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Tim O’Reilly on the Birth of the global mind

“Computer scientist Danny Hillis once remarked, “Global consciousness is that thing responsible for deciding that pots containing decaffeinated coffee should be orange.” (…)

The web is a perfect example of what engineer and early computer scientist Vannevar Bush called “intelligence augmentation” by computers, in his 1945 article As We May Think” in The Atlantic. He described a future in which human ability to follow an associative knowledge trail would be enabled by a device he called “the memex”. This would improve on human memory in the precision of its recall. Google is today’s ultimate memex. (…)

This is man-computer symbiosis at its best, where the computer program learns from the activity of human teachers, and its sensors notice and remember things the humans themselves would not. This is the future: massive amounts of data created by people, stored in cloud applications that use smart algorithms to extract meaning from it, feeding back results to those people on mobile devices, gradually giving way to applications that emulate what they have learned from the feedback loops between those people and their devices.” ”

Tim O’Reilly, the founder of O’Reilly Media, a supporter of the free software and open source movements, Birth of the global mind, Financial Times, Sept 23, 2011 See also: ☞ Vannevar Bush on the new relationship between thinking man and the sum of our knowledge (1945)
I believe that the mycelium operates at a level of complexity that exceeds the computational powers of our most advanced supercomputers. I see the mycelium as the Earth’s natural Internet, a consciousness with which we might be able to communicate.
Paul Stamets, American mycologist, author, Mycelium Running, cited in ☞ Google and the Myceliation of Consciousness
Cyberspace: A new universe, a parallel universe created and sustained by the world’s computers and communication lines. A world in which the global traffic of knowledge, secrets, measurements, indicators, presences never seen on the surface of the earth blossoming in a vast electronic light.

Cyberspace: A common mental geography, built, in turn, by consensus and revolution, canon and experiment; a territory swarming with data and lies, with mind stuff and memories of nature, with a million voices and two million eyes in a silent, invisible concert to enquiry, deal-making, dream sharing, and simple beholding.
Michael Benedikt, Ph.D. in mathematics, Professor of Computing Science at University of Oxford, (1991), cited in David Bell, An Introduction to Cybercultures, Routledge, 2002, p.7.

'Cybernetics are the stuff of which the world is made. Matter is simply frozen information'

Timothy Leary, American psychologist and writer (1920-1996), Pataphysics Magazine (1990), ☞  See also: Timothy Leary on cybernetics and a new global culture

The modern hyperconnected mind, by the sheer velocity of the rush of information being absorbed and digested, is in the process of transformation. This is not a regular transformation but a transit of boundaries of perceptions and sensations which when taken together allow a fresh kind of sight to emerge. The contemporary infocology of the hyperflowing-hyperconnected mind no-longer is subject to boundary projections based on her localized physical phenomenon.
WildCat, writer, futurist, A Cyber Soaring Humanity, Polytopia, Jan 1, 2010.

Luciano Floridi on The Digital Revolution as a Fourth Revolution

(Illustration: Tom Jellett, source: The Australian)

“Oversimplifying, science has two fundamental ways of changing our understanding: one extrovert, or about the world, and the other introvert, or about ourselves. Three scientific revolutions have had great impact both extrovertly and introvertly. In changing our understanding of the external world they also modified our internal conception of who we are. After Copernicus, the heliocentric cosmology displaced the Earth and hence humanity from the centre of the universe. Darwin showed that all species of life have evolved over time from common ancestors through natural selection, thus displacing humanity from the centre of the biological kingdom. And following Freud, we acknowledge nowadays that the mind is also unconscious and subject to the defence mechanism of repression. So we are not immobile, at the centre of the universe (Copernican revolution), we are not unnaturally separate and diverse from the rest of the animal kingdom (Darwinian revolution), and we are very far from being purely rational minds entirely transparent to ourselves (Freudian revolution).

