Conceptions of a Global Brain – An Historical Review
There is little doubt that the most important technological, economic and social development of the past two decades is the emergence of a global, computer-based communication network. This network has been growing at an explosive rate, affecting – directly or indirectly – ever increasing aspects of the daily lives of the people on this planet. A general trend is that the information network becomes increasingly more global, more encompassing, more tightly linked to the individuals and groups that use it and more intelligent in the way it supports them. The web does not just passively provide information; it now also actively alerts people to information that is likely to interest them, gives them personal recommendations, and incites them to collaborate with likeminded others. To support this, the web increasingly builds on the knowledge and intelligence of all its users collectively, thanks to “Web 2.0” technologies such as wikis, social networks, tagging, collaborative filtering, and online markets. The Internet appears to be turning into a central nervous system for humanity.
The “Global Brain” is a metaphor for this emerging, collectively intelligent network that is formed by the people of this planet, together with the computers, knowledge bases and communication links that connect them. This network is an immensely complex, self-organizing system. It not only processes information, but can also be seen to play the role of a brain: making decisions, solving problems, learning new connections, and discovering new ideas.