Francis Heylighen started his career as yet another physicist with a craving to understand the foundations of the universe – the physical and philosophical laws that make everything tick. But his quest for understanding has led him far beyond the traditional limits of the discipline of physics. Currently he leads the Evolution, Complexity and COgnition group (ECCO) at the Free University of Brussels, a position involving fundamental cybernetics research cutting across almost every discipline. Among the many deep ideas he has pursued in the last few decades, one of the most tantalizing is that of the Global Brain – the notion that the social, computational and communicative matrix increasingly enveloping us as technology develops, may possess a kind of coherent intelligence in itself.
The concept of the Global Brain has a long history, going back to ancient ideas about society as a superorganism, and the term was introduced in Peter Russell’s 1982 book “The Global Brain”. However, the Principia Cybernetica page on the Global Brain was the first significant online resource pertaining to the concept, and remains the most thorough available resource for matters Global-Brain-ish. Francis published one of the earliest papers on the Global Brain concept, and in 1996 he founded the “Global Brain Group“, an email list whose membership includes many of the scientists who have worked on the concept of emergent Internet intelligence.