Freud was the first to interpret these three revolutions as part of a single process of reassessment of human nature, and his perspective was blatantly self-serving. But replace Freud with neuroscience, and we can still find the framework useful to explain the widespread intuition that something very significant and profound has recently happened to our self-understanding. Since the fifties, computer science and ICTs have exercised both an extrovert and an introvert influence, fundamentally changing not only our interactions with the world, but also our essential views about who we are. We no longer interpret ourselves as standalone entities, but rather as interconnected informational organisms or inforgs, sharing with biological, artificial and hybrid agents and engineered artefacts a global environment, ultimately made of information, the infosphere. (…)

The digital revolution is therefore best understood as a fourth revolution, in the process of dislocation and reassessment of our fundamental nature and role in the universe. As far as we know, we are the only semantic engines in the universe. We were born to be inforgs and we have been pursuing our informational agenda relentlessly at least since the Bronze Age, the era that marks the invention of writing in Mesopotamia and other regions of the world (4th millennium BC). (…)

The digital revolution is updating our everyday perspective on ourselves and on the ultimate nature of reality, that is, our metaphysics, from a materialist one, in which physical objects and processes play a key role, to an informational one. Objects and processes are increasingly seen as de-physicalised, in the sense that they tend to be treated as support-independent (consider a music file). They are typified, in the sense that an instance of an object (my copy of a music file) is as good as its type (the music file of which my copy is an instance). And they are assumed to be perfectly clonable by default, in the sense that my copy and your original become interchangeable. Less stress on the physical nature of objects and processes means that the right of use is perceived to be at least as important as the right to own. P2P does not mean Pirate to Pirate but Platonist to Platonist, for it is the immaterial nature of things that underpins the phenomenon. Finally, the criterion for existence – what it means for something to exist – is no longer being actually immutable (the Greeks thought that only that which does not change can be said to exist fully), or being potentially subject to perception (modern philosophy insisted on something being perceivable by the five senses in order to qualify as existing), but being potentially subject to interaction, even if intangible. To be is to be interactable, even if the interaction is only virtual. (…)

During the last decade or so, we have become accustomed to conceptualising our life online as a mixture between an evolutionary adaptation of human agents to a digital environment, and a form of post-modern, neo-colonization of that space by us. Yet the truth is that the digital revolution is as much changing our world as it is creating new realities. The threshold between here (analogue, carbon-based, off-line) and there (digital, silicon-based, online) is fast becoming blurred, but this is as much to the advantage of the latter as it is of the former.

The digital is spilling over into the analogue and merging with it. This increasing informatization of artefacts, identities and of whole (social) environments and life activities suggests that soon it will be difficult to understand what life was like in pre-digital times and, in the near future, the very distinction between online and offline will disappear.

To put it dramatically, the infosphere is progressively absorbing any other space. We live “onlife” and your Nike and iPod have been talking to each other for some time. (…)

Our view of the world (our metaphysics) is still modern or Newtonian: it is made of “dead” cars, buildings, furniture, clothes, fridges, which are non-interactive, irresponsive and incapable of communicating, learning, or recording. But in advanced information societies, what we still experience as the world offline is bound to become a fully interactive and more responsive environment of wireless, pervasive, distributed, a2a (anything to anything) information processes, that works a4a (anywhere for anytime), in real time. As a consequence, we shall be living in an infosphere that will become increasingly synchronized (time), delocalised (space) and correlated (interactions). This will first gently invite us to understand the world as something “a- live” (artificially live). Things are increasingly less inanimate, yet their new “souls” are digital. This digital animation of the world will then, paradoxically, make our outlook closer to that of pre-technological cultures, which interpreted all aspects of nature as inhabited by forces. Only Odysseus could string his mythical bow. Today, only a user wearing a special ring with a unique matching code can unlock the trigger of an iGun™. (…)

The best way of tackling the new ethical challenges posed by the digital revolution is probably from an environmental approach, yet not one that privileges the natural or untouched, but one that treats as authentic and genuine all forms of existence and behaviour, even those based on synthetic and engineered artefacts. This sort of synthetic e-nvironmentalism requires a change in our perspective about the relationship between physis (nature, reality) and techne (practical science and its applications). (…)

