Some of you would probably like to read and reply to this.
From: email@example.com [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Monday, October 22, 2001 7:30 PM
Cc: email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: [sociologistics] Re: [msal-tech] Global Mind Link NOT
>The emerging global super-organism will neither lead
>to a totalitarian political system, nor to a "Borg
>-like" collective that suppresses individual
>freedom and diversity.
Interesting web site. The references to the Gaia cult I am not impressed by and I suppose I should not be surprised that the people
who put up this site show that their understanding of economics has not even incorporated some of the important theoretical
breakthroughs of thirty years ago. (The Monetarist ideas of Milton Friedman for example.) This is to say nothing of cutting edge
work in economics.
They even refer to "Robber Barons" as if this referred to something real instead of being a creation of political propaganda. The
men called "Robber Barons" were neither robbers nor barons nor any combination of the two. When the writer compares them to Stalin,
I wonder what the thought process was and what fantastic delusions must be involved.
The web site says:
>The complementary mechanism of integration could be
>seen as a source of new constraints or limitations, but
>these are likely to restrict the freedom of powerful
>individuals--such as a Stalin-like dictator or a
>robber baron--and organizations to abuse the system
> for their own ends, rather than the freedom of
>ordinary people to realize their individual ambitions.
However, that being said, they do have a better understanding of economics than a lot of other people. These guys seem to assume
that the market will still exist in the world they long for. That puts them far ahead of some other thinkers in this field
especially since the market and the factors which cause it to exist, are the central factor in the phenomena they are so keenly
interested in such as, what they call "integration," the "superorganism" and the "global brain."
>How does the GB relate to the new economy?
>The market is the collective system of transactions
>that helps supply to match demand, and thus to fulfill
>the need for products and services of the collective
>customer. The traditional market is rather
>inefficient, requiring a huge infrastructure of
>middlemen, specialized organizations such as stock
>exchanges and auctions, and communication channels.
>The Internet allows all such transactions to take
>place much more quickly and transparently, with less
>cost and effort. This strongly reduces "friction",
>making the economy more efficient so that demand can
>be satisfied more rapidly, more accurately, and at a
>lower cost. The GB will not only facilitate direct
>communication between buyers and sellers, but help
>buyers to find the best value (e.g. through shopping
>agents to compare prices), and help sellers to get the
>best price (e.g. through automatic auctioning
>systems). The net effect is that growth increases,
>while inflation and economic instability decrease.
>Moreover, there will be less waste because of unsold
>items or goods shipped far away when there is demand
>around the corner.
They are clearly grasping to try to understand a very important phenomenon which is actually occurring. They are not just making
this up. Some of what I have been saying about the Maitland School as an information processing system is directly related to what
they are calling by the misleading term "global brain."
Referring to such developments with the analogy of an organism or an insect colony is misleading. The phenomenon is not a good
parallel to either one. It is so different that they really should quit using the organism analogy.
Of course people see any such notion as having collectivist and totalitarian implications. So do I and I was highly skeptical when
they said their "super organism" was not a threat to individual liberty. The idea of human society as a single large organism does
in fact imply a centrally controlled, totalitarian society. If a society has no central conscious control of the "body" of society
(the individual people), then it isn't a good analogy to an organism. In an intelligent organism, such conscious control does
exist. The ethics implied by the organism analogy are pure evil. We think nothing of the death of a few skin cells and might even
scrape a few off the inside of our mouths to look at under a microscope just to see what they look like. The cells will soon die as
a result, but so what?
In the superorganism analogy, those individual cells are individual human beings and the superorganism is society. The implication
is that society may kill off a few individuals at a whim and think nothing of it. This is evil. This is tyranny. This is why
people reject this idea quickly and for good reason.
As it says on the website:
>The most common objection to the super-organism view
>of societyis that people tend to interpret it as a
>thinly disguised way of promoting a totalitarian,
>collectivist system. Especially the use of words such
>as "control" and "collective" evokes immediate
>associations with stalinism, and the brutal oppression
>of individual liberties.
