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A Sourcebook for the Worldwide Discovery of a Creative Organic Universe
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II. Earth Learn: A Planetary Prodigy Comes to Her/His Own Knowledge

C. Global Genius: A Collective, Intelligent, Worldwise Mindkinder

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)

De Wolf, Tom and Tom Holvoet. Emergence versus Self-organization. Brueckner, Sven, et al, eds. Engineering Self-Organizing Systems. Berlin: Springer, 2005. In a volume which seeks a scientific practice more in accord with a dynamically viable nature, Belgian computer scientists advise that this project need avail itself of a synthesis best informed by far-from-equilibrium complex adaptive systems.

del Moral, Raquel, et al. New Times and New Challenges for Information Science: From Cellular Systems to Human Societies. Information. Online February, 2014. With Jorge Navarro and Pedro Marijuán, Bioinformation and Systems Biology Group, Aragon Institute of Health Science, Zaragoza, Spain, researchers (search each) press their project to rethink evolutionary nature and culture by way of a cumulative knowledge gaining and sharing quality. Life’s development from cells to civilizations is then informed and tracked by an increasing factual content as “information flow systems.” To highlight the approach, a use “-omic” terms – genomics, proteomics, transcriptomics, metabolomics, culturomics, scientomics – is emphasized. The latter words are due to Marijuan (2012) by which to perceive human studies as genetic in kind. And in this view, we have a “knowledge crisis” with regard to saving the earth for we seem stuck at an individual level, without seeking or availing a global cognitive collaboration.

The extraordinary scientific-technical, economic, and social transformations related to the widespread use of computers and to the whole information and communication technologies have not been accompanied by the development of a scientific “informational” perspective helping make a coherent sense of the spectacular changes occurring. Like in other industrial revolutions of the past, technical praxis antedates the emergence of theoretical disciplines. Apart from the difficulties in handling new empirical domains and in framing new ways of thinking, the case of information science implies the difficult re-evaluation of important bodies of knowledge already well accommodated in specific disciplines. Herein, we will discuss how a new understanding of the “natural information flows” as they prototypically occur in living beings—even in the simplest cells—could provide a sound basis for reappraising fundamental problems of the new science. The role of a renewed information science, multidisciplinarily conceived and empirically grounded, widely transcends the limited “library” and knowledge-repositories mission into which classical information science was cajoled during past decades. (Abstract)

Rather, our basic proposal is the development of a new conception on information, biologically inspired, so that a new understanding might be gained on some unapproachable social themes of informational nature, such as the mentioned conjecture that the excess of “artificial” information flows could be interfering with the “natural” information flows and the bonding structures of social life. As we will propose herein, a new understanding of the “natural information flows” as they prototypically occur in living beings—even in the simplest cells — could provide a sound basis for discussing the most general problems of the new science. (104)

In terms of education science, something similar would happen, for an abridged recapitulation resembling Haeckel’s law seems to be taking place in the ontogenetic development of an individual’s knowledge, which somehow recapitulates the fundamentals of the social acquisition of knowledge along history. (114)

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,”)

Software systems are becoming ever more complex, as the capabilities of the software upon which they are based increase. To develop software that is manageable, we must look for novel sources of inspiration, rather than requiring an increasingly costly level of human support. Self-organising software suggests benefits in this direction, and this chapter focuses on a particularly relevant area of inspiration, that of natural systems. Indeed many natural systems are themselves self-organising, despite being often very complicated. We consider natural systems both in the context of non-living (mathematical, physical and chemical) and living (cellular, invertebrate and vertebrate, not excluding human beings) examples. We review some of the causal mechanisms and conditions that are fundamental to self-organisation in natural systems, such as: complexity, evolution, ecological interactions, animal behaviour, as well as the complexities of human behaviour, which has given us insights into phenomena such as small-world networks, epidemics, trust and gossip. (Paul Marrow and Jean-Pierre Mano “Self-organisation in Natural Systems Inspiring Self-organising Software,”)

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)

Theoretic culture is thus still in the formative stage, and the third transition is incomplete. Human beings have retained the major elements of the first two transitions, because they are, in effect, hardwired, whereas the algorithms of Theoretic culture are not. Even the most recent, cutting-edge postindustrial cultures encompass all these collective cognitive mechanisms and cultural levels at once, and certain aspects of the culture of the developed world remain totally dominated by the Mimetic and Mythic domains. Recent research on child development supports this notion, the cognitive enculturation of modern children is highly complex, as they are led through a tangled web of representational modes and intricate institutionalized algorithms. In effect, we have become complex, multilayered, hybrid minds, carry within ourselves, both as individuals and as societies, the entire evolutionary heritage of the past few million years. (67)

The notion, that every stage of human cognitive evolution found a permanent home in the evolving collective system, is somewhat familiar to the evolutionary principle of conservation of previous gains. Previous successful adaptations remained in the system where they proved themselves effective, and the system slowly became more robust and capable of surviving almost any major blow. The modern mind reflects this fact. It is a complex mix of mimetic, mythic, and theoretic elements. Art, ritual, and music reflect the continuation of the mimetic dimension of culture in modern life. The narratives of the great religious books reflect the mythic d8imension, as do the many secular myths of modern society. These two great domains are mandatory, hardwired, and extremely subtle and powerful ways of thinking. They cannot be matched by analytic thought for intuitive speed, complexity, and shrewdness. They will continue to be crucially important in the future, because they reside in innate capacities without which human beings could not function. (71-72)

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)

The emergence of writing systems early in human prehistory marked the beginnings (albeit a slow and uneven start) of a major evolutionary shift in the direction of moving the bulk of memory storage from the brains of individuals to manufactured cognitive artefacts. The size of the external store has grown enormously, and for all intents and purposes, its capacity is unlimited. Modern electronic media are combined with the personal-memory systems of individual brains in very large distributed networks. This has altered the structure of the wider social-cognitive systems that govern cultural evolution, making ‘distributed’ cognition a dominant presence in the cognitive governance of human society. (76)

Whether viewed in terms of the functional architecture of the brain, or the larger cognitive capacities of the human species, this trend toward externalizing memory and restructuring the larger social-cognitive system has generated a radical change in the intellectual powers collectively at the disposal of humankind. (78)

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)

Whether viewed in terms of the functional architecture of the brain, or the larger cognitive capacities of the human species, this trend toward externalizing memory and restructuring the larger social-cognitive system has generated a radical change in the intellectual powers collectively at the disposal of humankind. (The Exographic Revolution, 78)

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