The digital revolution can help us in our fight against the destruction, impoverishment, vandalism and waste of both natural and human resources, including historical and cultural ones. We should resist any Greek tendency to treat techne as the Cinderella of science; any absolutist inclination to accept no moral balancing between some unavoidable evil and more goodness; and any modern, reactionary, metaphysical temptation to drive a wedge between naturalism and constructionism, by privileging the former as the only authentic dimension of human life. The challenge is to reconcile our roles as informational organisms and agents within nature, and as stewards of nature.” “
Luciano Floridi, MPhil. and PhD, MA University of Oxford, currently holds the Research Chair in philosophy of information and the UNESCO Chair in Information and Computer Ethics, both at the University of Hertfordshire, Department of Philosophy, The Digital Revolution as a Fourth Revolution (pdf)
See also: ☞  Luciano Floridi on the future development of the information society
TEDxMaastricht talk – Luciano Floridi
Beverly Macy on the global brain, chaos theory, and the power of real-time social media

“As a connected global society, people are sharing opinions, reviews, thoughts, and movements with one another all day, every day. (…) We call it the real-time global brain. (…) It is our collective intelligence. (…)

We are creating real-time data and historical data simultaneously. That is the Now Lens. (…) Is it possible that our flock of birds — random bits of information streaming in real time — might actually be responding to predictable laws of nature?

Consider chaos theory: “the theory of apparent randomness… whereby complex natural systems obey rules but are so sensitive that small initial changes can cause unexpected final results, thus giving an impression of randomness.” Chaos theory was born from studies in the 1960s by Edward Lorenz, who discovered it accidentally while investigating weather predictions. This biological-atmospheric sensitivity is popularly referred to as the “butterfly effect" to describe how a butterfly fluttering its wings in the Amazon can cause a typhoon in Asia. "Large output from small input" is the phrase most often used.

The supposed influence exerted on a dynamic system by a small change in initial conditions certainly can be applied to what’s happening in the collection of data and the real-time global brain. The three key elements of chaos theory are (1) nonlinearity, (2) system states, and (3) how things are ordered when they emerge from chaos. In real-time social media, a small bit (140 characters) that was dispersed in a nonlinear fashion (Twitter) appeared random but emerged as an organized $33 million-plus American Red Cross fund for Haitian earthquake victims. That is stunning. (…)

We are living chaos theory in real-time with the presence of social communities and digital platforms that deliver communication in its multitude of forms almost as fast as thought." "
Beverly Macy, CEO Gravity Summit, UCLA Social Media Instructor, The Global Brain, Chaos Theory, and the Power of Real-Time Social Media, Huffpost, March 31, 2011. Excerpted from The Power of Real-Time Social Media Marketing
" "If you build a machine that makes connections between everything, accumulates all the data in the world, and you then harness all available minds to collectively teach it where the meaningful connections and meaningful data are (Who is searching Whom?) while implementing deceptively simple algorithms that reinforce meaningful connections while physically moving, optimizing and replicating the data structures accordingly - if you do all this you will, from highly economical (yes, profitable) position arrive at a result - an intelligence — that is “not as far off as people think.” “
George Dyson, scientific historian cited in Kevin Kelly, Evidence of a Global SuperOrganism, The Technium, October 24, 2008.

Mark Changizi on Humans, Version 3.0.

The next giant leap in human evolution may not come from new fields like genetic engineering or artificial intelligence, but rather from appreciating our ancient brains.

“It is this unheralded mechanism that will usher in the next stage of human, giving future people exquisite powers we do not currently possess, powers worthy of natural selection itself. And, importantly, it doesn’t require us to transform into cyborgs or bio-engineered lab rats. It merely relies on our natural bodies and brains functioning as they have for millions of years.

This mystery mechanism of human transformation is neuronal recycling, coined by neuroscientist Stanislas Dehaene, wherein the brain’s innate capabilities are harnessed for altogether novel functions.

This view of the future of humankind is grounded in an appreciation of the biologically innate powers bestowed upon us by hundreds of millions of years of evolution. This deep respect for our powers is sometimes lacking in the sciences, where many are taught to believe that our brains and bodies are taped-together, far-from-optimal kluges. (…)

These and other inborn capabilities we take for granted are not kluges, they’re not “good enough,” and they’re more than merely smart. They’re astronomically brilliant in comparison to anything humans are likely to invent for millennia. (…)

Like all animal brains, human brains are not general-purpose universal learning machines, but, instead, are intricately structured suites of instincts optimized for the environments in which they evolved. To harness our brains, we want to let the brain’s brilliant mechanisms run as intended—i.e., not to be twisted. Rather, the strategy is to twist Y into a shape that the brain does know how to process. (…)

There is a very good reason to be optimistic that the next stage of human will come via the form of adaptive harnessing, rather than direct technological enhancement: It has already happened.

