II. A Learning Planet: An Integral Knowledge by Humankind
C. Mindkind: A Global Knowledge
desJardins, Marie, et al. Introduction to the Special Issue on AI and Networks. AI Magazine. Fall, 2008. Studies over the past years with regard to scale-free, small-world linkages prompt reconsiderations of many AI realms such as Natural Language Processing, Peer-to-Peer Systems, Cooperative Multiagent Systems, the Blogosphere, along with similar gene regulatory, metabolic, neural, and social geometries. Typical papers are The Age of Analogy Networks by Claudio Mattiussi, et al, and The Fractal Nature of the Semantic Web by Tim Berners-Lee and Lalana Kagal (view herein). What one may surmise is a consistent recurrence, a universality, of the same patterns and processes across a wide phenomenal range, which is essentially cerebral and linguistic in kind.
Di Marzo Serugendo, Giovanna, et al, eds. Engineering Self-Organizing Systems. Berlin: Springer, 2004. As global networks become highly complex and interconnected, computer scientists are looking to emulate how nature creates and maintains a dynamic, emergent vitality and order. In this regard, the biological realm is seen as most characterized by multi-agent systems which locally interact to spontaneously form a modular organization.
Di Marzo Serugendo, Giovanna, et al, eds. Self-Organizing Software: From Natural to Artificial Adaptation. Berlin: Springer, 2011. As nonlinear science moves toward a mature synthesis, the ubiquitous presence of complex adaptive systems is seen as an innate guide for more viable, life-like computation. A group of editors and authors across Europe from the UK to Greece here explore “Natural Computing” in four sections: Main Concepts and Background, Self-Organizing Mechanisms, Engineering Artificial Self-Organizing systems, and Applications of Self-Organizing Software. And might we then imagine that a new genesis nature is beginning to consciously create itself by way of its human phenomenon?
In other works it has been found that many existing systems demonstrate self-organization, such as planetary systems, organic cells, living organisms and animal societies. Self-organizing systems are encountered in many scientific areas including biology, chemistry, geology, sociology and information technology, and considerable research has so far been undertaken to study them. (Di Marzo Serugendo, Giovanna, et al “Self-Organizing Systems,”)
Donald, Merlin. An Evolutionary Approach to Culture. Bellah, Robert and Hans Joas, eds. The Axial Age and Its Consequences. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2012. For context, the volume arose from a July 2008 conference on this view of cultural history at the University of Erfurt, Germany. “Axial Age” is originally from Karl Jaspers (1883-1969) to denote the founding two millennia ago of the major religions and philosophies. It has since had various treatments such as by Karen Armstrong, Ewert Cousins (search), and Charles Taylor in this edition. But in regard it is Merlin Donald’s sequential historic stages (search) of episodic primate, mimetic hominid, mythic sapience, and theoretic human culture that is turned to for deep perspective. Their value today, as theologian Cousins advises, is to outline a second, 21st century Global Age via an emergent “external memory,” a growing repository of humankind’s collective knowledge. As Donald then sketches, it might be seen to have a bicameral cast via earlier mythic narration and later rational analysis, which, although he does not say, would seem like right and left hemispheres of a nascent whole world brain.
I have called the outcome of this third cognitive state Theoretic culture because, where the superstructure of external symbolic control has become established to a sufficiently high degree, it has become the governing mode of representation. Paradigmatic or logico-scientific thought, a style of group thinking that is quite different from the narrative thought skills that govern traditional culture, is not innate to the human brain or even to the larger collective structures of culture. It consists of certain habits of thought – algorithms that function in a close iterative symbiosis with external symbols and that are governed by institutional structures in society. (66)
Donald, Merlin. Hominid Enculturation and Cognitive Evolution. Renfrew, Colin and Chris Scarre, eds. Cognition and Material Culture: The Archaeology of Symbolic Storage. Cambridge, UK: McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, 1999. A collection devoted to Donald’s well-regarded perception (Origins of the Modern Mind, 1991) of knowledge acquisition through episodic primate, imitative erectus, mythic, linguistic sapiens, to humankind’s external, “theoretic” culture. This work is noted as “the most coherent statement on the development of human cognitive abilities.” A significant aspect covered in this chapter is its ramifying, adaptive utilization of functional brain modularity.
Donald, Merlin. Origins of the Modern Mind. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1991. The Queen’s University, Ontario, psychologist gives a grand synopsis of the evolution of cognition and culture from primates to a cultural homo sapiens. The work has since been seen as a most cogent exposition of and guide for understanding the growth of human knowledge capacities. Four stages are chronicled: Episodic: great ape experience as a series of events with predictable responses. Mimetic: prelinguistic, intentional representations so as to generate creative responses. Mythic: the use of language to begin to model and change the world. Theoretic: the growing creation of “extrasomatic,” symbolic representations in the collective social mind. By this insight, a major transition from separate individual to collaborative worldwide humankind is well delineated.
What the Greeks created was much more than a symbolic invention, like the alphabet, or a specific external memory medium, such as improved paper or printing. They founded the process of externally encoded cognitive exchange and discovery. (342-43) One thing is certain; if we compare the complex representational architecture of the modern mind with that of the ape, we must conclude that the Darwinian universe is too small to contain humanity. We are a different order. (382)
Donald, Merlin. The Exographic Revolution. Malafouris, Lambros and Colin Renfrew, eds.. The Cognitive Life of Things: Recasting the Boundaries of the Mind. Cambridge, UK: McDonald Institute Monographs, 2010. The Queen’s University, Ontario, emeritus psychologist (search) provides in this volume about archaeological reconstructions of human thought an update synopsis of his influential theory. By virtue of its accrued “alphabetic literacy,” in retrospect cognitive history appears as an increasing transfer of information, memory, and knowledge into an external, “exogram” based, encyclopedic repository. As a result, a growing ability for self-reflective “metacognition” is achieved. It is a foundational basis of this website that “the larger cognitive capacities of the human species” (78) are just now reaching their own worldwide cognizance and comprehension.
