Tuesday, January 28, 2003

If you were a Global Brain, what would you be thinking about? If you were one of the world minds described by Olaf Stapledon in Last and First Man and The Starmaker, you would be thinking about organizing yourself so all your elements could find the greatest individual happiness and material comfort with the least effort, so they would have plenty of energy to devote to being a part of you. You might be thinking about sciences and technologies beyond merely human comprehension. You might be thinking about growth and reproduction, not just individuals units, but reproducing yourself onto other planets circling other stars. You might be seeking ecstatic contemplation of the Creator, the Starmaker. You might be reaching out across the galaxies for the company of other planetary minds such as yourself - power and wisdom can be lonely.

Surfing the web, I see more and more of the idea that being a Global Brain might be awesome, more like enlightenment than being assimilated into the Borg. People have even begun to wonder what interfaces would be required to participate fully in such a being. My suspicion is that technology is ahead of the curve, and greater social and spiritual achievements are required of us before we will fully be able to put it to use. If we hate our neighbors, bringing us closer together cybernetically will not bring us nearer to unity.

After reading Emergent Intelligence, I began to wonder if there was and simple set of rules that might help bloggers assemble at least an alpha testworthy version of what Anders Sandberg might call a low bandwidth Global Brain. I've googled many people thinking about similar potentials in the blogosphere, though none from precisely the same angle.

Proposed rule number three (for alpha testing) follows. If you're still interested after reading, you might want to look at one and two.

I think we should try and figure out what we would expect a Global Brain to be thinking about and think about it. Of course, neurons don't have to do that to build a brain, but if that's really how the Global Brain will work we have no role as individuals except to think it would be nice and cross our fingers and hope. I don't think that part of the analogy applies. For one thing, the brain has many more neurons than the noosphere has individuals, let alone the blogosphere which has even fewer members. For another, we are capable of imagining a global brain, while a neuron can't imagine a human brain.

All the Stapledonian themes are good candidates, but all natural intelligences are concerned for their own survival. Is the nascent Global Brain in danger for it's life? I believe it is. I believe a disaster large enough to destroy civilization would destroy the Global Brain as well, or at least the Global Brain we know, even if another one someday grew.

Global warming could conceivably present such a danger, as could AIDS if we allow a patchwork of affluence and poverty to breed more and more virulent and resistant strains of it. I think terrorism combined with nuclear proliferation is also such a danger - and a more immediate and more certain one. If we want to alpha test the nucleus of a Global Brain, I think we have a problem that nobody alive is capable of resolving alone, but that many have thought about, if only we can link the pieces together.

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