We have already been transformed via harnessing beyond what we once were. We’re already Human 2.0, not the Human 1.0, or Homo sapiens, that natural selection made us. We Human 2.0’s have, among many powers, three that are central to who we take ourselves to be today: writing, speech, and music (the latter perhaps being the pinnacle of the arts). Yet these three capabilities, despite having all the hallmarks of design, were not a result of natural selection, nor were they the result of genetic engineering or cybernetic enhancement to our brains. Instead, and as I argue in both The Vision Revolution and my forthcoming Harnessed, these are powers we acquired by virtue of harnessing, or neuronal recycling. (…)

After all, the change from Human 1.0 to 2.0 is nothing short of universe-rattling: It transformed a clever ape into a world-ruling technological philosopher.

Although the step from Human 1.0 to 2.0 was via cultural selection, not via explicit human designers, does the transformation to Human 3.0 need to be entirely due to a process like cultural evolution, or might we have any hope of purposely guiding our transformation? (…)

The point is, most science fiction gets all this wrong. While the future may be radically “futuristic,” with our descendants having breathtaking powers we cannot fathom, it probably won’t be because they evolved into something new, or were genetically modified, or had AI-chip enhancements. Those powerful beings will simply be humans, like you and I. But they’ll have been nature-harnessed in ways we cannot anticipate, the magic latent within each of us used for new, brilliant Human 3.0 capabilities.” “
Mark Changizi (cognitive scientist, author), Humans, Version 3.0.,, Feb 23, 2011 See also: Prof. Stanislas Dehaene, "How do humans acquire novel cultural skills? The neuronal recycling model", LSE Institute | Nicod, (Picture source: Rzeczpospolita)

Timothy Leary on cybernetics and a new global culture

M. C. Escher, Peeled faces

Cyber" means "pilot."

A “cyberperson" is one who pilots his/her own life. By definition, the cyberperson is fascinated by navigational information - especially maps, charts, labels, guides, manuals that help pilot one through life. The cyberperson continually searches for theories, models, paradigms, metaphors, images, icons that help chart and define the realities that we inhabit.

Cybertech" refers to the tools, appliances, and methodologies of knowing and communicating. Linguistics. Philosophy. Semantics. Semiotics. Practical epistemologies. The ontologies of daily life. Words, icons, pencils, printing presses, screens, keyboards, computers, disks.

Cyberpolitics" introduces the Foucault notions of the use of language and linguistic-tech by the ruling classes in feudal and industrial societies to control children, the uneducated, and the under classes. The words “governor” or “steersman” or “G-man” are used to describe those who manipulate words and communication devices in order to control, to bolster authority-feudal, management, government-and to discourage innovative thought and free exchange. (…)

Cyberpunks use all available data-input to think for themselves. (…) The classical Olde Westworld model for the cyberpunk is Prometheus, a technological genius who “stole” fire from the Gods and gave it to humanity. Prometheus also taught his gene pool many useful arts and sciences. (…)

The cyberpunk person, the pilot who thinks clearly and creatively, using quantum-electronic appliances and brain know-how, is the newest, updated, top-of-the-line model of the 21st Century: Homo sapiens sapiens cyberneticus. (p. 62-64.) (…)

The term “cybernetics" comes from the Greek word kubernetes, “pilot”. The Hellenic origin of this word is important in that it reflects the Socratic-Platonic traditions of independence and individual self-reliance which, we are told, derived from geography. The proud little Greek city-states were perched on peninsular fingers wiggling down into the fertile Mediterranean Sea, protected by mountains from the land-mass armies of Asia.

Mariners of those ancient days had to be bold and resourceful. Sailing the seven seas without maps or navigational equipment, they were forced to develop independence of thought. The self-reliance that these Hellenic pilots developed in their voyages probably carried over to the democratic, inquiring, questioning nature of their land life.

