[unrev-II] Fwd: Defining the Global Brain

From: Jack Park (jackpark@thinkalong.com)
Date: Tue Jul 24 2001 - 07:37:40 PDT

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    We sometimes use the term "global brain." Here's a definition of that term...

    >From: Francis Heylighen <fheyligh@vub.ac.be>
    >>Whether it is useful to explain the Global Brain, I don't know, because I
    >>don't know what the Global Brain is or isn't, and no one else seems to know
    >I think I do have a clear picture of what the GB is, which I'll try to
    >sketch below.
    >1) the GB is the "mental", "information processing" part of a cybernetic
    >system. A cybernetic system (aka goal-directed, purposive or control
    >system) is a system that has its own goals, values or preferences (most
    >basically, the goal is survival and development, aka autopoiesis or
    >self-production), and that tries to reach these goals by taking the
    >appropriate actions so as to reduce the difference between the situation
    >that it perceives to be in, and the situation that it would prefer to be
    >in. The "mental" part of a cybernetic system is the functional subsystem
    >that processes the perceptions, compares them with internal values and
    >goals, and on the basis of that evaluation or interpretation decides which
    >actions are most appropriate. For more detail, see my paper with Cliff on
    >"Cybernetics and second-order cybernetics".
    >2) the cybernetic system of which the GB forms the "mind" is global
    >society. The debate here is in how far society can be seen as a purposive
    >or autopoietic system. I have argued in my paper "The Global
    >Superorganism" that as society globalizes, integrates and differentiates
    >it becomes more autopoietic (unlike the true autopoiesis theorists, I do
    >believe that there are gradations of autopoiesis, and various intermediate
    >states between autopoietic and non-autopoietic).
    >More practically, society definitely has a system of collective goals and
    >values (as mapped e.g. by the Union of International Association in their
    >databases of global problems and values, as presented by Tony at the
    >workshop), most of which are implicit (e.g. in the "demand" variable that
    >steers the market). And society definitely has a collection of information
    >gathering, interpretation and decision-making mechanisms (some
    >centralized, most distributed) to select the actions that seem most likely
    >to achieve these goals.
    >3) the above would be sufficient to define a "global mind", but you may
    >ask why I prefer the term "brain". The reason is that the most fundamental
    >functional organization of the brain (a self-organizing network of neurons
    >and synapses along which activation travels, fed by sensors, and ending up
    >in effectors, and which learns by adapting the weights of its connections
    >to the way they are used) seems like a most useful model for understanding
    >the present and future evolution of distributed hypermedia systems such as
    >the web. See my paper "The World-Wide Web as a Super-brain", whose
    >subtitle is "from metaphor to model". The latter means that in this view
    >the GB becomes more than a metaphor for understanding the web, it can be
    >turned into a genuine model of (at least) a future web system.
    >Francis Heylighen <fheyligh@vub.ac.be> -- Center "Leo Apostel"
    >Free University of Brussels, Krijgskundestr. 33, 1160 Brussels, Belgium
    >tel +32-2-6442677; fax +32-2-6440744; http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/HEYL.html

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