The organismic view of society is updated by incorporating concepts from cybernetics, evolutionary theory, and complex adaptive systems. Global society can be seen as an autopoietic network of self-producing components, and therefore as a living system or “superorganism”. Miller’s living systems theory suggests a list of functional components for society’s metabolism and nervous system. Powers’ perceptual control theory suggests a model for a distributed control system implemented through the market mechanism. An analysis of the evolution of complex, networked systems points to the general trends of increasing efficiency, differentiation and integration. In society these trends are realized as increasing productivity, decreasing friction, increasing division of labor and outsourcing, and increasing cooperativity, transnational mergers and global institutions. This is accompanied by increasing functional autonomy of individuals and organizations and the decline of hierarchies. The increasing complexity of interactions and instability of certain processes caused by reduced friction necessitate a strengthening of society’s capacity for information processing and control, i.e. its nervous system. This is realized by the creation of an intelligent global computer network, capable of sensing, interpreting, learning, thinking, deciding and initiating actions: the “global brain”. Individuals are being integrated ever more tightly into this collective intelligence. Although this image may raise worries about a totalitarian system that restricts individual initiative, the superorganism model points in the opposite direction, towards increasing freedom and diversity. The model further suggests some specific futurological predictions for the coming decades, such as the emergence of an automated distribution network, a computer immune system, and a global consensus about values and standards.
Research Professor on society, culture, art, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, neuroscience, autopoiesis, self-organization, complexity, systems, networks, rhizomes, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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