Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century Paperback – Aug 1 2001
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When did big-picture optimism become cool again? While not blind to potential problems and glitches, Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind From the Big Bang to the 21st Century confidently asserts that our networked culture is not only inevitable but essential for our species' survival and eventual migration into space. Author Howard Bloom, believed by many to be R. Buckminster Fuller's intellectual heir, takes the reader on a dizzying tour of the universe, from its original subatomic particle network to the unimaginable data-processing power of intergalactic communication. His writing is smart and snappy, moving with equal poise through the depiction of frenzied bacteria passing along information packets in the form of DNA and that of nomadic African tribespeople putting their heads together to find water for the next year. The reader is swept up in Bloom's vision of the power of mass minds and before long can't help seeing the similarities between ecosystems, street gangs and the Internet. Were Bloom not so learned and well. respected--over a third of his book is devoted to notes and references and luminaries from Lynn Margulis to Richard Metzger have lined up behind him--it would be tempting to dismiss him as a crank. His enthusiasm, the grand scale of his thinking and his transcendence of traditional academic disciplines can be daunting but the new outlook yielded to the persistent is simultaneously exciting and humbling. Bloom takes the old-school sci-fi dystopian vision of group thinking and turns it around--Global Brain predicts that our future's going to be less like the Borg and more like a great party. --Rob Lightner --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Bloom's debut, The Lucifer Principle (1997), sought the biological basis for human evil. Now Bloom is after even bigger game. While cyber-thinkers claim the Internet is bringing us toward some sort of worldwide mind, Bloom believes we've had one all along. Drawing on information theory, debates within evolutionary biology, and research psychology (among other disciplines), Bloom understands the development of life on Earth as a series of achievements in collective information processing. He stands up for "group selection" (a minority view among evolutionists) and traces cooperation among organismsAand competition between groupsAthroughout the history of evolution. "Creative webs" of early microorganisms teamed up to go after food sources: modern colonies of E. coli bacteria seem to program themselves for useful, nonrandom mutations. Octopi "teach" one another to avoid aversive stimuli. Ancient Sparta killed its weakest infants; Athens educated them. Each of these is a social learning system. And each such system relies on several functions. "Conformity enforcers" keep most group members doing the same things; "diversity generators" seek out new things; "resource shifters" help the system alter itself to favor new things that work. In Bloom's model, bowling leagues, bacteria, bees, Belgium and brains all behave in similar ways. Lots of real science and some historyAmuch of it fascinating, some of it quite obscureAgo into Bloom's ambitious, amply footnoted, often plausible arguments. He writes a sometimes bombastic prose ("A neutron is a particle filled with need"); worse yet, he can fail to distinguish among accepted facts, scientifically testable hypotheses and literary metaphors. His style may guarantee him an amateur readership, but he's not a crank. Subtract the hype, and Bloom's concept of collective information processing may startle skeptical readers with its explanatory power. (Aug.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
I like this book and recommend it to everyone concerned with day to day thinking and information operations. I like it because it off-sets the current fascination with the world-wide web and electronic connectivity, and provides a historical and biologically based foundation for thinking about what Kevin Kelly and Stuart Brand set forth in the 1970's through the 1990's: the rise of neo-biological civilization and the concepts of co-evolution.
There are a number of vital observations that are relevant to how we organize ourselves and how we treat diversity. Among these:
1)The five major elements of global inter-species and inter-group network intelligence are the conformity enforcers; the diversity generators; the inner-judges; resource shifters; and inter-group tournaments. You have to read the book to appreciate the breadth and value of how these work within all species from bacteria to homo sapiens.
2) Bacteria have extraordinary strategies for rapid-fire external information collection and exchange, quick-paced inventiveness, and global data sharing. Species higher up on the evolutionary scale do not always retain these capabilities--they internalize capabilities while losing organic connectivity to others.Read more ›
By the way, the very learned and articulate Howard Bloom (our author) is not to be confused with the also very learned and articulate literary critic Harold Bloom.
