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The role of utopias Utopias seem to be out of fashion these days. The old ideologies, such as communism, have shown their inadequacies, and the “laissez-faire ” liberalism that has replaced them is coming under more and more criticism. Instead, the intellectual climate has turned to either gloom and doom, or an “anything goes ” postmodernist relativism. This general pessimism and apathy is fed by an increasing amount of bad news about wars, terrorism, ecological catastrophes, global warming, rising xenophobia and inequalities. Yet, objective statistics show that humanity is doing rather well on a global scale: life expectancy, wealth, education level, democracy, safety, and even average IQ have been consistently rising for the world as a whole, and this for at least the past century [Heylighen & Bernheim, 2000a; Simon, 1995]. Still, it cannot be denied that accelerating changes in all segments of science, technology and society and growing complexity produce a lot of stress and uncertainty. While, on average, developments seem to be for the better, overall social evolution has become much more unstable, unpredictable, and uncontrollable [Heylighen, submitted], raising the risks of major catastrophes. The
Heylighen F. (2002): “The Global Brain as a New Utopia”, in: R. Maresch & F. Rötzer (eds.)
Zukunftsfiguren (Suhrkamp, Frankfurt)
The Global Brain as a New Utopia
Francis Heylighen
Center “Leo Apostel”, Free University of Brussels
The role of utopias
Utopias seem to be out of fashion these days. The old ideologies, such as communism,
have shown their inadequacies, and the “laissez-faire” liberalism that has replaced them
is coming under more and more criticism. Instead, the intellectual climate has turned to
either gloom and doom, or an “anything goes” postmodernist relativism. This general
pessimism and apathy is fed by an increasing amount of bad news about wars,
terrorism, ecological catastrophes, global warming, rising xenophobia and inequalities.
Yet, objective statistics show that humanity is doing rather well on a global scale:
life expectancy, wealth, education level, democracy, safety, and even average IQ have
been consistently rising for the world as a whole, and this for at least the past century
[Heylighen & Bernheim, 2000a; Simon, 1995]. Still, it cannot be denied that accelerating
changes in all segments of science, technology and society and growing complexity
produce a lot of stress and uncertainty. While, on average, developments seem to be for
the better, overall social evolution has become much more unstable, unpredictable, and
uncontrollable [Heylighen, submitted], raising the risks of major catastrophes. The
anxiety, distrust and hopelessnes that this engenders is made worse by the lack of a
shared world view [Apostel et al. 1994, Heylighen & Bernheim, 2000b]. Such an
encompassing philosophy would provide clear goals and values, and a positive vision of
the future, motivating people to work towards a common project, and giving a meaning
to their life.
The role of a utopia is to create such a vision. Past utopias have been discredited
mainly because their views were unrealistic: they failed to take into account the
complexity of social systems and the tensions and contradictions inherent in human
nature. As a result, their application to real societies have all too often produced
spectacular failures. Yet, recent developments such as evolutionary psychology and the
theory of complex adaptive systems [Heylighen, 2002], are providing fundamental
insights in these complexities, opening up the perspective of a utopia that takes them
duely into account. While a realistic model of a future society will necessarily be
complex, abstract and with many shades of grey, a utopia must in the first place
provide a simple and appealing picture, that people can easily visualize. These two
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requirements—of realistic complexity and of intuitive appeal—are inherently at odds,
and therefore an acceptable utopia will have to be a compromise. In my own reflections
on this issue [Heylighen, 2002], I have settled on the metaphor of the “global brain”
as the for me most satisfactory vision of a positive, yet realistic future for humanity.
The global brain vision
The "global brain" is the name given to the emerging intelligent network that is formed
by all people on this planet together with the computers, knowledge bases and
communication links that connect them together. Like a human brain, this network is an
immensely complex, self-organizing system, that processes information, makes
decisions, solves problems, learns new connections and discovers new ideas. It plays
the role of a nervous system for the whole of humanity. No single person, organization
or computer is in control of this system: its "thought" processes are distributed over all
its components. This concept of a cognitive system at the planetary level has been
proposed by many different authors under different names: planetary brain, world
brain, global mind, noosphere, social brain, Metaman [Stock, 1993], super-organism
[Heylighen, 2002], super-being [Turchin, 1977], and collective consciousness are some
of the roughly equivalent synonyms.
