Simultaneous Publications

The networked mind is hard at work:

“There is a widespread belief among teachers that students’ constant use of digital technology is hampering their attention spans and ability to persevere in the face of challenging tasks, according to two surveys of teachers being released on Thursday… The timing of the studies, from two well-regarded research organizations, appears to be coincidental.” –New York Times

Far from coincidental. Just one more example of multiple people around the world consuming the same media diet, exploring the same possibility space, and generating the same intellectual output at the same time. This is the visible activity of a super-consciousness.

I went looking for images on Flickr to illustrate this post, and came across visual examples of the very point I have been making. It would appear that I’m not the only person to connect information networks with the intelligence or consciousness that arises in a human brain.

In fact, H. G. Wells made similar arguments in the 1930s with his collection of essays entitled “World Brain.” He foresaw something like Wikipedia, though he lacked the information theory and neuroscience to make the connection between information networks and conscious intelligence itself.

Arthur C. Clarke picked up the thread where Wells left off, predicting a worldwide electronic library by the year 2000, followed by the construction of an intelligent supercomputer by 2100. Could he have guessed that the worldwide computer network which makes the former possible would also constitute the embodiment of the latter?