Wholeness and Virtual Communities

“The Jewel Net of Indra…Imagine a vast net: at each crossing point there is a jewel; each jewel is perfectly clear and reflects all the other jewels. In the net, the way two mirrors placed opposite each other will reflect an image ad infinitum. The jewel in this metaphor stands for an individual being, or an individual consciousness, or a cell or an atom. Every jewel is intimately connected with all other jewels in the universe, and a change in one jewel means a change, however slight in every other jewel.”

– Stephen Mitchell

Global e-Infrastructure

Wholeness and Virtual Communities

It is unfashionable in the U.S. to support government funding in network development, but this looks to me like the kind of support that created ARPAnet, the forerunner of the Internet, 40 years ago.

“Today marked the completion of a major conference organized by the Enabling Grids for E-sciencE project, which is coordinated by CERN1 and co-funded by the European Commission, where a number of key results were reported on the road to achieving a global Grid infrastructure for science. It was announced at the conference that the EGEE infrastructure, which spans over 150 sites in Europe, the Americas and Asia, had surpassed 2 million computing jobs, or the equivalent of over 1000 years of processing on a single PC. The EGEE infrastructure, which is linked by Europe’s GEANT high-speed communications network, as well as similar networks for scientific research around the world, spans across 40 countries. Only 18 months after the launch of the EGEE project, well over 1000 users around the globe are using the EGEE infrastructure to accelerate their computing tasks, which cover some six scientific domains and some 20 major applications, ranging from particle physics to drug discovery for combating malaria.”


How Does the Internet Affect Our Personal Lives?

Wholeness and Virtual Communities

The California Institute of Telecommunications and Information Technology has the mission statement I’ve been waiting for. But it’s actual research programs seem more like the study of the application of next generation telecomm and information technology to fields like medicine and transportation. Where’s the study of societal, cultural, spiritual impacts of technology? It’s a sure thing Cisco and Verizon ain’t funding that.

“Calit2 focuses its work in the context of telecommunications and information technology as related to the evolving Internet. The Internet is profoundly changing society and is likely to have impacts beyond what can be imagined today. Therefore, it is increasingly critical to conduct research to understand how it will affect our personal lives, laws, and economic leadership. That is Calit2’s exciting charge. The understanding that arises from this research will help us manage the massive change that lies ahead.”


Global Biodiversity Information Facility

Wholeness and Virtual Communities

A primo example of wholeness through digitization.

“Biodiversity is found around the world – there are micro-organisms between granules of rock 3 km below the Earth’s surface, rootless plants in the Atacama Desert, thousands of species of beetles in a single rainforest tree. However, biodiversity is not distributed evenly across the face of the planet. An estimated 75% of all species are found in the developing world. Information about biodiversity (natural history collections, library materials, databases) likewise is not distributed evenly around the globe. Three-quarters or more of data about biodiversity are stored in the developed world. However, most of the data that may be needed can’t be transferred because either they are not digitised, or capacity to handle digital information is lacking, or both. Facilitating digitisation and global dissemination of primary biodiversity data, so that people from all countries can benefit from the use of the information, is the mission of the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF).”


Global (Bird)Brain

Wholeness and Virtual Communities

An old Washington Post story, about bird watchers forming an extremely large, and intriguingly active, virtual community, inspiring references to Teilhard.

“Suppose the Earth is all one big single living organism, with all the elements of it — from the people to the birds — connected like cells in a body. Suppose the goal of evolution is to link up individual human minds, bringing an explosion of intelligence and even global consciousness to this mammoth being…That’s not the earth-moving part, however. The earth-moving part — literally — is that, as a result, a movement is spontaneously emerging that alters the physical nature of the planet so as to make it more amenable to the birds that are indicator species of global environmental health. Some of this is as simple as town-house owners deciding to plant lobelia in their back yards because these flowers please hummingbirds.”