The history of this idea goes back quite a while. As the variety of names indicates,
many people have independently developed the idea of society as an organism-like
system with its own nervous system [Stock, 1993], each adding their own insights to
our present understanding. The evolutionary theologist Teilhard de Chardin [1955] was
probably the first to focus on the mental organization of this social organism, which he
called the "noosphere". Around the same time, the science fiction writer H. G. Wells
proposed the concept of a "world brain" as a unified system of knowledge, accessible to
all. The term "global brain" seems to have been first used by Russell [1995]. The first
people to have made the connection between this concept and the emerging Internet
may well be Mayer-Kress [1995] and de Rosnay [2000]. Heylighen and Bollen [1996],
and Goertzel [2001] appear to be the first researchers to have proposed concrete
technologies that might turn the Internet into an intelligent, brain-like network.
The global brain can be conceived most fundamentally as a higher level of evolution,
the way humans form a higher level of organization that evolved out of the animals.
Although the analogy between an organism and a society can be applied even to
primitive societies, it becomes clearly more applicable as technology develops. As
transport and communication become more efficient, different parts of global society
become more interdependent. At the same time, the variety of ideas, specializations,
and subcultures increases. This simultaneous integration and differentiation creates an
increasingly coherent system, functioning at a much higher level of complexity
[Heylighen, 2002]. The emergence of such a higher order system has been called a
"metasystem transition" [Turchin, 1977]. Examples of metasystem transitions include
the origin of life and the development of multicellular organisms out of single celled
ones. The appearance of a global brain, functioning at a much higher level of intelligence
than its human components, seems a prime example of such a metasystem transition.
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The global brain vision draws part of its inspiration from a number of related
approaches. Collective intelligence [Lévy, 1997] is the idea that a group can be more
intelligent than its members. The best known examples are social insects, such as ants,
termites or bees, which are individually dumb, but capable of surprisingly intelligent
behavior when functioning as a group. The intelligence of the global brain will be
collective, as it arises from the interactions between millions of individuals. Symbiotic
intelligence is the idea that intelligence can also emerge from the interactions between
essentially different components, such as people and computers. As de Rosnay [2000]
proposes, people will live in symbiosis with this surrounding network of technological
systems, and out of this symbiosis, a higher level intelligence will emerge.
Gaia (the Greek goddess of the Earth) is the name given to the hypothesis that the
planet Earth itself is a living organism. This organism would be able to regulate its own
essential variables, such as temperature and composition of the atmosphere. Compared
to the global brain as we have defined it, this "Gaian" organism seems very primitive,
with a level of intelligence comparable perhaps to the one of a bacterium. At present,
Gaia and the global brain are still largely independent, and the impact of society on the
global ecosystem appears unsustainable. However, several authors have argued that
Gaia and the superorganism will evolve to a state of symbiosis, that may eventually
lead to a merging of the two. Thus, the global brain would not only form a brain for
humanity, but for the whole of Planet Earth.
Although most researchers have addressed the global brain idea from a scientific or
technological point of view, authors like Teilhard de Chardin [1955] and Russell [1995]
have explored some of its spiritual aspects. Similar to many mystical traditions, the
global brain idea holds the promise of a much enhanced level of consciousness and a
state of deep synergy or union that encompasses humanity as a whole. Theists might
view this state of holistic consciousness as a union with God. Humanists might see it as
the creation, by humanity itself, of an entity with God-like powers. Followers of the
Gaia hypothesis have suggested that the "living Earth" of which we are all part deserves
awe and worship; it therefore could form the basis of a secular, ecologically inspired
religion. The Global Brain vision may offer a similar sense of belonging to a larger whole
and of an encompassing purpose.
Technologies for a Global Brain
In principle, it is possible to imagine a global brain even in the absence of information
technology. As ideas ("memes") are communicated from person to person, they evolve,
assimilating the contributions and points of views of myriad individuals. Thus, society
already has a kind of a collective mind, constantly developing new thoughts that cannot
be traced back to any individual contribution. However, in the absence of modern
technology, this "collective thought" required decades to develop any new insights.
Electronic media have made this process much more efficient, allowing ideas to spread
and evolve in hours rather than decades. This turns the global brain from an interesting
analogy into a phenomenon that can now be concretely experienced. Let me sketch how
existing technologies can be further enhanced to produce a truly intelligent system.
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The web is the hypermedia interface to the information residing on the Internet. It
makes it possible to seamlessly integrate documents that are distributed over the entire
planet, and created by people who may not even be aware of each others' existence.
