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<nettime> Neurosphere
Donald Dulchinos on Mon, 20 Feb 2006 21:22:27 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Neurosphere

[[[I've started a web site around the ideas in my new book, Neurosphere.
An excerpt from the book follows.

The Convergence of Evolution,
Group Mind, and the Internet
Donald P. Dulchinos

"As if the commercial hype were not enough, the economic impact of the Internet
pales beside the effect it is going to have on our social and personal lives as it
becomes ubiquitous.  The Internet will transform many of the essential things that
make us human -- communication, cooperation, thinking, and most of all, our search
for meaning." ~ Donald P. Dulchinos, Introduction to Neurosphere (Weiser Books,
November 2005)]]]

...In the midst of World War I, a Jesuit paleontologist named Pierre Teilhard de
Chardin looked across a smoking Belgian battlefield and saw something more:

I think one could show that the front isn't simply the firing line, the exposed
area corroded by the conflict of nations, but the "front of the wave" carrying the
world of man toward its new destiny.  When you look at it during the night, lit up
by flares, after a day of more than usual activity, you seem to feel that you're
at the final boundary between what has already been achieved and what is
struggling to emerge.

Teilhard thereafter conceived his notion of a noosphere (what I call a
neurosphere), a membrane of consciousness emerging from the biosphere,
constituting a single complex thinking entity.  This was the direction of
evolution, the Omega Point of human history and the meaning of life.  His vision
was one in a long line of utopian visions of a united world.  At the dawn of the
21st century, many theorists of the Internet believe that the World Wide Web is an
actual manifestation of Teilhard's vision.

Do the events of September 11 and beyond reflect the final refutation of such
visions of progress and unity, or the first evidence that they have come to pass? 
I believe the answer is the latter, as revealed by a complex weave of war,
technology, history and spirituality.

The war on terrorism as proclaimed by President Bush is the incipient form of
conflict within a neurosphere, not across borders but within the skin of a single
global entity.  The war will not be confined to Afghanistan, or Iraq, or any small
collection of countries.  The Al Qaeda network is said to operate within more than
60 countries.  It is a stunning fact that they operated most successfully in
Florida, a state it will be hard for Mr. Bush to declare war upon.  And it seems
increasingly clear, after 5 years of war, that the supply of fresh recruits to the
terrorist cause will continue to grow.

So how do you find and defeat this enemy within?  On one front of the war, Richard
Clarke, cyberspace security adviser to the President War, says =93We must secure
our cyberspace from a range of possible threats." But how does one secure an asset
whose value comes precisely, like airline travel, from its openness and ubiquity? 
An asset whose value, says Bob Metcalfe's network effect, increases exponentially
with the number of computers, of conscious nodes, connected to it?

At the November 2001 Comdex trade show, the Mecca of computer geeks, companies
slammed together last minute marketing positioning showing software and hardware
as solutions for law enforcement and terrorism prevention.  One concept thought to
be helpful is data mining =96 this is the technical approach at the core of
Carnivore, the once paranoid fantasy but since confirmed government initiative to
monitor all Internet traffic for signs of crime.  The technique at the core of
this is not much different from that employed by any search engine like Yahoo or
Ask Jeeves or Google.  What's relevant to this essay is the idea that so much
human activity these days is now represented in one form or another on the
Internet, and therefore the mass of Web pages, chat rooms and email logs is a
unified entity within which all information resides.  An entity?

Perhaps the Web at most is only a metaphor of human activity, but it _is_
searchable.  All that is good or evil in the world, or subset of the world that it
represents, can be =93mined" from it.  The Net underscores the interconnectedness
that is here, and growing.

The Panopticon, the surveillance technology of the 21st century (yet coined in the
19th), is about to be unleashed without the niceties of protected civil liberties
or the illusion of privacy.  This will mean that someone could be watching you,
but also that you will be watching everyone.  For every knee jerk libertarian
encrypting his banal emails there is a webcam exhibitionist begging you to look
and see.  We can run but we can't hide, and perhaps we shouldn't try. 

The march of technology is inexorable.  It is in human nature.  And for those who
scoff and point to the majority of the world still without electricity, let alone
Net access, I would point out the ability of the poorest desert nomad to get hold
of Kalishnikov technology all too easily.  And that is where history comes in...

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