“This is just an example where the Web is mediating a collective thought process that has feedback effects. It is affecting the distribution of the species,” says Robert Wright, author of “The Moral Animal.” It is reminiscent, Wright says, of Teilhard’s idea that technology would connect minds into a “brain for the biosphere as the human species consciously assumes stewardship of the planet.” It explains, he says, why “serious people take Teilhard seriously.”


More Big Thinking

Wholeness and Virtual Communities

This weblog recently has been somewhat heavy on the technology tracking and light on more explicit attention to the development of a Neurosphere. Here are some sites that pay direct or indirect attention to the phenomenon.

–Blog of Collective Intelligence

“CI means many things to many people. Here, it refers to the capacity of human communities to evolve towards higher order complexity and integration through collaboration and innovation. This blog wants to be an embodiment of what it is about.”


This one from a guy who was a formative influence on my thinking as the Neurosphere book took shape.

–Smart Mobs

“Website and Weblog about Topics and Issues discussed in the book?Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution? by Howard Rheingold


This one is not so active as in the past, but several papers herein take a rigorous intellectual approach to whether collective consciousness is a metaphor or a something more than that.

–Global Brain Group

“The Global Brain Group has been created to discuss the emergence of a global brain out of the computer network, which would function as a nervous system for the human superorganism. It promotes all theoretical and experimental work that may contribute to the elaboration of global brain theory, including the practical implementation of global brain-like computer systems, and the diffusion of global brain ideas towards a wider public, e.g. by the organization of conferences or publication of books on the subject.”



Wholeness and Virtual Communities

Here’s a virtual mega-community, ranging from Amnesty International to Worldwatch Institute. Keep informed or get involved, or preferably both.

“The OneWorld partnership network brings together more than 1,500 organizations from across the globe to promote sustainable development, social justice and human rights.”


The Thinking City

Wholeness and Virtual Communities

Here’s a nice example tying the most portable type of technology (most portable while still external to the body) transforming the user into a part of a whole that she can perceive as a whole. The graphics are stand-alone works of art in themselves as well.

“Using anonymous cellphone data provided by the leading cellphone operator in Austria, A1/Mobilkom, the researchers developed the Mobile Landscapes project, creating electronic maps of cellphone use in the metropolitan area of Graz, Austria, the country’s second-largest city…”For the first time ever we are able to visualize the full dynamics of a city in real time,” said project leader Carlo Ratti, an architect/engineer and head of the SENSEable City Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “This opens up new possibilities for urban studies and planning. The real-time city is now real: a system that is able to continuously sense its condition and can quickly react to its criticalities,” he added.”


Immune System for the Body Politic?

Wholeness and Virtual Communities

Here’s a work in progress from your national government. The end result certainly sounds like an organism’s immune system. The progression is

Electronic Health Records>>

Regional Health Information Organizations>>

National Health Information Network>>

“…a unified network of surveillance systems from hospital organizations, physician practices, public health agencies and other sources of incoming data on medical threats, public health professionals will have the relevant information they need to react early or issue preventive measures.”


Another Run at the Digital Library

Wholeness and Virtual Communities

Those nutty Europeans. They are forming a collective effort to create an openly accessible digital library, instead of letting Google do it.

“The European Commission unveiled on 30 September its strategy to make Europe’s written and audiovisual heritage available on the Internet.”


Material Unity

Wholeness and Virtual Communities

This National Science Foundation report dates back to 2002, surveying convergent technologies in nanoscience, biotechnology, information technology, and cognitive science. The following quote from the introduction caught my eye recently

“Convergence of diverse technologies is based on material unity at the nanoscale and on technology integration from that scale. The building blocks of matter that are fundamental to all sciences originate at the nanoscale. Revolutionary advances at the interfaces between previously separate fields of science and technology are ready to create key transforming tools for NBIC technologies. Developments in systems approaches, mathematics, and computation in conjunction with NBIC allow us for the first time to understand the natural world, human society, and scientific research as closely coupled complex, hierarchical

systems. At this moment in the evolution of technical achievement, improvement of

human performance through integration of technologies becomes possible.”