What holds these documents together is not their geographic location, but their
associations: links connecting mutually relevant pages. This hypermedia architecture is
analogous to the one of our brain, where concepts are connected by associations, and
the corresponding assemblies of neurons by synapses. The web thus functions like a
huge associative memory for society.
However, the brain is more than a static memory: it can learn and think. Learning
takes place by the strengthening of associations that are used often, and the weakening
of rarely used associations. Through learning, the brain constantly enhances its
organization and increases its store of knowledge. Thinking happens by the activation
of concepts and the "spreading" of this activation to related concepts, in proportion to
the strength of association. Thinking allows the brain to solve problems, to make
decisions, and to be creative, that is, discover combinations of concepts never
encountered before. By making simple changes to its static architecture, we can
implement similar processes on the web.
In the brain, learning follows the rule of Hebb: if two neurons are activated in close
succession, the strength of their connection is increased. A similar procedure has been
applied to the web by Heylighen and Bollen [1996]: if two web pages are consulted by
the same user within a short interval, either the existing hyperlink between the pages
gets a higher weight, or a new link is created. On any given page, only the links with a
minimum weight are shown. Thus, links that are not sufficiently reinforced may
eventually disappear. The result is that such a learning web constantly adapts to the
way it is used, reorganizing its pattern of links to best reflect the preferences of its
users. In practice, this creates direct links between the pages that are most strongly
related, bypassing less interesting detours, and clustering pages together according to
their mutual relevance. As such, the web becomes much more efficient to use, by
assimilating the collective knowledge and desires of its users.
The simplest way to implement web "thinking" is to create a specialized software
agent. This is a program that works as a "delegate" of its user, autonomously collecting
information that is likely to be interesting to its user. The agent can learn the user's
preferences simply by observing which pages the user actively uses, or it can receive
specific instructions (e.g. keywords) from the user. Given that preference profile, the
agent can locate pages that satisfy the profile, and then use "spreading activation" to
find further, related documents. It does this by "activating" pages in proportion to their
degree of interestingness, and then propagating that activation according to the
hyperlinks and their weights as learned from other users. Thus, it can discover new
documents, that may not contain any of the initially given keywords, but that are still
highly relevant to the query. This is especially useful when the user cannot clearly
formulate the query, but only has an intuitive feel for it.
With such technologies, the web would become a giant, collective brain, which you
could consult at any moment to get an answer to your questions, however unusual or
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vaguely formulated they may be. Its thought processes would always be ready to
enhance and extend your own thinking. To fully harness the power of this global brain,
it should be constantly available. The rapid spread of mobile communication already
offers universal access to the web, wherever you are. Further miniaturization will lead
to wearable computers, incorporated in your clothing, with images projected on your
glasses. Automatic recognition of speech, gestures and even emotions will make
communication with the web much easier and more intuitive. In the longer term, we can
foresee direct connections between computer and brain, through neural interfaces. This
would allow you to communicate with the global brain simply by thinking, having your
thoughts immediately sensed, understood, and enhanced. Your thoughts could also be
directly turned into actions, as when you use the global brain to order a pizza, get a taxi,
or switch on the heating, so that it would be nice and warm by the time you come home.
All these technologies already exist, either as prototypes or as applications
working in a more limited environment. What remains to be done is further streamlining,
and above all integration into a single, coordinated whole.
Some illustrative applications
To make the myriad potential benefits of such a system more concrete, let us try to
imagine how a global brain-like network could help tackle the problems of congestion,
pollution and delay that hamper present-day transport.
Since Spring 2001, the Brussels company for public transport ( has
been offering the beginnings of an intelligent support system on the web. It allows you
to enter your precise location and destination. The system then calculates the quickest
combined connection, taking into account the time schedules of all forms of public
transport available (tram, bus, subway) and the time you would need to walk to and
from the different stopping places. Moreover, it provides you with detailed guidelines,
such as: “take the second side street on the left, ..., take the subway at the station Delta,
get off at, ..., until you reach the museum at 12.19”.
By adding a few recently developed technologies, we could take this several steps
further. First, the system becomes truly useful only when it can be consulted in real
time, i.e. while you are on the journey. This is already possible using a palmtop
computer with a wireless Internet connection. It might further include a Global
Positioning System, so that the system would know where you are, without need for
you to enter an address. In this case, the guidelines could be constantly updated, so that
if by error you walk down the wrong street, the system would recompute the optimal
route and guide you interactively to your destination.
