Organizing – Constructing a World Encyclopaedia

from “Constructing the World Mind”

A common, systematic global organization of the world’s knowledge is conceived by H. G. Wells as the only way for humanity to achieve a “common conception of a common purpose.” What he called the World Encyclopedia would, he said, act as a “clearing house of misunderstandings” without being subject to “narrowing dogmas,” while remaining open to “corrective criticism.” According to Wells, this new organ would clearly distinguish “bed rock fact” from visions, projects and theories, but would have an inevitable “bias” towards “organization, comparison, construction and creation”. In 1972 Manfred Kochen envisaged many such “organs” would emerge with the aim of creating a global community brain which he named WISDOM (Worldwide Intelligence Service for the Development of Omniscience in Mankind).

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Harmonizing – In an “age of imperative construction”

from “Constructing the World Mind”

In the Critical Introduction, Adamantine’s editor, Alan Mayne links H. G. Wells World Brain concept with both John Amos Comenius citing his 1643 tract, Patterns of Universal Knowledge, proposing “an internal peace of minds inspired by a system of ideas and thinking”, and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s idea of the noosphere, described as “a network of ideas and thought covering the whole planet”. In H. G. Wells view, this “rehabilitation of thought and learning” would bring to the world a more “progressive, adaptable and recuperative” form of religious expression. In order to achieve what Wells called “the beginning of a new world”, first a “synthesis of knowledge” would have to be undertaken by evolving a “networking organism” (Mayne) or a “widespread world intelligence conscious of itself” (Wells). Wells believed it would be the “New world or nothing,” and expected people’s lives would be changed “essentially and irrevocably” in the face of what he saw as mankind’s “primary need in this age of imperative construction.”

 

Learning – A lifelong requirement

from “Constructing the World Mind”

H. G. Wells says the World Brain’s purpose would be to “make it easier for individuals to learn by and for themselves,” while systematically providing “almost infinitely adaptable” lifelong learning requirements aimed at all sectors of society.

 

Instrument of evolution

from “Global Learning – Constructing the World Mind”

For H. G. Wells, the purpose of the World Brain was primarily instrumental. It was a way to organise human thinking and knowledge by using information management techniques to make it easier for humans to learn. The matter-of-fact practicality of his vision contrasts with the more spiritual aspects expressed in notions, such as Sri Aurobindo’s “Supermind” and Teillard de Chardin’s noosphere in which the unfolding of complexity is conceived as a process of God meeting his creation at the Omega point.
The 1990s sources tended to conceive evolution as a process — now seen to be more of unfolding complexity, than of genetic competition — which is an end in itself. In the words of Hans Swegen, “we are in the forefront of evolution and evolution will use our abilities to shape its continued development” as an open process with “no defined goals.” The view is that a learning organ must be a means to its own end which is learning, the same as evolution.┬áThis linking of human intelligences into global — even galactic and universal — metaminds as part of the inevitable pattern of evolution, contrasts with James Lovelock’s much more practical and alarming view which sees a world knowledge compendium as “a guide book for our survivors to help them rebuild civilisation without repeating too many of our mistakes.”

 

Building One Big Brain

Does being a part of a giant superorganism scare you? (DD)

Failing to focus — succumbing to digital distraction — can make you lose your mind, fears Nicholas Carr, author of the much-discussed book “The Shallows.” At least, it can make you lose little parts of your mind. The Internet, Carr suspects, “is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation.”
But maybe the terms of the debate — good for us or bad for us? — are a sign that we’re missing the point. Maybe the essential thing about technological evolution is that it’s not about us. Maybe it’s about something bigger than us — maybe something big and wonderful, maybe something big and spooky, but in any event something really, really big.
it might help to understand what technology is marching toward.
On balance, technology is letting people link up with more and more people who share a vocational or avocational interest. And it’s at this level, the social level, that the new efficiencies reside. The fact that we don’t feel efficient — that we feel, as Carr puts it, like “chronic scatterbrains” — is in a sense the source of the new efficiencies; the scattering of attention among lots of tasks is what allows us to add value to lots of social endeavors. The incoherence of the individual mind lends coherence to group minds.
Could it be that, in some sense, the point of evolution — both the biological evolution that created an intelligent species and the technological evolution that a sufficiently intelligent species is bound to unleash — has been to create these social brains, and maybe even to weave them into a giant, loosely organized planetary brain? Kind of in the way that the point of the maturation of an organism is to create an adult organism?
If we grant the superorganism scenario for the sake of argument, is it spooky? Is it bad news for humans if in some sense the “point” of the evolutionary process is something bigger than us, something that subsumes us?Read more at opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com

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