- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (August 1, 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0471419192
- ISBN-13: 978-0471419198
- Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1 x 8.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 62 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #449,738 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century 1st Edition
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When did big-picture optimism become cool again? While not blind to potential problems and glitches, Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind From the Big Bang to the 21st Century confidently asserts that our networked culture is not only inevitable but essential for our species' survival and eventual migration into space. Author Howard Bloom, believed by many to be R. Buckminster Fuller's intellectual heir, takes the reader on a dizzying tour of the universe, from its original subatomic particle network to the unimaginable data-processing power of intergalactic communication. His writing is smart and snappy, moving with equal poise through depictions of frenzied bacteria passing along information packets in the form of DNA and nomadic African tribespeople putting their heads together to find water for the next year.
The reader is swept up in Bloom's vision of the power of mass minds and, before long, can't help seeing the similarities between ecosystems, street gangs, and the Internet. Were Bloom not so learned and well-respected--more than a third of his book is devoted to notes and references, and luminaries from Lynn Margulis to Richard Metzger have lined up behind him--it would be tempting to dismiss him as a crank. His enthusiasm, the grand scale of his thinking, and his transcendence of traditional academic disciplines can be daunting, but the new outlook yielded to the persistent is simultaneously exciting and humbling. Bloom takes the old-school, sci-fi dystopian vision of group thinking and turns it around--Global Brain predicts that our future's going to be less like the Borg and more like a great party. --Rob Lightner
From Publishers Weekly
Bloom's debut, The Lucifer Principle (1997), sought the biological basis for human evil. Now Bloom is after even bigger game. While cyber-thinkers claim the Internet is bringing us toward some sort of worldwide mind, Bloom believes we've had one all along. Drawing on information theory, debates within evolutionary biology, and research psychology (among other disciplines), Bloom understands the development of life on Earth as a series of achievements in collective information processing. He stands up for "group selection" (a minority view among evolutionists) and traces cooperation among organismsAand competition between groupsAthroughout the history of evolution. "Creative webs" of early microorganisms teamed up to go after food sources: modern colonies of E. coli bacteria seem to program themselves for useful, nonrandom mutations. Octopi "teach" one another to avoid aversive stimuli. Ancient Sparta killed its weakest infants; Athens educated them. Each of these is a social learning system. And each such system relies on several functions. "Conformity enforcers" keep most group members doing the same things; "diversity generators" seek out new things; "resource shifters" help the system alter itself to favor new things that work. In Bloom's model, bowling leagues, bacteria, bees, Belgium and brains all behave in similar ways. Lots of real science and some historyAmuch of it fascinating, some of it quite obscureAgo into Bloom's ambitious, amply footnoted, often plausible arguments. He writes a sometimes bombastic prose ("A neutron is a particle filled with need"); worse yet, he can fail to distinguish among accepted facts, scientifically testable hypotheses and literary metaphors. His style may guarantee him an amateur readership, but he's not a crank. Subtract the hype, and Bloom's concept of collective information processing may startle skeptical readers with its explanatory power. (Aug.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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This book is essentially a brief history of life and its interconnectedness coupled with Howard Bloom’s “Global Brain” hypothesis, that we are all part of a sort of a “global brain” encompassing all life. Groups of individuals, animals as well as people, often exhibit intelligent behavior that goes beyond that of the individual as if their “brain power” is extended across multiple individuals as they communicate. He gives some astonishing examples of how animals can learn and adapt as a group even though individuals don't have the brain power to do so. Bees can learn and can make intelligent decisions as a group in ways they cannot do as individuals. Even germs form colonies and networks of colonies that exhibit some surprisingly intelligent behavior. The colony, packs, tribes, and groups, are in themselves intelligent "super brains".
Howard Bloom describes and analyses evolution from a communications perspective. He believes in group evolution and rejects the “selfish gene” hypothesis as the sole explanation for what is driving evolution, which might be somewhat controversial. He identifies five basic principles of the complex adaptive system of any group. The first one is "conformity enforcement". Every society and group, human or not, enforces conformity, sometimes ruthlessly, for the sake unity, group identity, and the effectiveness of the group. The second one, "diversity generators", are needed in times of change or when new opportunities appear, or when the group needs to evolve. The third is "inner judges", which are factors which are inherited factors which determines whether we are needed or not, and if not, causes us to become depressed, or sick, or even to commit suicide. Some people are unfortunately born with relentless "inner judges". The fourth is "resource shifters" which shifts resources away from those who are not needed to those who are. The fifth one is "intergroup tournaments" which is used to perpetuate the most effective group or individual(s). These are often held between groups that are close genetically. In fact 150 millions of us killed a sister or a brother as fetuses while in the womb, we just don't know that we did.
The book also touches on human society. Bloom claims that the mass mind needs its internationalists, cross-cultural floaters, homosexuals, explorers, introverts and oddballs to continue to prosper, invent and adjust. At the same time conformity enforcers like religious and political fundamentalists constantly threaten to crush human freedom and achievement. The fundamentalists invent boogey men/enemies to rally around and it is quite effective. Diversity generators are needed for prosperity and expansion and conformity enforcers are needed to create unified action to stave off existential threats. Overall the book promotes the diversity generators for modern human society.
I found Howard Bloom’s arguments to be both plausible and supported by good evidence, at the same time as I am somewhat cautious in fully embracing his world view. Reading this book was an intellectual adventure at the same time as it was also somewhat depressing. It was well written and well organized and full of both delightful and disturbing ideas. It is one of those books that make you view the world a little differently after reading it. I highly recommend this book.
1. Behavior of matter gives evidence of spiritual existence.
2. Similarities in behavior give evidence of a specific spiritual foundation common to all matter.
3. Spiritual means intentional, purposeful.
4. Abstract interpretation of evidence can induce a common logic to be found in the physical process all matter undergoes, that is to achieve a purpose. Intelligence in matter controls this process to achieve the purpose.
5. Intelligence means an understanding of the way things work in the universe. Understanding predicts what behavior is required to achieve a given purpose.
6. Understanding of what works is retained in a hierarchical structure from atomic particles to atoms, to molecules, to cells, to solar systems, and throughout the universe.
7. In living matter the understanding carried by cells is then augmented by complex hierarchies of cells, then by organisms, societies of organisms, and cultures of societies, essentially creating a single unified body fulfilling a common purpose.
8. Some understanding in living matter is too fleeting to be captured in the physical structure of the cells themselves. Such understanding is carried along by an organism in the form of symbolic representation, or text. Over time, textual understanding is maintained by incorporating into physical structure either the understanding itself, rendering text unnecessary, or sophisticated text using capabilities.
Questions generated by these conclusions:
1. Why purpose? Human understanding is heavily based on cause and effect. Cause assumes the existence of purpose. Effect assumes the fulfillment of purpose. The efficacy of these terms prompts us to use them outside a purely human context, extending them to the entire universe. These terms work for us in every conceivable context.
2. Why hierarchy? Again, the term works for us. Humans organize their own behavior hierarchically. The structure is then imagined as extended to the universe as a whole. Each level in a nested hierarchy adapts to and fills a unique niche. This perspective precludes contradictions in description and explanation, yielding superior prediction and control. Is this a structure that actually exists independent of our imaginations? Who cares! It works for us!
Final comment: Bloom is to be commended for following a generally misunderstood rule, that theory has to describe and explain the behavior of the subject as well as that of the object.
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He is genius and writing style unique... some may not like the style...Read more