Second, instead of you having to buy tickets, payment could be done
automatically, by transferring the correct amount of digital cash from your account to
the one of the transport company the moment you finish each leg of the journey. This
would imply the additional option of choosing the least expensive route rather than the
quickest. This becomes especially interesting if the system would include different
companies or forms of transport (e.g. taxis vs. buses) with different prices and different
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transport offers. Depending on the route and the time of day, overall cost, comfort and
duration would vary, but your personal agent would know your preferences, and
negotiate with the transport system to find the option that best suits your situation and
Such a system optimizes travelling for the individual, but this can be extended to
the collective level. Imagine that all individuals would communicate with the transport
system the way we sketched it. In that case the system would know precisely how
many people travel between any two destinations at any time of the day. This would
allow it to determine the most efficient way to organize the transport network. A truly
interactive system would moreover be able to adapt routes in real time, depending on
the demand. Roaming vans or buses would be directed by the system to the place where
travellers are waiting, using the most efficient route that combines their various
locations and destinations. Price and waiting time can be negotiated between the
traveller’s agent and the system. In that way, the “invisible hand” of the market (albeit
electronically supported) can adjust supply and demand of transportation in the most
efficient way.
At this level of flexibility, the distinction between public and private transport
becomes moot: such a system can also accommodate individual drivers, who may be
willing to share their car with passengers for part of their trip, in return for a fee
negotiated between the respective agents. This is a more flexible version of car-pooling
or hitchhiking. The proposed supply-and-demand driven merger of public and private
transport does not imply that market forces should reign supreme, though. A truly
public transport can reduce pollution, noise, energy consumption and congestion in a
way that benefits society in the long term, without therefore having direct benefit to the
traveller here and now.
Such collective benefits determine additional variables that should be taken into the
equation when calculating the recommended route. They can be expressed as constraints
that prohibit certain routes, e.g. a noisy bus passing near to a hospital. Others can be
expressed as additional weights that bias the overall decision to the one that is optimal
for society rather than for the individual traveller or transport firm. For example, the
government can subsidize certain instances of transport and tax others, depending on
their relative advantages and disadvantages. These corrections to the market price would
be automatically taken into account when calculating the cost of the different options
for the traveller. For example, the system may offer the train as cheapest option
because it is less polluting, even though the immediate cost of a bus journey might be
Such corrections should be able to adapt in real time, e.g. increasing the cost of
more polluting options in proportion to the amount of air pollution that is registered by
sensors. In that way, the present level of pollution can be regulated cybernetically.
Moreover, the system would be able to react immediately to sudden perturbations, e.g.
by redirecting traffic around the obstruction created by an accident. Thus, it would be
able to prevent the self-reinforcing processes that lead to the build-up of a traffic jam,
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and that in a sufficiently dense traffic can be triggered by a mere local slowdown
involving one or two cars.
This transport example can be easily generalized to other problem domains. The
generalization from transport of people to transport of goods is straightforward: it
suffices to replace the location, destination and preferences of the traveller by those of
the supplier and client of the good.
The generalization from transport to production requires a somewhat higher level
of abstraction: every production process can be represented as a trajectory in state
space, moving from the “raw” state of materials or components to the “finished” state
via a number of intermediate states. This trajectory can be optimized taking into
account the moment-to-moment supply of raw material and demand for finished goods.
For example, when the electronic payment systems of booksellers register a higher
demand for a particular novel, printing presses can be adjusted to immediately start
producing more copies, while increasing the standing order for paper from the suppliers.
Effects at the collective level (e.g. some processes are more polluting or consume more
scarce resources than others) can be taken into account by imposing additional
constraints or preferences.
Services, such as medical treatment, too can be conceptualized as a trajectory from
an initial state (e.g. the patient being ill) to a desired state (e.g. the patient being cured).
Again, an intelligent system can try to find the “shortest” route from the one state to
the other, taking into account various constraints (e.g. avoiding risk to the patient’s life)
and optimization criteria (e.g. minimizing cost, pain, and side-effects), at both the
individual and collective level, while being guided by the collective experience of other
patients with similar ailments as stored in the shared memory.
General benefits to be expected
Now that we have a better grasp of how a global brain-like system would function in
practice, let us try to summarize its great advantages for society.
A first problem that it would tackle is information overload [Heylighen,
submitted]. As more and more documents, services, and people move to the Internet,
retrieving, sending and receiving information becomes in practice effortless and free.
