Envisaging a Comprehensible Global Brain–as a Playful Organ


Anthony Judge | Laetus in Praesens – TRANSCEND Media Service

Patterns Connecting the Dots between Hemispheres, Epicycles and Quavers


Collectively distributed cognition: This exploration is partly inspired by the work of Stafford Beer, as a management cybernetician, into the design of an appropriate collective brain (Brain of the Firm: the managerial cybernetics of organization, 1981), especially given the requisite complexity for a “viable system” (Giuliana Galli Carminati, The Planetary Brain: From the Web to the Grid and Beyond, 2011). Use of the metaphor followed from the influential study by an earlier cybernetician, W. Ross Ashby (Design for a Brain: the origin of adaptive behavior, 1952). The design preoccupation was the primary feature of a presentation by Shann Turnbull (Design Criteria for a Global Brain, 2001) as presented to the First Global Brain Workshop (Brussels, 2001).

The argument follows from the controversial assertion recently made by President Macron of France with respect to the “brain death” of NATO and the potential implications for any “global brain” (Are the UN and the International Community both Brain Dead — given criteria recognizing that NATO is brain dead? 2019).

The question that is obviously raised with respect to the brain metaphor is the nature of the “brain waves” which might be detectable as indicative of life and intelligence in any global collective such as the United Nations or in any “think tank” (originally termed a “brain box”). Such waves are otherwise recognized in terms of neural oscillation — a metaphor in itself valued with respect to any future global dependence on artificial intelligence in terms of neural learning networks. How re collective intelligence and distributed cognition to be comprehended?

Logical organization of memory: The argument follows from recognition of the similarity of 8-fold patterns in computer memory design and in the Chinese encoding which originally inspired the work of Gottfied Leibnitz on binary logic, as presented separately (Framing Cognitive Space for Higher Order Coherence: toroidal interweaving from I Ching to supercomputers and back? 2019). As noted below, the latter stressed the necessary difference between the elements in any such 8-fold pattern — the requisite variety.

The discussion which follows offers a visual articulation of the traditional Chinese circular configuration of 8×8 elements — the Shao Yong circle — which featured in the image originally communicated to Leibniz. The pattern of transformations between these conditions denoted by these elements had been the subject of earlier experimental animations using scalar vector graphics.

The brain metaphor has been further exploited with respect to recognition of the division of the world into “hemispheres” — recalling the lateralization of brain function. Such hemispheric distinction can also be seen as characteristic of politics, whether democratic or otherwise, the division into right and left wings, into government and opposition, and into science-versus-religion. Whatever form it takes, this division is currently highly problematic and “toxic”, even in the the countries which claim to be exemplars of democracy — whatever optimistic claims to the contrary are made.

The quest for any “corpus callosum” offering global integration of such hemispheres is suggestively emergent from the extended visualization of the Shau Yong circle as articulated in what follows.

Patterns of connectivity: The subtitle highlights the challenge of the “pattern that connects”, as so notably highlighted by Gregory Bateson and discussed by Helene Finidori (Patterns that Connect: exploring the potential of patterns and pattern languages in systemic interventions towards realizing sustainable futures, ISSS, 2016; Configuring Patterns and Pattern Languages for Systemic Inquiry and Design, Proceedings of the 25th Conference on Pattern Languages of Programs (PLoP), 2018). For Bateson:

The pattern which connects is a meta-pattern. It is a pattern of patterns. It is that meta-pattern which defines the vast generalization that, indeed, it is patterns which connect (Mind and Nature: a necessary unity, 1979). To which he added in a much-cited phrase: Break the pattern which connects the items of learning and you necessarily destroy all quality.

This connectivity is further stressed by use of the phrase “connecting the dots“, now considered a characteristic of the desirable integration of “joined-up thinking“. The reference to epicycles recalls the problematic comprehension of the solar system prior to recognition of the heliocentric pattern. The argument which follows emphasizes the toroidal dynamics in any such pattern, as presented and illustrated previously (Imagining Toroidal Life as a Sustainable Alternative: from globalization to toroidization or back to flatland? 2019).