Bloom's theme is the unrecognized power of group selection, interspecies intelligence, and the dialectic dance down through the ages of what he calls "conformity enforcers" and "diversity generators." These diametrically opposed forces, he argues, actually function as the yin and yang of the body politic, active in all group phenomena from bacteria to street gangs. He is building on the idea that a "complex adaptive system," such as an ant colony or an animal's immune system is itself a collective intelligence. He extends that idea by arguing that a population, whether of humans or bacteria, is a collective intelligence as well. Put another way, intelligence manifests itself as an emergent property of a group. Furthermore, intelligence manifests itself as an emergent property of a collection of interacting groups.
This idea is certainly not original with Bloom--indeed it is part of the Zeitgeist of our age--but his delineation of it is the most compelling and thorough that I have read. It runs counter to the prevailing orthodoxy in evolutionary theory.Read more ›
The book reads like a history paper from a mediocre high school student trying to expand his 3 pages of text to the teacher's required 10 pages. Footnotes abound, often after every single sentence in a paragraph. The footnotes in the back combined with the 40+ pg bibliography make up over a third of the book.
That being said, once you begin reading you see the annoyance of all the references everywhere is a mask for the deeper problems with the book, mainly that Bloom seems to meander from point to point, with no cogent theory explained, or position argued anywhere in the book. Mr. Bloom repeatedly raises some anthropological quirk of say... cave-dwellers in France, dresses it up in memetic theory, and footnotes to death without saying anything. There's no "there" there.
This work is obviously rushed and not well thought out. Not recommended to anyone.
While the above description seems neither novel, nor appears to correspond to the book's title, Bloom's investigation of strategies shows that the winning strategies are networked. Whether bacteria, bees, or human societies, the successful ones have mechanisms for experimenting with different strategies and communicating the results to other members of the group. This strategy applies to expansions of the group, and allows the group, along with its strategies for experimentation and communication, to dominate.
The situation is different when groups are threatened or attacked. Experimentation and communication give way to command and control. The trick is to have experimentation and communication survive during periods of threat.
All this is supported by persuasive evidence from biology and history. Bloom sees the first bacteria developing collective strategies for foraging and expanding. Human societies follow the same pattern. From Sparta versus Athens and through the ages, the evolution of civilization often matches the pattern that Bloom points out.
This point, however, is where the thesis fizzles out. After this spectacular buildup, I was ready for a dramatic ending. None was forthcoming. The competition of species has produced this networked and innovative human society, period.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
A must read! I am re-reading this book and am still blown away by the ideas Bloom suggests. I am recommending this book to most of my friends and aquaintances.Published 9 months ago by Harry D Gaede
Obviously a lot of research went into this book. This book places the meaning of our existence in its correct perspective. Read morePublished on July 4 2004
Howard Blooms "thesis" has been irresponsibly derived from a causal- functional theory of meaning first propounded by Milllikan, Ruth 1984,1986. Read morePublished on Jan. 21 2004 by S. Webb
This is one of those books that you read a few paragraphs and then put it down and walk around and think about what you just read. Read morePublished on July 5 2003 by Harvalene M. Bowen
"What keeps mobs of bacteria, insects, birds, and Jurassic kings and queens from lapsing into anarchy? What so consistently turns groups into social learning machines? Read morePublished on Aug. 8 2002 by Stephanie Silva
Bloom has previously turned Darwinism on it's ear with his first book, The Lucifer Principle.
With Global Brain, he continues to "reform" Darwinism, and Wow both the... Read more
In literature there is narrative, prose and poetry. The Global Brain is all three. Aside from the content, the discourse is absolutely the best of the best. Read morePublished on Nov. 22 2001 by Robert Hauck
Really interesting arguments for group selection, including a detailed discussion of biological "self-destruct" mechanisms that occur in organisms that are isolated or... Read morePublished on May 5 2001 by JD Moyer
Howard Bloom has shattered neo-Darwinist by proving once again that survival of the fittest is usually not survival of the individual, rather survival of the GROUP! Read morePublished on March 6 2001
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