This means that ever larger amounts of potentially interesting messages, documents and
announcements will clamor for our attention. However, attention, unlike information,
will remain scarce: our brain is simply unable to attend to more than a few dozen
messages a day. Therefore, we increasingly need support from a system that is capable
to sort through billions of information items and select those that are most relevant to
our particular situation and interests.
Let us then summarize its effects on the economy. The market is the collective
system of transactions that helps supply to match demand, and thus to fulfill the need
of the collective customer for products and services. A traditional market is rather
inefficient, requiring a huge infrastructure of middlemen, specialized organizations such
as stock exchanges and auctions, and communication channels. The Internet already
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allows such transactions to take place much more quickly and transparently, with less
cost and effort. This strongly reduces "friction", making the economy more efficient so
that demand can be satisfied more rapidly, more accurately, and at a lower cost
[Heylighen, 2002]. The global brain will not only facilitate direct communication
between buyers and sellers, but help buyers to find the best value (e.g. through
shopping agents to compare prices), and help sellers to get the best price (e.g. through
automatic auctioning systems). The net effect is that growth increases, while inflation
and economic instability decrease. Moreover, there will be less waste because of unsold
items or goods shipped far away when there is demand around the corner. The direct
incorporation of collective effects (“externalities”) in the decision-making process, as
illustrated in the transport example, will moreover allow a more efficient governance
over the economy, thus protecting employees and consumers while reducing inequalities
and pollution, without the added complexity, bureaucracy and rigidity that tend to
accompany such interventions in a traditional political system.
The global brain will moreover help eliminate conflicts. It in principle provides a
universal channel through which people from all countries, languages and cultures of this
world can communicate. This will make it easier to reduce mutual ignorance and
misunderstandings, or discuss and resolve differences of opinion. The greater ease with
which good ideas can spread over the whole planet will make it easier to reach global
consensus about issues that concern everybody. The free flow of information will make
it more difficult for authoritarian regimes to plan suppression or war. The growing
interdependence will stimulate collaboration, while making war more difficult. The more
efficient economy will indirectly reduce the threat of conflict, since there will be less
competition for scarce resources.
Of course, technology alone will not solve all the problems that threaten our planet:
in the end, people will have to agree about concrete policies to tackle e.g. global warming
or poverty. Yet, the global brain can support not only the process of reaching
consensus on a plan of action, but also its practical implementation. For example,
combating infectious diseases or pollution will require extensive monitoring of the
number of infections or concentration of polluting gases in different regions. Information
collected by local observers or by electronic sensors can directly enter the global brain,
be processed to reveal underlying trends, and be forwarded to the people or institutions
responsible for taking direct action.
The ultimate test of a utopia is whether it will make people happy. Statistics about
life satisfaction in different countries have shown that people are more happy when
their society provides them with greater health, wealth, safety, knowledge, freedom and
equality [Heylighen & Bernheim, 2000a]. The global brain will greatly contribute to
each of these fundamental values. The global brain itself will provide universal access to
all of humanity's knowledge, and thus indirectly increase people's freedom to choose
their own path, while providing them with more equal opportunities. Its effect on the
economy will directly create more wealth, and indirectly resources to invest in medical
care, education, safety measures, etc. Its support for the creation of new knowledge will
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boost science and technology, and thus help them to solve the most pressing medical,
social and ecological problems in a much shorter time span.
Utopia or distopia: should we be afraid of the global brain?
Before concluding we must address a number of recurrent worries and
misunderstandings about the global brain ideal [Heylighen, 2002]. The use of terms like
"collective intelligence" or "superorganism" tends to invite the comparison of the global
brain with a "hive mind", that is, a collective in which the members all think and behave
the same, lacking any autonomy or personal identity. This frightening prospect is most
vividly illustrated by the "Borg", the race of cyborgs imagined by the creators of the
science fiction series "Star Trek". The global brain, on the contrary, derives its
intelligence precisely from the diversity and autonomy of the people that take part in it.
If everybody would make the same choices, then the global brain would not be smarter
than a single individual. It is because different people have different points of view and
different experiences that together they can tackle more complex problems.
Another recurrent worry is privacy, and the fear the the global brain might become
a high-tech version of "Big Brother". Since the global brain becomes more effective by
monitoring user behavior, it may seem that it will get to know everything an individual
has done on the net, including actions that this user would rather keep private, such as
visiting a pornographic site. However, web learning algorithms do not need to know
individual activities. They only need to know the collective frequencies of certain
actions, e.g. that most users who visited the "Playboy" site also visited the "Penthouse"
site, independently of who these users are. In spite of this anonymity of web learning,
the algorithms can still provide personalized recommendations based on the user's
preference profile, but this profile is kept strictly on the user's own computer, far from
the prying eyes of others.