The Athenian cyberpunks, the pilots, made their own navigational decisions. (p. 64.) (…)

Cyber: The Greek word kubernetes, when translated to Latin, comes out as gubernetes. This basic verb gubernare means to control the actions or behavior, to direct, to exercise sovereign authority, to regulate, to keep under, to restrain, to steer. This Roman concept is obviously very different from the Hellenic notion of “pilot” (making their own navigational decisions) (…) the meaning of “Cyber” has been corrupted. The Greek word “pilot” becomes “governor” or “director”; the term “to steer” becomes “to control”. The terms “cybernetic person” or “cybernaut” return us to the original meaning of “pilot” and puts the self-reliant person back in the loop. (p. 66.) (…)

These words (and the more pop term “cyberpunk”) refer to the personalization (and thus the popularization) of knowledge-information technology, to innovative thinking on the part of the individual.

According to McLuhan and Foucault, if you change the language, you change the society. Following their lead, we suggest that the therm “cybernetic person, cybernaut” may describe a new species model of human being and a new social order. (p. 67.) (…)

The postpolitical information society, which we are now developing, does not operate on the basis of obedience and conformity to dogma. It is based on individual thinking, scientific know-how, quick exchange of facts around feedback networks, high-tech ingenuity, and practical, front-line creativity. The society of the future no longer grudgingly tolerates a few open-minded innovators. The cybernetic society is totally dependent on a large pool of such people, communicating at light speed with each other across state lines and national boundaries.

Electrified thoughts invite fast feedback, creating new global societies that require a higher level of electronic know-how, psychological sophistication, and open-minded intelligence.

This cybercommunication process is accelerating so rapidly that to compete on the world information market of the 21st Century, nations, companies, even families must be composed of change-oriented, innovative individuals who are adepts in communicating via the new cyberelectronic technologies.

The new breeds are simply much smarter than the old guard. They inhale new information the way they breathe oxygen. They stimulate each other to continually upgrade and reformat their minds. People who use cybertechnology to make fast decisions on their jobs are not going to go home and passively let aging, closed-minded white, male politicians make decidions about their lives.

The emergence of this new open-minded caste in different countries around the world is the central historical issue of the last forty years.
(p. 73-75.)

(…) The social and political implications of this democratization of the screen are enormous. In the past to local geography or occasional visits. Now you can play electronic tennis with a pro in Tokyo, interact with classroom in Paris, cyberflirt with cute guys in any four cities of your choice. A global fast-feedback language of icons and memes, facilitated by instant translation devices, will smoothly eliminate the barriers of language that have been responsible for most of the war and conflict of the last centuries. (p. 76.) (…)

Most young people in the liberated lands want to depoliticize, demilitarize, decentralize, secularize, and globalize.

The new breed is jumping the gene pools, forming postindustrial, global meme-pools. They are the informates. From their earliest years, most of their defining memes have come flashing at light speed across borders in digital-electronic form, light signals received by screens and radios and record players. Their habitat is the electron-sphere, the environment of digital signals that is called the info-world. The global village.

The are the first generation of our species to discover and explore Cyberia. The are migrating not to a new place, but to a wide-open new time. The new breed will fashion, conceive, and design the realities they inhabit.
(p.77.) (…)

The Information age (1950-2010)

In the information age, evolution is defined in terms of brain power.

- The ability to operate the brain: activate, boot up, turn on, access neurochannels.
- The ability to reformat and re-edit mind-files.
- The ability to communicate in the multimedia mode; to invent audiographic dictionaries and audiographic grammars. (…)

The 21st Century will witness a new global culture, peopled by new breeds who honour human individuality, human complexity, and human potential, enlightened immortals who communicate at light speed and design the technologies for their scientific re-animation. (p. 80-82.) (…)

Our survival asset is not hive inteliigence, as in the social insects, but individual intelligence. Our species is classified as Homo sapiens sapiens. Victorian scholars apparently decided that we are the creatures who “think about thinking.” Our growth as a species centers on our ability to think and communicate. Predictions about our future would focus on improvements in the way we think.

Our young, rookie species has recently passed through several stages of intelligence:

1. Tribal: For at least 22,000 years (approximately 25,000 to 3000 B.C.) the technologies for sapient thinking-communicating were those of a five-year-old child: bodily, i.e., oral-gestural.

