organization and evolution of complex systems. On the basis of this comprehensive vision, it becomes possible to describe the origin of a new form of life on Earth, a planetary macro-organism made up of human beings and machines, networks, and nations—a still-embryonic macro-organism that is trying to live in symbiosis with the planetary ecosystem. This new vision of the world brings together two complementary modes of analysis and action: the analytic method and the systemic approach. It can be called the unified theory of the self-organization and dynamics of complex systems.

More concisely, one can propose the term symbionomics to describe the range of phenomena covered by this unified theory. Symbionomics can be defined as the study of the emergence of complex systems through self-organization, self-selection, coevolution, and symbiosis. Symbiotic relationships form through coevolution with other organisms or organizations, and collective properties emerge. This information is transmitted to succeeding generations through the memorization of structures and reproductive and evolutionary mechanisms by means of chemical or electronic coding or by the culture. A complex organization is born. From a symbionomic perspective, it is then possible to trace the essential phases of the emergence of a new form of life on Earth, a macrolife, of which humanity, this time, is not the evolutionary end point, but the starting point and catalyst. (Abstract, 304)

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