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.

The new scholasticism

James Lovelock’s list of content for the his knowledge compendium is remarkably similar to that of H. G. Wells. He writes, “It would range from simple things, such as how to light a fire, to our place in the Solar System and the Universe. It would be a primer of philosophy and science — it would provide a top down look at the earth and ourselves.” Lovelock’s survival guide must “by the quality of its writing” also serve as an important source of pleasure, devotion and useful facts. Both Wells and Lovelock imply that humankind must change the direction of its quest for knowledge. The object of inquiry would be less to find new knowledge, but more to learn better and more wisely from what is already known. Imagine the economic consequences, the beneficial environmental impact, if mankind took up a scholastic, self-reflective mentality, in which knowledge is the highest value artifact, while “owning” physical artifacts beyond a personal capacity to use them or having excess money is considered unethical. There is a growing number of people for whom such values would be far from alien.

“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.”


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”.

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”.