Tuesday, January 07, 2003

I've just been rereading John Hiler's article on blogs and journalism, not for the first time. He's interested in the idea of the blogosphere as a "collective hive mind", smarter than any of it's components. He talks about a couple of times the "blog borg" beat professional journalists to a story, and one time when a blogger may have had a correction to a story which the New York Times and other papers all may have made the same error in. In this article and elsewhere, he balances this out by talking about the many times when professional journalists really are better at what they do.

I think the idea of a Stapledonian collective supermind (kind of like a Borg, but you join voluntarily and don't all dress alike, and your components make love and enjoy life more intensely than ordinary individuals) is really awesome, but I don't think we've even taken the first step along that path. If President Bush wanted to learn something about the best way to handle Kim Jong Il, he would be better off studying history or even reading the MSNBC Newsweek article I linked to in my January fifth entry than surfing the blogosphere. Although you do find interesting stuff percolating to the top at Blogdex, (that's where I first found the MSNBC Newsweek article) I don't think the blogosphere as a whole is smarter than it's smartest members - a purposeful human brain that can decide whom to rely on is still needed to make good use of the valuable information in the blogosphere and seperate it from the rest.

Arguably, individual neurons in the brain of a baby can do simple math and and/or logic which the baby cannot. Yet if these neurons apply the information coded in their genes correctly, they may create the foundation of a mind which will far surpass them. I wonder if we have the potential to do the same.

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