World Wide Mind (and Culture)

World Wide Mind: The Coming Integration of Humanity, Machines, and the Internet is a new book by Michael Chorost. I've not thoroughly read it yet but I've looked through it and I've listened to an interview with Chorost. Here's the book description from Amazon to give you an idea what it is about:

What if digital communication felt as real as being touched?

This question led Michael Chorost to explore profound new ideas triggered by lab research around the world, and the result is the book you now hold. Marvelous and momentous, World Wide Mind takes mind-to-mind communication out of the realm of science fiction and reveals how we are on the verge of a radical new understanding of human interaction.

Chorost himself has computers in his head that enable him to hear: two cochlear implants. Drawing on that experience, he proposes that our Paleolithic bodies and our Pentium chips could be physically merged, and he explores the technologies that could do it.

He visits engineers building wearable computers that allow people to be online every waking moment, and scientists working on implanted chips that would let paralysis victims communicate. Entirely new neural interfaces are being developed that let computers read and alter neural activity in unprecedented detail.

But we all know how addictive the Internet is. Chorost explains the addiction: he details the biochemistry of what makes you hunger to touch your iPhone and check your email. He proposes how we could design a mind-to-mind technology that would let us reconnect with our bodies and enhance our relationships. With such technologies, we could achieve a collective consciousness - a World Wide Mind. And it would be humankind's next evolutionary step.

With daring and sensitivity, Chorost writes about how he learned how to enhance his relationships by attending workshops teaching the power of touch. He learned how to bring technology and communication together to find true love, and his story shows how we can master technology to make ourselves more human rather than less.

World Wide Mind offers a new understanding of how we communicate, what we need to connect fully with one another, and how our addiction to email and texting can be countered with technologies that put us - literally - in each other's minds.

My first thought in considering this set of ideas was the writing of Howard Bloom (Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century) but Chorost is really talking about something different. The second thing I thought about was the idea of adding, as the very first project, a tactile connectivity that allowed for a slap upside the head. When I look at the behavior of a lot of people on line, such as the global warming denialists who send me death threats or the misogynist creeps who stalk Rebecca Watson or Surly Amy, it is clear to me that those people would probably not act as they do if a) everybody knew who they were (though certain people seem to not care about that) and/or b) if their behavior was being carried out face to face with other people. And, more importantly, within reach.

This is not to say that there should be or would be actual slaps upside the head necessarily. What we're talking about here is Mutually Assured Slap Upside The Head (MASUTH). In a world where this is the prevailing situation, like the world of the forager, whence we came culturally and psychologically, there is MASUTH. And, less. asshattitude.

Listening to the Chorost interview, by Desiree Schell, also brought up some other questions, by Desiree herself, which she called me up to discuss, and that discussion has been transformed by the Magic Hand of KO Myers into a segment produced along the interview, which you can download HERE.

And there is yet another idea that I had in mind that I'll expand on in another post. It is not true that every culture has a flood myth, or even a form of fried bread (see this for a detailed discussion) and generally you should be wary of any statement that starts out with "every culture has a..." But, I suspect that many cultures have a Lorem Ipsum. I'll explain later.


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What came to my mind was the Borg, but I do not mean that as a necessarily bad comparison. If our civilization survives the next hundred years It seems almost certain to happen at least to some extent.

By Rodney Glasspoole (not verified) on 26 Aug 2012 #permalink