This working paper wishes to introduce and summarize a new idea, challenge propagation, which synthesizes my older work on spreading activation in collective intelligence, and my more recent ontology of action. The basic idea is to combine the notion of “challenge”, which is defined in the action ontology as a phenomenon that elicits action from an agent, with the notion of “propagation” or “spreading”, which comes from models of neural networks, memetics, and complex systems, and which denotes the process by which some phenomenon is repeatedly transmitted from a point in a space (or a node in a network) to the neighboring points (or nodes).
The intention of this work is to provide a conceptual and mathematical foundation for a new theory of the Global Brain, viewed as the distributed intelligence emerging from all people and machines connected by the Internet. However, the notion of challenge propagation seems simple and general enough to also provide a foundation for a theory of distributed intelligence in general. This includes human intelligence—which as neural network researchers have shown is distributed over the millions of neurons in the brain —, the collective intelligence of insects, but also various as yet poorly understood forms of intelligence in e.g. bacteria or plants.