Another common fear is that belonging to an encompassing, collective system, such
as the global brain, will limit individual freedom. It is true that for a global brain to be
effective, the people participating in it will need to agree about a minimum set of
common standards or rules to facilititate communication and cooperation. However,
well-chosen rules will increase rather than decrease freedom. This can be explained by
an analogy with the traffic code. Without such traffic rules as the obligation to drive on
the right hand side of the road (or left, in Great Britain), traffic would be much more
dangerous and more easily obstructed, effectively decreasing your freedom to jump into
your car and drive wherever the roads may lead you. Since the same rules will
democratically apply to everyone, the net result will be that dominant organizations,
governments, or corporations will have less power to censor or impose their rules on
the people who use the net. This loss of power will understandably be resented by
these organizations, but should be welcomed by individuals as it will increase their
freedom and autonomy.
Since Frankenstein and the Golem, many publications have warned us that the
artificial creatures we are creating may escape our control and eventually take over. The
global brain, however, is not intended to replace humanity, but to complement or
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augment it. The global brain is controlled by all the people that are part of it. It is not
an autonomous system that could suddenly decide no longer to obey commands. The
global brain's intelligence, indeed its "mind" or "personality", emerges from the actions
of all people collectively. If the people would decide no longer to use the network, then
the global brain would simply stop to exist.
A final worry is that advanced information technology may increase the gap
between haves and have-nots, and more particularly between those that have access to
information and those that haven't. Although global brain technologies will be adopted
most quickly by the wealthiest and best educated part of the population, this won't
stop the underdogs from joining a little later. Internet technologies are quite inexpensive
to install, compared to e.g. roads, electricity or running water. Moreover, as the global
brain becomes more intelligent, it will become ever easier to use, requiring an ever lower
education level for entry. Speech technologies will soon make the web available even for
illiterates, and may teach them to read and write in the process. Thus, the global brain is
a cheap and efficient way to increase the education level, access to information, and
economic competitiveness in all regions of the world, helping Third World countries to
bridge the gap with the wealthiest countries.
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... In stigmergy, every agent is a designer, channelizing his problem solving ability to the local problem at hand. Each individual is considered an active agent for change, who in isolation has limited resources, knowledge and opportunity, but collectively can emerge as a 'global brain' (Heylighen, 2007) capable of breaking down complexity in multilayer fragments for appropriate resolution (Heylighen, 2002;. It creates a transparent system for collective actions where each agent shares equal knowledge, ownership and accountability. ...
... Stigmergy provides a robust framework for resolving global scale complex problem of survival with interconnected local actions. (Heylighen, 2002;Murty et al., 2012) It provides an appropriate way of channelizing local social innovation (Bjögvinsson, Ehn, & Hillgren, 2012;Morelli, 2007; to emerge as a global community of practice (Wenger & Trayner-Wenger, 2015) for resolving issues at local level for sustainable future. The current trends of practice, research and advancement of technology for collective interaction provides immense opportunity for exploring and designing stigmergic interaction. ...
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Harsh consequences of social inequality and unsustainable practices are responsible for altered local landscapes, and an unbalanced global system challenging designers to resolve inter-linked problems of mammoth complexity, that are more than just wicked. These problems are extremely volatile and unique - a nexus of interconnected vicious loop of complex local actions exerting changes in global patterns of vast magnitude in scale as well as impact, that insist upon urgent action to ensure ‘collective survival’. To sustain and save the social and environmental fabric, we need adaptable and self-sustainable systems with equitable prospects of contestation for harnessing collective actions. We recommend stigmergy – a naturally evolved phenomenon for collective survival, as a possible approach for harnessing collective intelligence and action to achieve a common global goal, and argue for the characteristics that make it appropriate for resolving complex concerns of high magnitude.
... In every educational setting, different types of input flow from four main types of resources (Lunenberg 2010, p. 3): "human resources" including the persons directly related to the setting, "financial resources" including different sums of money used for short-term and long-term objectives of the setting, "physical resources" including teaching materials and various facilities, and "information resources" including all related data. In an open system of education, the interaction of these resources and their digitally-mediated connectivity to other external systems sometimes create an overflow of information that exceeds people's capacity to apply or communicate (Sweller et al. 2011); consequently, they may develop hasty poor decisions (Heylighen 2002). As a matter of fact, the shift of paradigm in a field of study is a great undertaking that necessitates the reorganization of various information resources and the interaction patterns of the people involved. ...
