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A Sourcebook for the Worldwide Discovery of a Creative Organic Universe
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II. Planetary Prodigy: A Global Sapiensphere Learns by Her/His Self

C. Mindkind Sapiensphere: WorldWise Collective Intelligence

Gershenson, Carlos, et al. Time-Scales, Meaning, and Availability of Information in a Global Brain. www.arXiv.org/ftp/cs/papers/0305/0305012.pdf.. A July 2003 posting comments on the many similarities between how a human brain and the World Wide Web process information and perceive patterns. As an example, the authors look at the transmission of scientific articles and conference proceedings on the Internet by way of the Semantic Web ontology.

Giannotti, Fosca, et al. A Planetary Nervous System for Social Mining and Collective Awareness. European Physical Journal Special Topics. 214/1, 2012. In a FuturICT contribution that opens with “Our Visionary Approach,” seven scientists including Alex Pentland and Dirk Helbing, recognize that a 21st century unified spherical civilization, which exhibits such systems interconnections could take on the guise of a global CNS. A typical section is “Human-Level Understanding of Text at Web Scale” as a natural “Never-Ending Language-Learning” facility. See also Participatory Sensing, Computational Crowdsourcing, and so on, hopefully in a reciprocal democratic milieu. In any event, a comprehensive effort with over 100 references.

We present a research roadmap of a Planetary Nervous System (PNS), capable of sensing and mining the digital breadcrumbs of human activities and unveiling the knowledge hidden in the big data for addressing the big questions about social complexity. We envision the PNS as a globally distributed, self-organizing, techno-social system for answering analytical questions about the status of world-wide society, based on three pillars: social sensing, social mining and the idea of trust networks and privacy-aware social mining. The PNS we foresee is the key tool for individual and collective awareness for the knowledge society. (Abstract excerpt) We envision the PNS as a goal-oriented, globally distributed, self-organizing, techno-social system for answering analytical questions about the status of world-wide society, based on three pillars: social sensing, social mining and the idea of trust networks and privacy-aware social mining, that together form the social knowledge discovery process. (52)

Goldin, Dina, et al, eds. Interactive Computation. Berlin: Springer, 2006. Heretofore computer science has necessarily focused on its agent phase. With this in place, the equal presence of fluid interconnections in-between deserves its share of recognition. In 18 chapters, an international panel reviews all aspects of this paradigm advance. For a typical high quality paper see Andrea Omicini, et al noted below.

Interaction is an emerging paradigm of models of computation that reflects the shift in technology from mainframes to networks of intelligent agents, from number-crunching to embedded systems to graphical user interfaces, and from procedure-oriented to object-based distributed systems. (viii) The interaction paradigm provides a new conceptualization of computational phenomena that emphasizes interaction rather than algorithms. Concurrent, distributed, reactive, embedded, component-oriented, agent-oriented and service oriented systems all exploit interaction as a fundamental paradigm. (viii)

Goldstone, Robert, et al. Emergent Processes in Group Behavior. Current Directions in Psychological Science. 17/1, 2008. Researchers at Indiana University use agent-based computational models to quantify how human communities of many kinds might take on a life and cognitive capacity of their own.

Just as neurons interconnect in networks that create structured thoughts beyond the ken of any individual neuron, so people spontaneously organize themselves into groups to create emergent organizations that no individual may intend, comprehend, or even perceive. (10) Social phenomena such as the spread of gossip, the World-Wide Web, the popularity of cultural icons, legal systems, and scientific establishments all take on a life of their owe, complete with their own self-organized divisions of labor and specialization, feedback loops, growth, and adaptations. (10)

Gong, Weibo. Will the Internet Soon Outsmart Humans?. http://www.ecs.umass.edu/index.pl?iid=2911. A Distinguished Faculty Lecture by the University of Massachusetts at Amherst computer scientist on February 23, 2009 that I attended. The website is a news blurb about it, the speaker can be reached at gong@ecs.umass.edu. As this section has alluded for some time, it is becoming increasingly evident (see e.g. Ning Zhong, et al) that the worldwide electronic web is indeed formally analogous to a brain. In his talk, Prof. Gong presented one of the most detailed affirmations to date by showing how the same complex, dense neural nets of nodes and edges, which form by self-organized, power law criticalities, characterize both our human and global cerebral faculty. And as he noted, everywhere else in nature and society. But a step not yet taken, which many are circling around, is to imagine that this planetary noosphere is then attaining its own salutary knowledge.

Gray, Jim and Alex Szalay. The World-Wide Telescope. Communications of the ACM. 45/11, 2002. An international network of observatories is seen as a coming paradigm for integrative research.

Mining vast databases of astronomical data, this new online way to see the global structure of the universe promises to be not only a wonderful virtual telescope but an archetype for the evolution of computational science. (51)

Grieser, Gunter, et al, eds. Discovery Science. Berlin: Springer, 2003. Papers from the 6th International Conference held at Hokkaido University, Sapporo, Japan, October 2003, as an example of worldwide efforts to develop techniques such as Algorithmic Learning Theory for extracting patterns and knowledge from scientific databases and other large arrays such as census data.

