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.

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).

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. This 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.”


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.

Constructive Sociology – Proposing a new literate, aesthetic and ethical science

H. G. Wells advocates “research into a field to which scientific standing is not generally accorded,” which he describes as “a science of pure observation” named “constructive sociology.” Wells envisaged research into the trends and requirements of humankind’s social and environmental circumstances. However, he warned that such study could not avoid an “irreducible element of purpose to its problems,” and that it would be “impossible to disentangle social analysis from literature.” He also doubted that constructive sociology would ever be free from “a certain literary, aesthetic and ethical flavouring”.

Ideology – The wages of fear

H. G. Wells blames people’s “fear-saturated impatience for guidance” for dictators of both the Left and the Right. Wells says these politicians are put in place by people for the purpose of protecting them from the “terrifying realisation of the limitless uncontrolled changes now in progress” which, he predicts, will happen “inexorably as though there were no Leaders on the scene at all.” In between the “Right and Left hysteria” Wells placed what he called the “do nothing democracy” which like every system of government is “made crazy” as “its struggle to survive becomes desperate.”