References on the Global Brain / Superorganism
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References on the Global Brain / Superorganism

a collection of basic references, grouped by author, that explore the idea of the emerging planetary organism and its global brain, in the chronological order of first publication

This reference material serves as the basis for the "Global Brain" study group which has been set up by some of the authors listed below. For a more up-to-date list of references, check the bibliography of the Global Brain Institute

Herbert Spencer
The Principles of Sociology (1876-96); (see intro and excerpt, including "Society is an organism")

Remarkable to note how many recently fashionable ideas about superorganisms and evolutionary integration have already been proposed by this evolutionary thinker over a century ago. Spencer coined the phrase "survival of the fittest", which was later taken over by Darwin.
Herbert G. Wells
World Brain (1938); (see also: H.G. Wellss' Idea of a World Brain: A Critical Re-Assessment, by W. Boyd Rayward, Constructing the world mind, and Towards the World Brain by Eugene Garfield)

a science fiction writer's prophetic vision of a world encyclopedia of knowledge that would provide a kind of global consciousness, like the world-wide web now does
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin:
"Le Phénomène Humain" (Seuil, Paris, 1955). (translated as : "The Phenomenon of Man" (1959, Harper & Row, New York)).

the mystical and poetic vision of future evolutionary integration by this paleontologist and jesuit priest anticipates many recent developments. Teilhard popularized Vernadsky's term "noosphere" (mind sphere), denoting the network of thoughts, information and communication that englobes the planet.
See also: A Globe, Clothing Itself with a Brain.

Joël de Rosnay:
several books in French, including "L'Homme Symbiotique. Regards sur le troisième millénaire" (Seuil, Paris, 1996), translated as "The Symbiotic Man: A New Understanding of the Organization of Life and a Vision of the Future", "Le Cerveau Planétaire" (Olivier Orban, Paris, 1986), "Le Macroscope" (Seuil, Paris, 1972), translated as: "The Macroscope", Harper & Row, New York, 1975.

emergence of the "cybion" (cybernetic superorganism), analysed by means of concepts from systems theory, and the theories of chaos, self-organization and evolution. Applications to the new network and multimedia technologies and to questions of policy.

Valentin Turchin:
The Phenomenon of Science. A cybernetic approach to human evolution, (Columbia University Press, New York, 1977).

cybernetic theory of universal evolution, from unicellular organisms to culture and society, culminating in the emerging "super-being", based on the concept of the Metasystem Transition.

Peter Russell:
"The Global Brain Awakens: Our next evolutionary leap" (Global Brain, 1996) (originally published in 1983 as "The Global Brain"). For an excerpt, see Towards a Global Brain

development of the superorganism theme in a "New Age" vision, with more emphasis on consciousness-raising techniques like meditation, and less on evolutionary mechanisms and technology.

Gottfried Mayer-Kress:
several papers, including:
Gottfried Mayer-Kress & Cathleen Barczys (1995): "The Global Brain as an Emergent Structure from the Worldwide Computing Network", The Information Society 11 (1).

explores the analogies between global networks and complex adaptive systems, and the applications of the network to modelling complex problem domains
for a summary see: The Global Brain Concept

Gregory Stock:
"Metaman: the merging of humans and machines into a global superorganism", (Simon & Schuster, New York, 1993). (order through Amazon)

an optimistic picture of the evolution of society, with many statistics on economic, social and technological progress, in which humans and machines unite, and where the individual is increasingly tied to others through technology

Brian R. Gaines:
The Collective Stance in Modeling Expertise in Individuals and Organizations, International Journal of Expert Systems. 7(1), (1994), pp. 22-51. (see also The Emergence of Knowledge through Modeling and Management Processes in Societies of Adaptive Agents. (Proceedings of the 10th Knowledge Acquisition Workshop, Banff, Alberta. pp. 24-1:24-13) and other Gaines articles)

an in-depth review of the literature on sociology, cognitive science and systems theory about the social function of knowledge; its "collective stance" views humanity as an organism partitioned into sub-organisms, such as organizations and individuals; proposes a positive feedback mechanism for the development of expertise, and therefore division-of-labor.