Music as universal key to comprehension: The emphasis on the comprehension of globality is further stressed in what follows through the association with meaningful musical patterns, most obviously the pattern of octaves — and hence the reference to the pattern of quavers in the subtitle. This is notable for its 16-fold subdivisions into semiquavers, its 32-fold division into demisemiquavers, and its 64-fold division into hemidemisemiquavers. These are especially valuable in framing recognition that any integration may be a matter of one or more time signatures. rather than lending itself to static framing. Instead of being a framed as a static singularity, comprehension of the globality of any brain may relate in as yet unexplored ways to its dynamic nature (Engaging with Elusive Connectivity and Coherence: global comprehension as a mistaken quest for closure, 2018). Music perhaps offers the most sophisticated articulation that is readily and widely comprehensible — especially given its grounding in the theory of harmony and the variety of tuning systems, and most obviously the 12-note scale

Use of a musical metaphor in relation to any global understanding of a brain, also recalls the suggestive development in such terms by Mary Catherine Bateson (Composing a Life, 1991; Composing a Further Life, 2010). Whilst emphasis could be placed on the organization of the global brain, the engagement with any viable design suggests that it could well be more fruitfully an ambiguously understood as an “organ” in the sense of a musical instrument — inviting, if not requiring, a process of creative play as a primary characteristic of life rather than of the “brain dead” (Humour and Play-Fullness: essential integrative processes in governance, religion and transdisciplinarity, 2005).

Global wave functions: However “brain waves” are best to be understood and experienced in a global collective, the wave metaphor readily associated with music and dance also merits recognition in terms of the relevance of quantum insights, as extensively developed and clarified with respect to international relations by Alexander Wendt (Quantum Mind and Social Science: unifying physical and social ontology, 2015; The mind-body problem and social science: motivating a quantum social theory, Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 48, 2018, 2). Other than as “waves of change” and “waves of globalization”, it is however curiously significant that preoccupation with the “global brain” has not as yet extended to the nature of any “brain waves” which might be essential to its viability — as they are in the case of human intelligence.

If the future evolution of human society is to be explored in relation to the interplay between understandings of a “global brain” and the hypothetical collapse framed as an ultimate singularity, then how might any collapse of associated “global wave functions” be recognized (Emerging Memetic Singularity in the Global Knowledge Society, 2009)? Presumably this is implied by the preoccupations of the Global Brain Institute (Cadell Last, Global Brain Singularity: universal history, future evolution and humanity’s dialectical horizon. Vrije Universiteit Brussel, 2018).

Or is the reverse to be understood, as originally implied by Peter Russell (The Global Brain Awakens: our next evolutionary leap, Global Brain Inc, 1995)? In either case, is the failure to represent the global brain and human evolution in dynamic terms an indication that the constraints of publishing industry reproduction (as chosen for the dissemination of emerging insights) are themselves curiously symbolic of a cognitive “black hole” — the ultimate exemplification of a restrictive singularity of global proportions?

Quavering? In a period in which many have every justification for “quavering” at the future prospects for global civilization and the planet, there would therefore seem to be a strong case for a degree of recognition of the musical connotations of “quaver”, as understood in the quest for harmony of some kind. A contrast might well be made between the brutal existential realities of Slavoj Zizek (Living in the End Times, 2010) and the poignant aesthetic connotations of the Songs of the Dying Earth (2009) — a compilation of insights by George Martin and Gardner Dozois. Is this representational failure itself a characteristic of institutional “brain death” — even pathological in times of global crisis, given the associated copyright constraints?

Of further relevance is Wendt’s argument that individuals merit recognition as “walking wave functions”, as discussed separately (On being “walking wave functions” in terms of quantum consciousness? 2017). However, although making extensive reference to quantum brain theory in sustaining quantum coherence — a wave function — “at the macro, whole-organism level”, no reference is made to a global “macro-organism” or to any “brainwaves” which might sustain its coherence. Might this imply that the “global brain” is assumed to be a standing wave, to the extent it is recognized at all?

Quest for visual clues: What follows could be understood as a quest for clues to ways of thinking about the nature, dynamics and dimensions of the global brain, as suggested in earlier arguments (Time for Provocative Mnemonic Aids to Systemic Connectivity? 2018; In Quest of Mnemonic Catalysts — for comprehension of complex psychosocial dynamics, 2007). The argument is primarily designed to evoke impressions from visual patterns and animations — concluding with their potential implications for comprehension of the coherence associated with “brainwaves” and feedback loops through musical aesthetics. The patterns presented could be understood as an exercise in storyboarding a narrative, as used in movie design.

From that perspective, to what extent is the global brain narratives, with trending toward singularity-collapse, to be understood as a dramatic pretence? Is the high drama comparable with the mutual entanglement of the classic tales (Entangled Tales of Memetic Disaster: mutual implication of the Emperor and the Little Boy, 2009; “Big Brother” Crying “Wolf”? But them “wolves” are a-changin’ — them’s becomin’ “werewolves”! 2013)

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