Griffiths, Thomas, et al. Google and the Mind. Psychological Science. 18/12, 2007. Cognitive scientists find a core parallel between how a human brain and the global computer webwork can instantly locate stored information. Since both employ a neural, scale-invariant form and dynamics, basically a ‘PageRank’ word frequency algorithm, a deep similarity can be identified. Web architects are thus increasingly drawing on neuroscience for better designs and process to an extent that a world brain appears as a true, salutary reality.

Analyses of semantic networks estimated from human behavior reveal that these networks have properties similar to those of the World Wide Web, such as a “scale-free” distribution for the number of nodes to which a node is connected. If one takes such a network to be the representation of the knowledge on which retrieval processes operate, human memory and Internet search engines address the same computational problem: identifying those items that are relevant to a query from a large network of interconnected pieces of information. Consequently, it seems possible that they solve this problem similarly. (1069-1070)

Hamilton, Craig. Come Together: The Mystery of Collective Intelligence. What Is Enlightenment?. May-July, 2004. In this journal of “redefining spirituality for an evolving world,” a long cover article explores the realization that collaborative social groupings can achieve effective learning and knowledge on their own.

Call it collective consciousness, team synergy, co-intelligence, or group mind – a growing number of people are discovering through their own experience that wholes are indeed far more that the sum of their parts. (58)

Havel, Ivan. The Dawn of Cyber-culture. pespmc1.vub.ac.be/Conf/GB-0-abs.html. In a paper presented at the first Global Brain Workshop in Brussels, July 2001, a mathematician at Charles University, Prague and brother of Vaclav Havel perceives the rudimentary outlines of a planetary knowledge.

Recently, some theorists have focused on the remarkable idea that all of human society can be regarded as a kind of many-celled super-organism, the ‘cells’ of which are not cells but rather us, human beings. The internet….might be a kind of embryonic phase of the nervous system of the super-organism, its ‘global brain,’ which might facilitate the linking up of all the partial intelligences of the users into a single global intelligence. Perhaps it could then develop further on its own to ideas and a consciousness of a higher order. (30, Abstracts)

Hayles, N. Katherine. Unfinished Work. Theory, Culture & Society. 23/7-8, 2006. A commentary on Donna Haraway’s 1985 cyborg manifesto which contends this scenario has been today superseded by an intensifying net of worldwide interconnected discourse, here deemed a cerebral cognisphere.

Helbing, Dirk. Introduction: The FuturICT Knowledge Accelerator Towards a More Resilient and Sustainable Future. European Physical Journal Special Topics. 214/1, 2012. The ETH Zurich, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology prime mover (search) of this mostly European project opens a special issue on “Participatory Science and Computing for Our Complex World.” It includes Helbing’s manifesto “Accelerating Scientific Discovery by Formulating Grand Scientific Challenges,” along with technical papers by a leading cadre such “Smart Cities of the Future” by systems architects such as Michael Batty and Yuri Portugali, “Challenges in Network Science: Applications to Infrastructures, Climate, Social Systems and Economics,” Shlomo Havlin, et al, “Challenges in Complex Systems Science” Maxi San Miguel, et al, and “A Planetary Nervous System for Social Mining and Collective Awareness” by Fosca Giannotti, et al. These articles are separately reviewed, please search. Yes, a well meaning “visionary” approach to change the world from its mechanical burdens by clever employ of the latest complex systems insights. But its proponents are still mostly men, with much technology, and sans a guiding sense of natural principles and purposes, especially of planetary scope.

The FuturICT project is a response to the European Flagship Call in the Area of Future and Emerging Technologies, which is planning to spend 1 billion EUR on each of two flagship projects over a period of 10 years. FuturICT seeks to create an open, global but decentralized, democratically controlled information platform that will use online data and real-time measurements together with novel theoretical models and experimental methods to achieve a paradigm shift in our understanding of today’s strongly interdependent and complex world and make our techno-socio-economic systems more flexible, adaptive, resilient, sustainable, and livable through a participatory approach. (Abstract)

Multi-component systems can be dynamically complex and hardly controllable. This requires a paradigm shift in our thinking, moving our attention from the properties of the system components to the collective behavior and emergent systemic properties resulting from the interactions of these components. As the paradigm shift from a geocentric to a heliocentric world view has facilitated modern physics, so will this paradigm shift towards an interaction-based, systemic perspective and a co-evolution of ICT with society open up entirely new solutions to address old and new problems, for example, financial crises, social and political instabilities, global environmental change, organized crime, the quick spreading of new diseases, and the requirement to build smart cities and energy systems. (6)

All of this calls for a significant shift in the research and educational focus of academic institutions. Specifically, one needs to develop a better, holistic understanding of the global, strongly coupled and interdependent, dynamically complex systems that humans have created. It is required to push complexity science towards practical applicability, to invent a novel data science, to create a new generation of socially interactive, adaptive ICT systems, and to develop entirely new approaches for systemic risk assessment and integrated risk management. (6)

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