2. Feudal: During an exciting period of approximately 3, 350 years (3000 B.C. to A.D. 350) humans living north of the 35th-parallel latitute developed organized feudal-agricultural societies. The technologies for thinking-communicating were hand-tooled statues, temples, monuments. Their philosophy was enforced by emperors, caliphs, and kings.

3. It took approximately 1,250 years (A.D. 350 to 1600) to coopt the feudal kings and to establish the mechanical assembly-line managerial society. In this age, the technologies of thought-communication were mechanical printing presses, type-writers, telephones, produced by efficient workers in highly organized factories, run by centralized bureaucracies. (…)
By now (…) we have migrated from the “real worlds” of voice, hand, machine into the digitized info-worlds variously called hyperspace, cyberspace, or digital physics.

This migration across the screen into the digital info-world marks the first phase of the postindustrial society. (…)
In twenty years we will spend seven hours a day actively navigating, exploring, colonizing, exploiting the oceans and continents of digital data. Interscreening - creating mutual digitalrealities - will be the most popular and growthful form of human communication. (p. 83.) (…)

The level of intelligence has been tremendously increased, because people are thinking and communicating in terms of screens, and not in lettered books. Much of the real action is taking place in what is called cyberspace. People have learned how to boot up, activate, and transmit their brains.

Essentially, there’s a universe inside your brain. The number of connections possible inside your brain is limitless. And as people have learned to have more managerial and direct creative access to their brains, they have also developed matrices or networks of people that communicate electronically. There are direct brain/computer link-ups. You can just jack yourself in and pilot your brain around in cyberspace-electronic space.”
(p. 248.)
Something of the previous state, however, survives every change. This is called in the language of cybernetics (which took it form the language of machines) feedback, the advantages of learning from experience and of having developed reflexes.
Guy Davenport, American writer, translator, illustrator, painter, intellectual, and teacher (1927-2005)
Jason Silva, Sanford Kwinter & Gene Youngblood on cyberspace

“As Sanford Kwinter describes “the boundaryless new medium of “virtual” reality is not a simulated environment, as many continue to claim, but a new space altogether… Cyberspace, of course, as the now classic adage goes, is “where we are when we are talking on the telephone.” It is, in other words, neither in a Here nor a There, but is a continual process of articulation…. In other words, it is not where “we” are at all, but where our Attention is within a promiscuous, multidimensional, electromagnetic matrix, even when our bodies are hopelessly fixed in viscous Euclidean “real space”. (…)

Gene Youngblood seems to agree in Expanded Cinema:
The computer does not make man obsolete. It makes him fail-safe. The computer does not replace man. It liberates him from specialization…The computer is the arbiter of radical evolution: it changes the meaning of life. It makes us children. We must learn how to live all over again.” He continues… “It is the belief of those who work in cybernetic art that the computer is the tool that someday will erase the division between what we feel and what we see.” (…)

R. Buckminster Fuller adds:
“The most important part about tomorrow is not the technology or the automation, but that man is going to come into entirely new relationships with his fellow men. He will retain much more in his everyday life of what we term the naïveté and idealism of the child. I think the way to see what tomorrow is going to look like is just to look at our children.” ”
Chris Arkenberg on the Cybernetic Self

“The word “cybernetic” derives from a Latin word, kybernetes, meaning “rudder” or “governor”. A cybernetic process is a control system that uses feedback about it’s actions in an environment to better adapt it’s behavior. The cybernetic organism, or “cyborg”, is a class of cybernetic systems that have converged with biological organisms. In this increasingly mythologized form, the cyborg embodies the ongoing dialectic between humanity & technology, and is an aspirational figure onto which we project our superhuman fantasies. While it offers security, enhancement, and corporeal salvation the cyborg also presents an existential threat to the self and to the cherished notions of being uniquely human.

