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.┬áThe 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.

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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.”

 

Knowledge Working – Learning to create an “intellectual authority”

from “Constructing the World Mind”

People whom H. G. Wells called “intellectual workers” would, he predicted, arise from the world’s universities and research institutions and cooperate in order to create an “intellectual authority” – consisting of a “network” linking centres of learning with the people of the world, whom he conceived as its “general intelligence”. The goals of Wells’ life long learning society are listed as: developing individual talents, fostering “each individual’s capacity for independent thinking” and providing the practical knowledge needed “for working and everyday life.” H. G. Wells predicts that knowledge workers will move from the assembly of knowledge to its digestion, with the ultimate objective of achieving wisdom, defined as having “a sense of knowing what to do, when handling complex problems that require understanding and effective decisions.”

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.”

 

Technical means found, intellectual means lost?

from “Global Learning – Constructing the World Mind”

The 1990s versions of the World Brain concept — being less practical perhaps — put their faith in evolution as the principle means by which the world brain phenomenon will come to pass. H. G. Wells put his faith in promoting ways of enhancing human learning as the best means of “socially constructing” the global mind. For both H. G. Wells and James Lovelock, the World Brain is a project needing human attention, major policy decisions and some form of money to realise.
The irony is that now that the technological means to create a world knowledge resource are here in the form of worldwide computer networking and multimedia databases, the intellectual means pointed to by H. G. Wells in the 1930s seem to have been forgotten.

 

Fast Growing Awareness

from “Global Learning – Constructing the World Mind”

The human tendency to ignore or resist the need to change until events impose it may yet prove fatal to our species. We should remember that every civilisation in history has been destroyed, even without the potential for destruction we possess through our technology. The prospect that new civilisations may evolve from the remnants of our own, or that new lifeforms may evolve in a new, post-human ecosystem is barely a consolation.

 

We live in a world in which the Ice-caps caps are literally cracking up as a result of global warming. Ocean currents, which are the life blood of the global ecosystem, are already being disrupted. The consequences will be as inescapable, as they are incalculable. Nevertheless, people still insist on flying the polar routes in ever increasing numbers of ozone destroying planes. Every day they use cars which pollute the air they breath, and add massive quantities of carbon dioxide to the mix of green house gases. People watch their local communities and economies wither and die, while simultaneously importing and exporting luxury goods and foodstuffs from the other side of the world, wasting massive amounts oil, one of the world’s most precious resources.

 

People believe in ideologies propagated by self-interested elites and narrowly focused professionals because the knowledge is not available for them to think about the issues themselves. Probably by far the most dangerous of these ideologies is the free trade doctrine, now enshrined in the World Trade Organisation (WTO), which is threatening the world’s most valuable assets, its cultural and environmental diversity. Backed by the might of international capital, the power of this ideology appears more absolute than any power in human history. The treaties on which it is based have been decided more on the basis of dogma and global commercial interests than understanding of its effects on cultural and bio-diversity or climate change and without any consultation with the people it will affect most.