Thursday, January 15, 2004

An idea older than expected

I have begun to take care of some of the formal work for applying to a graduate program and fellowships. I have contacted a number of people about letters of recommendation and have started filling out all the forms. I took a practice GRE and will take another at the beginning of next week, after studying more.

Since I would not be starting till the Fall, I am still left with the dilemma of making a living in the short term. I am hopeful that a internship will come through to provide some good experience before my return to academia, but nothing is certain at this point.

I have started to receive more feedback about the Global Mind concepts from people that I’m sharing this site with. I was sent an article written by Jennifer Cobb Kreisberg of the Institute for Global Communications about the philosophy of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, an obscure Jesuit priest, who described A Globe, Clothing Itself with a Brain. What is so fascinating to me about this article is that Teilhard arrived at a very similar concept through such completely different life experiences and before such technology seemed even reasonable. His writings span from the 1920s to the 1950s and were largely rejected at the time!

Instead of through a purely scientific process, Teilhard examines the spiritual compliment of what is certainly a large and revolutionary idea. I am certain that there are many people that are uncomfortable with the idea of a Global Mind wielding a powerful amount of knowledge over the web. While a primarily rational person may not understand this fear or discomfort, I think this is a very natural response for those in between logical and mythical perceptions of the world.

To regain the spiritual component of science Kreisberg described Teilhard’s theory of radial and tangential energy. In this theory, radial energy is all that which is discernable in the physical world. In other words, everything that we see, measure, and create models of understanding for. From nuclear and chemical reactions, to cosmic and spatial theories, the world of radial energy can be logically interpreted and described.

In contrast, Teilhard’s tangential energy may be described as a “spiritual force” that does not exist in any physically measurable way, but rather it is phenomenon manifested through the actions of living organisms. Put another way, tangential energy represents the tendency of living organisms to behave in a manner that is inconsistent with physical rules. The most advanced form of tangential energy was therefore consciousness.

He was describing what he believed was the divine spark, a term often defined as the remnant of the light of God in the religious world. Furthermore Teilhard used the idea of increases in tangential energy to link consciousness to complexity to form “the law of complexity consciousness.” This law claimed that increases in consciousness were related to increases in the complexity of tangential energy.

Wow, what a different perspective. So what does any of this have to do with a Global Mind or the technologies related to it? Nothing practical, but it certainly is the beginnings of a potentially self-fulfilling prophesy! Whether people believe in it or not, trends in information sharing seem to lead to an entity that is similar to Teilhard’s “thinking layer” of the biosphere. What I am calling the Global Mind, some might call the Semantic Web or Metaweb, Teilhard called the noosphere. Noo, being the Greek word for mind.

Some groups like Princeton’s Global Consciousness Project are even trying to measure this force leading towards a global conscious. While I am primarily interested in seeing the practical and deliberate development of a Global Mind, a significant part of me is drawn towards the spiritual implications as well.

To link back to what I started with, I believe that a large number of people will be uncomfortable with the concept of a Global Mind for reasons beyond the logistics of such a large project. In these instances I want to be ready to answer some of the more personally spiritual questions in addition to the academic ones posed. Such an intersection seems quite inevitable to me.

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