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In order for English majors in Iran to be sustainable for the future world of emerging dynamic changes, moving towards the paradigm of complexity (CP) seems to be a promising option for academic settings. However, any renewal should be carefully studied before it is ready to be implemented. The present analytical paper, therefore, elaborates on some key characteristics of CP, suggests a type of instruction that may be best compatible with the goals of CP: creativity and sustainability, and considers some positive and negative aspects of putting CP into effect. In addition, CP is shown to be a future-focused, transdisciplinary, interdisciplinary, open, dynamic system in which anti-monopolistic ideas, and cross-cultural tolerance and peace are highlighted. On the other hand, it is capable of raising some arguable sociocultural and psychological concerns such as national identity issues and information overload that need to be carefully addressed. Finally, it is proposed that CP is a novel research niche that invites future researchers, material developers, and language policy makers to explore it from different perspectives.
... An ethical approach would surely encourage more vigilance. A more positive quadrant IV stance on the AI singularity debate is the perspective of the "global brain", proposed by Heylighen (2002) and others that humans and advanced AIs could co-exist to our mutual benefit. This reminds us that ethics must be about analysing the potential benefits as well as the risks. ...
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The EPSRC principles of robotics make a number of commitments about the ontological status of robots such as that robots are “just tools” or can give only “an impression or real intelligence”. This commentary proposes that this assumes, all too easily, that we know the boundary conditions of future robotics development, and argues that progress towards a more useful set of principles could begin by thinking carefully about the ontological status of robots. Whilst most robots are currently little more than tools, we are entering an era where there will be new kinds of entities that combine some of the properties of tools with psychological capacities that we had previously thought were reserved for complex biological organisms such as humans. The ontological status of robots might be best described as liminal – neither living nor simply mechanical. There is also evidence that people will treat robots as more than just tools regardless of the extent to which their machine nature is transparent. Ethical principles need to be developed that recognise these ontological and psychological issues around the nature of robots and how they are perceived.
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In this article I attempt to overcome extant obstacles in deriving fundamental, objective and logically deduced definitions of personhood and their rights, by introducing an a priori paradigm of beings and morality. I do so by drawing a distinction between entities that are sought as ends and entities that are sought as means to said ends. The former entities, I offer, are the essence of personhood and are considered precious by observers possessing a logical system of valuation. The latter entities—those sought only as a means to an end —I term 'materials.' Materials are sought for their conditional value: Important for achieving sought ends, they are not considered precious in and of themselves. A normative system for how this dichotomy of entities should interact is consequently derived and introduced. This paradigm has applicability for modern humanism and beyond. Assuming societal technological progression whereby human bodies and their surrounding infrastructures continue to evolve and integrate, the distinction between beings and their supporting materials, and a moral code for their interactions, will become ever more relevant.
Historians are attempting to construct a general holistic narrative of human origins enabling an approach to studying the emergence of complexity, the relation between evolutionary processes and the modern context of human experience and actions. In this work, I attempt to explore the past of cosmic evolution as capable of structuring a universal historical understanding characterized by physical, biological, and cultural eras of change. From this analysis, I offer a foundation that can be useful in thinking about the nature and future of the human system.
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Transhumanizm i utopia w powieści Meda: A Tale of the Future Kennetha Folingsby’ego Artykuł analizuje ewolucyjny aspekt moralności w Meda: A Tale of the Future, dziewiętnastowiecznej utopii Kennetha Folingsby’ego, w kontekście transhumanistycznych rozważań dotyczących kwestii postępu w ujęciu Nicka Bostroma, Maxa More’a, i innych. Powieść Folingsby’ego, literackiego potomka The Coming Race Edwarda Bulwer-Lyttona, ważnej utopii ewolucyjnej późnej epoki wiktoriańskiej, ukazuje proces postępującego odcieleśnienia (disembodiment) futurystycznej eutopii jako skutku bezprecedensowego rozwoju ludzkiego mózgu. Podobnie jako ewolucyjna satyra Bulwera-Lyttona, Meda ukazuje tym samym transformację utopijnej społeczności w kontekście powiązania moralnego postępu z intelektualnym rozwojem.