Francis Heylighen & Donald T. Campbell:
Selection of Organization at the Social Level: obstacles and facilitators of Metasystem Transitions, "World Futures: the journal of general evolution", Vol. 45:1-4 (1995), p. 181.

a critical examination of the evolutionary mechanisms underlying the emergence of social "superorganisms", like multicellular organisms, ant nests, or human organizations; concludes that humanity at present cannot yet be seen as a superorganism, and that there are serious obstacles on the road to further integration

Francis Heylighen & Johan Bollen:
"The World-Wide Web as a Super-Brain: from metaphor to model" in: R. Trappl (ed.) (1996): Cybernetics and Systems '96 (Austrian Society for Cybernetic Studies), p. 917.

discusses the precise mechanisms (learning, thinking, spreading activation, ...) through which a brain-like global network might be implemented, using the framework of the theory of metasystem transitions;
see also learning, brain-like webs and F. Heylighen: "The Global Superorganism: an evolutionary-cybernetic model of the emerging network society", an extensive, in-depth review of the superorganism/global brain vision, and its implications for the future of society

Ben Goertzel:
World Wide Brain: The Emergence of Global Web Intelligence and How it Will Transform the Human Race

the concept of the WorldWideBrain as a massively parallel intelligence, consisting of structures and dynamics emergent from a community of intelligent WWW agents, distributed worldwide, with a discussion of social and philosophical implications, including a review of the discussions in the Global Brain Group;
See also: an older version of the previous paper, with some additional material, the webMind software developed by Intelligenesis, a software company co-founded by Goertzel, and "Wild Computing: Steps Toward a Philosophy of Internet Intelligence", an electronic book expanding on Goertzel's ideas.

David Williams
The Human Macro-organism as Fungus, Wired 4.04 (1996).
an intelligent parody of the superorganism view of society: "Pull Bill Gates out of his office and put him in the veldt - in four days he's a bloated corpse in the sun. ";-)

Lee Li-Jen Chen and Brian R. Gaines:
A CyberOrganism Model for Awareness in Collaborative Communities on the Internet, International Journal of Intelligent Systems (IJIS), Vol. 12, No. 1. pp. 31-56. (1997)

an awareness-oriented framework for the web, based on Miller's "Living Systems" theory and a collective intelligence model, to conceptualize the Internet as an organism; particular emphasis on tools for time awareness;
see also: Modeling the Internet as a Cyberorganism: a Living Systems Framework and Investigative Methodologies for Virtual Cooperative Interaction, Chen's 1997 PhD thesis

Howard Bloom:
The Lucifer Principle: a Scientific Expedition Into the Forces of History and Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind From the Big BangTo the 21st Century
two popular books, which describe animal and human social groups as superorganisms, whose members merge their minds into a single mass-learning machine; explores the biological, evolutionary and historical origins of collective minds, before modern information technology; see excerpt "Superorganism" and a series of papers on the history of the global brain; see also "Beyond the Supercomputer: Social Groups as Self-invention Machines".
The Symbiotic Intelligence Project:
a group at Los Alamos National Laboratory which studies self-organizing knowledge on distributed networks driven by human interaction. It has produced a few papers such asSymbiotic Intelligence and the Internet.

Parker Rossman
Research On Global Crises, Still Primitive?

an online "book in process", about how humanity's knowledge can be organized through collective intelligence in the form of a "world brain" system, to tackle various global problems, such as education, health care, peace, the environment, poverty and ethics.

John E. Stewart
"Evolution's Arrow: The direction of evolution and the future of humanity" (Chapman Press, Australia, 2000):

argues that evolution progresses in the direction of cooperative organisations of greater scale and evolvability, up to global society.

Robert Wright
Non-Zero. The Logic of Human Destiny (Pantheon Books, 2000)

A very well-written book that develops a similar argument as Stewart of evolutionary progress towards greater complexity, intelligence and eventually global integration of humankind, on the basis of a retelling of human history.

Michael Brooks
Global Brain, New Scientist magazine, 24 June 2000, p. 22.

A rather sensationalist feature article about the work of global brain researchers, based on interviews with Heylighen, Bollen, Joslyn, Johnson and Goertzel. It emphasizes the scary, "Big Brother"-like possibilities, while minimizing the in-built protections against such abuse. For a somewhat more balanced view, read the accompanying editorial.

Converging Technologies for Improving Human Performance: Nanotechnology, Biotechnology, Information Technology and Cognitive Science (2002),

a 400 page report by a large group of specialists about how these technologies working together can change our life during the next twenty years, and turn society into an "interconnected brain"

Global Brain Group
Papers from the 1st Global Brain Workshop

a collection of abstracts, Powerpoint presentations and papers of the talks held at this workshop in July 2001, using a variety of perspectives to look at the Global Brain idea

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Copyright© 2003 Principia Cybernetica - Referencing this page

F. Heylighen,

Apr 17, 2003 (modified)
4 Oct 1996 (created)


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