However, there is a way in which certain manufactured objects serve the human species in a unique, and evolutionarily novel, manner. I am referring to a class of manufactured objects that are sometimes called ‘symbolic technologies.’ These are specifically designed to represent, communicate and store knowledge. Such objects introduce a completely new element into human cognition: external, that is non-biological, memory storage (as in an encyclopaedia, for example). Non-biological memory media enable us to record and display complex ideas in highly accessible formats that are easy to revise and refine. The Introduction of radically new memory media into the cognitive system of the human species has transformed the way human beings carry out their cognitive business, both individually and collectively. (71)
Donald, Merlin. The Slow Process: A Hypothetical Cognitive Adaptation for Distributed Cognitive Networks. Journal of Physiology-Paris. 101/4-6, 2007. In an issue on “The Evolution of Human Cognition and Neuroscience: A Dialogue between Scientists and Humanists,” the emeritus University of Toronto psychologist and author (search) muses that his oft-cited theory might help illume why Homo Sapiens is a special species. It is due to an evolved dual reciprocity of persons within our humankind membership. The course of history, from this global vantage, can be viewed as an on-going mutuality of individual and collective cerebration, a ramifying “distributed cognition,” and so to speak a “mindsharing” culture. Our lives thus proceed at two speeds: a “fast” personal mode, and a “slow” immersion in and avail of this vast repository. This emergent phase of increasingly common knowledge is distinguished by artifactual symbols and external memory storage, lately of a planetary scale. Another take by Merlin is the chapter “The Exographic Revolution” in Malafouris, Lambros and Colin Renfrew, eds. The Cognitive Life of Things: Recasting Boundaries of the Mind. (Cambridge, UK: McDonald Institute Monographs, 2010).
Human cognitive evolution is characterized by two special features that are truly novel in the primate line. The first is the emergence of “mindsharing” cultures that perform cooperative cognitive work, and serve as distributed cognitive networks. The second is the emergence of a brain that is specifically adapted for functioning within those distributed networks, and cannot realize its design potential without them. (214)
Downs, Roger. Coming of Age in the Geospatial Revolution: The Geographic Self Re-Defined. Human Development. 57/1, 2014. A Penn State behavioral geographer delineates how over the past decade or so our daily human lives have suddenly shifted from a long state of local individual separation to an instant reciprocal membership in a common global noosphere. This epochal change is displayed in a table with regard to information, data, and content under “Pre-Digital” and “Post-Digital” columns. While for centuries people were confined to partial knowledge, libraries at best, a youth generation has grown up in an online age, where “overwhelming, infinite volumes with many continual updates” are available. Similar changes are cited for Quality, Access, Format, Providers, and so on. If to reflect, this historic change, “Gutenberg to Google” per Peter Burke, is quite a human to humankind major evolutionary transition, as if an organic planetary progeny, with these novel algorithmic and linguistic codes.
The geospatial revolution has two human implications. First, as knowing actors, people make choices based on the analysis and presentation of geospatial data. Second, as known subjects, people’s choices become data as their behavior is monitored through real-time tracking. As a consequence, the geospatial revolution is reshaping the worlds of education, business, entertainment, government, security, and travel. The impacts are felt by individuals, families, and societies. The effects can be discretionary and voluntary, or imposed and unavoidable; some are empowering and liberating, others restraining and subjecting. (36)
Doyle, John, et al. Robustness and the Internet. Jen, Erica, ed. Robust Design: A Repertoire of Biological, Ecological, and Engineering Case Studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005. On the presence and enhancement of self-similar complex, informational structures and processes.
The new theoretical insights gained about the Internet also combine with our understanding of its origins and evolution to provide a rich source of ideas about complex systems in general. Most surprisingly, our deepening understanding from genomics and molecular biology has revealed that at the network and protocol level, cells and organisms are strikingly similar to technological networks, despite having completely different material substrates, evolution, and development/construction. (273-274)
Duguid, Paul. Search before grep. Becker, Konrad and Felix Stalder, eds. Deep Search: The Politics of Search beyond Google. Innsbruck: StudienVerlag, 2009. “grep” is “a command-line utility for searching plain-text data sets for lines matching a regular expression.” (Wikipedia) In this volume from the World-Information Institute, Vienna, a University of London research fellow alludes that such worldwide capacities are but the latest technical phase of “an innate human trait of information foraging” with a long evolutionary ancestry. See also in this copious volume “How to Follow Global digital Cultures” by Lev Manovich.
Without detracting from the remarkable success of these technologies, it does seem worthwhile to ask whether, as is often assumed, this progress is part of a continuing movement in the history of search from closed to open, from bounded to free information, from in sum a benighted past to an enlightened future. (14)
Dunbar, Robin, et al, eds. Social Brain, Distributed Mind. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010. Volume 158 in the Proceedings of the British Academy of contributed papers from the “Lucy to Language Centenary Project.” The discourse follows the social brain hypothesis of Oxford University anthropologist Dunbar, whence hominid cerebration and group culture are seen to advance in tandem. Notable players such as Steven Mithen, Terrence Deacon, Dwight Read and others, consider this view from Neolithic times to the 21st century, and generally assume an encompassing societal mind and milieu beyond individual bodies. In all another take upon our transitional worldwide collaborative retrospective.