Technical Report
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The quest for eternity has been alluring scientists, philosophers, and artists since the dawn of humanity. While everyone believes in the certainty of death, there has been growing efforts to devise methods or products to enhance the quality of life, improve healthcare, and hopefully increase the chances of long healthy lives. More recently, visionaries started to look into a more ambitious goal, namely, extending the human life after death. This goal can be achieved in principle through creating human-like models that mimic the human behavior and copy the human memories. These models might be possible to create with advancements in artificial intelligence, virtual reality, robotics, and large-scale database systems. The virtual eternity (Virternity) Project seeks to develop the framework and tools for such models. In this paper, we investigate some of the issues related to this endeavor and survey the relevant literature. In particular, we address the issues of 1) Memory models that support capturing and digital storage of human memories into accessible usable form, 2) Shared memory models that can help knowledge sharing between different individuals and groups, and 3) Artificial consciousness models that seek engineering implementation of the essential features of consciousness.
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This chapter explores the way in which standard corrective and compensating security controls (such as those described in NIST Special Publication 800-53) become more important, less relevant, or significantly altered in nature when applied to ensuring the information security of advanced neuroprosthetic devices and host-device systems. Controls are addressed using an SDLC framework whose stages are (1) supersystem planning; (2) device design and manufacture; (3) device deployment; (4) device operation; and (5) device disconnection, removal, and disposal. Corrective and compensating controls considered include those relating to incident response procedures, mechanisms, and training; error handling capacities; failure mode capacities and procedures; and flaw remediation.
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It is argued that social and technological evolution is characterized by ephemeralizat ion, an accelerating increase in the efficiency of all material, energetic and informational processes. This leads to the practical disappearance of the constraints of space, time, matter and energy, and thus spectaculary increases our power to physically solve problems. However, the accompanying "lubrication" or reduction of friction in all processes creates a number of non-physical problems, characterized by the increasing instability, complexity and reach of causal networks, and therefore decreasing controllability and predictability. As a result, individuals are forced to consider more information and opportunities than they can effectively process. This information overload is made worse by "data smog", the proliferation of low quality information because of easy publication. It leads to anxiety, stress, alienation, and potentially dangerous errors of judgment. Moreover, it holds back overall economic productivity.
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This paper argues that both the relativist and the pessimist critiques of the idea of progress are inadequate. Progress is defined as increase in global quality of life (QOL). Such QOL is intrinsically subjective, but not relative. It can be reliably measured through “life satisfaction”-type questions. The “World Database of Happiness” provides extensive data on social, economic and psychological factors that correlate with overall QOL. They include wealth, health, security, knowledge, freedom and equality. Various statistical data suggest that all these QOL indicators have undergone significant improvements during the last half century, in most of the world. This gives strong support to the thesis that progress objectively occurs.
We propose that the existence of a globally and tightly connected network of computer workstations such as the Internet can lead to the emergence of a globally self‐organized structure that we refer to as the Global Brain. Associated with that structure would be the capability for higher levels of information processing that could be harnessed to build new kinds of models that would be more rapid and appropriate in their responses to ever‐changing, nonequilibrium situations. To gain insight into possible characteristics of a Global Brain, we examine some functional properties of biological brains and discuss how their functional analog could be manifested in a Global Brain. We then explore the implications of a Global Brain for simulation modeling and present an eight‐step process for constructing models that utilize the Global Brain. We review some of the tools that are currently available to make the information and simulation resources of the global Internet system accessible to researchers wishing to participate in the development of this type of model. We discuss some potential applications to regional crisis management that might result from this approach. We conclude with a consideration of some of the implications of a Global Brain.
This paper provides a survey on studies that analyze the macroeconomic effects of intellectual property rights (IPR). The first part of this paper introduces different patent policy instruments and reviews their effects on R&D and economic growth. This part also discusses the distortionary effects and distributional consequences of IPR protection as well as empirical evidence on the effects of patent rights. Then, the second part considers the international aspects of IPR protection. In summary, this paper draws the following conclusions from the literature. Firstly, different patent policy instruments have different effects on R&D and growth. Secondly, there is empirical evidence supporting a positive relationship between IPR protection and innovation, but the evidence is stronger for developed countries than for developing countries. Thirdly, the optimal level of IPR protection should tradeoff the social benefits of enhanced innovation against the social costs of multiple distortions and income inequality. Finally, in an open economy, achieving the globally optimal level of protection requires an international coordination (rather than the harmonization) of IPR protection.