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.

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.”

 

Still hidden from view

Although the tools to make H. G. Wells vision of classification and indexing practical are now available almost for free on the World Wide Web, outside the library profession, the process of organizing knowledge according to commonly agreed classification schemas has hardly started, although much of the knowledge of how do it already exists. However, if complexity theory holds, in Hans Swegen’s view, “On the planetary level, matter further organizes itself into information processes. Evolution then becomes a development of knowledge or you may say a development of the organization of information.” He expects a structure to form from this information process yielding first “several global sub-centres” which will eventually merge into a localized “main global brain”.

 

Technologies – From coloured microfilm to multimedia

In the late 1930s, H. G. Wells was already thinking about the implications of what he called “the abolition of distance” on the relationships between populations. The technology he saw for replicating this “complete planetary memory” was coloured microfilm, radio and modern transport facilities.

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”.

 

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

Read more at openintelligence.amplify.com