Learning to survive in harmony

from “Constructing the World Mind”

Can our society double up its mind-capacity? It must do so or die; and I can see no reason why it may not widen its consciousness of complex conditions far enough to escape wreck.” – Henry Adams, American educationalist [1838 – 1919]

H. G. Wells thought that the only way out of humanity’s seemingly headlong rush towards self-destruction was by inventing a global process of learning. It is for this reason that he set the goal of organising what he called a World Encyclopaedia. As we approach the Third Millennium the systemic social and environmental breakdown — the mass extinction of species — caused by human behavior, which Wells feared so much, appears to be just about to engulf the planet. It is as if here and now — in nearly our last moment — before the life-destroying process becomes irreversible that an opportunity is being presented for helpless, dispersed individuals to pool their knowledge in order to find a way out of our self-made predicament, or at least, as James Lovelock suggests, to pass on some useful knowledge to any survivors left after a cataclysm. The purpose of these pages is to carry on the work started by Wells in the 1930s by using them to create a group learning process focused on the subject of the World Mind itself. They are also a demonstration of how a systematic method of analysing and synthesising information, called Content Analysis, and a form of Tony Buzan’s Mindmapping (TM) can be used as fundamental tools in the actual construction of a World Mind which could learn fast enough to avert social and environmental catastrophe.

“Grains of thought”

H. G. Wells’ vision of systematic, self-managed collaborative learning is echoed in Peter Russell’s “superorganism” composed of “cultural creatives” engaged in the pursuit of higher levels of consciousness in which “wisdom rather than knowledge would have become our goal.” In Hans Swegen’s “post-human” terms, “hominid brains will constitute the grains of thought where the self-reflexive minds are based. Besides these biological structures of matter, the global brain will include various technological equipment that man is constantly introducing and that improves and expands neural communication between self-reflexive minds.”

As bureaucratic hierarchies break down, what used to be called management is increasingly about how to promote self-managed collaborative learning which forms the core of the learning organization. Also, science is portrayed in the New Scientist as reviving the ideas of the superorganism and James Lovelock’s Gaia theory “in the light of the modern mathematical theory of complexity.”

 

Goal oriented self-organisation, not ideology

The problem with believing that evolutionary processes will be sufficient to bring about the emergence of a World Brain is that they know no purpose or deadline. People, on the other hand, do require purposes and deadlines if they are to accomplish anything, especially the near miracles which are actually necessary. Without entering too far into philosophical speculation about the level of organization in which our consciousness exists, self-organization requires acts of will and intention which imply political action. Wells expressed frank loathing for political ideologies of any description as the means of implementing a collective human will and intention. He did his personal utmost to amass and organize a collection of knowledge as a prototype, but he refused, perhaps wisely, to set up an implementation process in the face of the overwhelming need to defeat first the Nazi ideology, then the Communist one. The time was obviously wrong and the technology did not yet exist. A small group of dedicated people, informally led by Professor Abe Goodman, have worked since the late 1930s to keep H G Wells’ World Brain ideas alive in inhospitable times of techno-triumphalism and economic greed.
Now the technology does exist. So does the knowledge of how to use it to organize Wells’ World Encyclopedia. But where is the will? It is here. Now. These pages have been designed and written to be a first iteration of an attempt to create a self-conscious World Brain thinking process. When it is established, its first task must be to gather and disseminate — possibly by trading information on a really open market — the knowledge necessary for local people to organize their own economies and communities, the knowledge necessary for them to grow enough food without poisoning themselves and the environment, the knowledge necessary to manufacture high tech equipment, the knowledge needed by people to govern  and take responsibility for themselves. All this knowledge exists. Most of it is in the public domain already. First, though, it must be collected and organized. Then, it must be synthesized and communicated.

Artful science

Mirroring H. G. Wells’ expectation of a new science of Constructive Sociology, Peter Russell calls for a new discipline, Psychotechnology, arising from the “marriage” of Eastern and Western ways of thinking. He says it would consist of “more than just the study of the mind or psyche, it will be the application of techniques to improve the functioning of the mind and to increase the quality of experience and the level of consciousness.”
The evolutionary path to the World Brain predicted by H. G. Wells is well represented in the 1990s sources. Hans Swegen writes of a new stage of complexity in neural development. He says, “So far, it has reached a complexity at the micro level, where human beings are creating a socio-cultural development.” Peter Russell observes that the number of people on the planet is fast approaching 10 billion which happens to be the number of neurones in the brain cortex and the number of atoms in a single cell, suggesting “this figure may represent the approximate number of elements needed for a new level of evolution to occur”.

 

Starting up again

These pages are the first stage in trying to constitute a sustainable manifestation of an organised global thinking apparatus (also using the World Wide Web), as originally envisaged by H. G.   Wells in the 1930s. We are here trying to create a world intelligence gathering, analysis, synthesis and dissemination process, as an enfolded example of itself. As such, it is neither academic, nor commercial. It aims to create a marketplace dedicated to the exchange of knowledge for the purpose of learning and an economy based solely on the value of knowledge.  It seems reasonable that this first step is focused on the conception of the World Brain, itself — evoking its “self consciousness.” The intention is to invite participants in these pages to respond to the syntheses of the points made by Wells on the subject. Your opinion will be conjoined with the views of leading thinkers and visionaries, so you individually can think recursively about what you thought collectively, then feed your reflection back into the collective view … ad infinitum. The idea is not just to gather knowledge, but to see if the process works.