It’s a gamble but we don’t seem able to leave the table. As we offload more of our tasks into technology we enhance our adaptability while undermining our own innate resilience as animals. We wrap ourselves in extended suits of shelter, mobility, health, and communications. We distribute our senses through a global network of hypermedia, augmenting our brains with satellites & server farms & smart phones. Increasingly, our minds & bodies are becoming the convergence point for both the real & the virtual, mediated through miniaturization, dematerialization, and nano-scale hybridization. Our ability to craft the world around us is quickly advancing to give us the ability to craft our bodies & our selves. (…)

As Terence McKenna suggested, we are like coral animals embedded in a technological reef of extruded psychic objects. (…)

In the modern world, our identities include the social networks & affinity groups in which we participate, the digital media we capture & create & upload, the avatars we wear, and the myriad other fragments of ourselves we leave around the web. Who we are as individuals reflects the unique array of technologies through which we engage the world, at times instantiated through multiple masks of diverse utility, at other times fractured & dis-integrated - too many selves with too many virtual fingers picking at them. Our experience of life is increasingly composed of data & virtual events, cloudy & intangible yet remote-wired into our brains through re-targeted reward systems. A Twitter re-tweet makes us happy, a hostile blog comment makes us angry, the real-time web feeds our addiction to novelty. Memories are offloaded to digital storage mediums. Pictures, travel videos, art, calendars, phone numbers, thoughts & treatises… So much of who we are and who we have been is already virtualized & invested in cybernetic systems. All those tweets & blog posts cast into the cloud as digital moments captured & recorded. Every time I share a part of me with the digital world I become copied, distributed, more than myself yet… in pieces.” “
Chris Arkenberg, The Cybernetic Self, Polytopia, Sep 23, 2010
Chris Arkenberg: while we augment & extend our abilities through machines, machines learn more about the world through us

“It can be said that while we augment & extend our abilities through machines, machines learn more about the world through us. The web 2.0 social media revolution and the semantic web of structured data that is presently intercalating into it has brought machine algorithms into direct relationship with human behavior, watching our habits and tracking our paths through the digital landscape.

These sophisticated marketing and research tools are learning more and more about what it means to be human, and the extended sensorium of the instrumented world is giving them deep insight into the run-time processes of civilization & nature. The spark of self-awareness has not yet animated these systems but there is an uneasy agreement that we will continue to assist in their cybernetic development, modifying their instructions to become more and more capable & efficient, perhaps to the point of being indistinguishable from, or surpassing, their human creators.” “
Chris Arkenberg, The Cybernetic Self, Polytopia, Sep 23, 2010
The modern individual is everywhere at once

“In the modern world we inhabit, we play a multiplicity of roles, simultaneously and consecutively; we operate a rapid succession of selves and identities on multiple platforms all correlated by the infocology we have co-created. The platforms we use however carry a new role, a role that once was relegated to our brains only and now extends into the infosphere.

I speak of course of our memories, some of which as of now reside with Google, or FB, or Myspace or any other platform of what is rapidly becoming a real life streaming process having its core online. These memories, embedded as photos or comments, blog posts or clicks of like, or tweet and retweets, have a very large impact on our conceptualization of individuation. The reason for that is that whilst a few years back, not being online meant that my existence is mine alone and therefore the self reflection on myself as an individual was fairly simple, at present not being online does in no way diminish the access of others to me. In other words, part of me, let us call it the disembodied infosphere me, keeps on thriving automatically and without my conscious awareness.

This has tremendous ramifications. For it implies that the modern concept of the individual is everywhere and at once. This I call: ‘simultaneous everywhereness’ a new state of affairs we have never before found ourselves in.

The apparent ‘simultaneous everywhereness’ of our individuality is actually a reflection of the manner by which our minds operate, it is the narrative of self-representation extended across times and spaces. Constructing maps within maps, interacting with other maps, continuously update and evolve our meta-narratives. (…)

It is clear that our individualism is a work in progress, ever expanding and ever increasing in both complexity and narrative. We operate as a multiplicity in a multiplicity, and this very multiplicity of our world requires of us to operate on the basis of multiple selves.

We have multiple networks inside our brains extending into multiple external networks mediated by electronics. Multiple networks in multiple networks, nested and co-evolving, mutually and inter-subjectively co-adapting to allow a multiple form of individuation process in which eventually no particular point of reference will be the original nexus of beingness. To describe such a situation, new in our civilizations evolution, we need reformulate the concept of the individual so as to better be adapted to the world we actually inhabit.” “