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).

Social Construction – “Lively and continuous invention”

from “Global Learning – Constructing the World Mind”

Against the “menace” of “a general ignorance,” the inability of scientists to communicate, and what he believed to be the “urgent failings of the teaching profession,” H. G. Wells holds up a vision which he considered “no utopian dream” but a forecast of a world community “to which I believe we are driving now,” enlightened by science and brought about by “lively and continuous invention.”

Wells regarded the formation of such a community as our “primary need in this age of imperative construction,” an age in which the theoretical and the practical would be “of equal importance.”


A culture of the book

from “Global Learning – Constructing the World Mind”

Much as H. G. Wells argued for a “world encyclopedia” which would be created by means of social construction and knowledge invention, James Lovelock envisages a society organised around a book, much as European society used to be organised around the Bible; but the book would have “to acknowledge science”.
It is germane that the more advanced thinking in the field of information “science” conceives of knowledge management as primarily as a social, rather than a solitary mental activity, while corporate group knowledge working is increasingly construed as being a part of community and team building using techniques of constructive cooperation. Moral transformation is beginning to happen as people begin to value things, such as knowledge systems and ecological systems in more consciously qualitative ways. This revaluation, in which harmonious sustainability as highest value and mere survival as very much second best, will reorient the value of money towards being a means, rather than as an end, as it is in financial profit driven economies.

Information objects traded on a knowledge market

from “Global Learning – Constructing the World Mind”

The components of what H. G. Wells advocated provide a picture of an omnipresent organ, consisting of an ever growing knowledge base fed by a global community of scholars and information professionals. Although H. G. Wells expected the operation of the World Brain to be funded publicly, he was worried about the dangers of a kind of intellectual monopoly. A component unforeseen by H. G. Wells, which may well take care of his doubts, is the emergence of a free market for knowledge. A huge number of “knowledge objects” already exist — as H. G. Wells well knew. The element most needed now is organizing and compiling them into an intuitively understandable framework that enables common access.

There is a controversial strain of thought among the Artificial Intelligence community which advocates the use of computer systems to carry out this knowledge processing. Even they admit, though, that the project will take many years before it becomes a practical proposition, assuming a true understanding of people’s intelligence and knowledge processes is reached. In the words of Tony Kent, software pioneer, “finding useful information is an intelligent process requiring intelligent people because at the end of the day only the intelligent can recognize what is useful.” Meanwhile, there is a huge abundance of human intelligence all over the world, most of it wasted, because of lack of knowledge. What are we waiting for?

James Lovelock hints at some important components of the intelligence process which must be present if any kind of human learning organization is to work. It must be fun and it must be rewarding. Although, as Lovelock says, durable hard copy versions of the World Encyclopedia must be widely available for use in case of emergency. In the meantime deploying multimedia computer networks in the service of a global learning enterprise must be desirable … and more fun and much cheaper than long-lasting print alone. d much cheaper than long-lasting print alone.