And well it should evoke such associations.
I am glad to discover that it really is just a bad analogy. What is being described on that website, what they are stumbling
towards, but don't fully grasp yet, is something very different from a "super organism" or "global brain" even though those are the
words they use to describe it. The closest analogy to it is actually human society as it presently exists. There is really nothing
closer to it than that. Yet the changes they are talking about are real and are transforming human society.
Perhaps the most important passage on the whole (rather large) website is this:
> Individual humans may seem similar to the cells of a
> social superorganism, but they are still much more
> independent than ants or cells (Heylighen & Campbell,
> 1995). This is especially clear if we look at the
> remaining competition, conflicts and
> misunderstandings between individuals and groups.
> Thus human society is still an ambivalent system,
> balancing between individual selfishness and
> collective responsibility. In that sense it may be
> more similar to organisms like slime molds or
> sponges, whose cells can live individually as well as
> collectively, than to true multicellular organisms.
> However, there seems to be a continuing trend towards
> global integration. As technological and social
> systems develop into a more closely knit tissue of
> interactions, transcending the old boundaries between
> countries and cultures...
Is it really true that human interactions are becoming "more closely knit"? The use of the term "tissue" here is just another
gratuitous effort to make the super organism idea fit. But is there really a "continuing trend towards global integration" as they
call it? There is.
I have not found where they ask what is causing it. Maybe they never asked. Or maybe they don't know the answer.
Here they ignore that question and go on to say:
>the social superorganism seems to turn from a metaphor
>into a reality.
Not really. Maybe they think it will in the future. But the reality may well be very different from what they expect.
> Although many people tend to see the super-organism
> philosophy as a totalitarian or collectivist
> ideology, the opposite is true: further integration
> will basically increase individual freedom and
There is a fundamental contradiction here and the authors don't even seem to realize it. They keep telling us there will be more
freedom when we are all just cogs in the machine, just cells in the super organism. They say above that further "integration" will
increase individual freedom. Yet elsewhere on the same web site they say:
>We are living at a time when we can see the basic
>contradiction of the constructive evolution of mankind
>very clearly: it is the contradiction between human
>integration and human freedom. Integration is an
It is the most basic logic that if there is a contradiction between what they call human "integration" and human freedom then it
cannot be true that more integration will lead to more freedom. Yet they make exactly that self-contradictory statement.
Obviously there have made a mistake somewhere and not all of this is true. The idea of society as an organism has been often used
by totalitarians and totalitarians often protest that their plan will increase freedom (even though it will really destroy freedom).
So the most obvious hypothesis is that this whole thing is a new breed of collectivist totalitarianism whether the authors realize
it or not.
That's what I thought at first. But as I read it, I concluded that this was not what was wrong. They have made two contradictory
statements. One of them must be false. They say "integration" and freedom are contradictory and they say that "integration" leads
to more freedom. We may be inclined to suspect they are wrong about "integration" leading to more freedom. In fact, it is the
other statement that is wrong. The sort of voluntary, spontaneous cooperation and increasing interdependence of individual humans
which they label "integration" is not contradictory to freedom.
What I don't think the authors realize is that the same phenomenon which makes this kind of "integration" compatible with freedom is
in fact the driving force behind this "continuing trend towards global integration" which they have identified and also the driving
force behind the "technological development" which they suspected as a cause of global integration. They are wrong on that.
Technological development is not a cause of global integration. One does not cause the other. Rather, both are effects of some
The famous economist Ludwig Von Mises explained this phenomenon which is the cause of both of these effects in his great book,
"Human Action" which I happen to be in the middle of reading now. In economic terms it is called “the division of
labor.” That is to say it is the fact that it is mutually beneficial for any two people or any two billion people to divide
up their productive activities so that each individual may specialize in productive activities that he would prefer to engage in
rather than trying to fend for himself without cooperation or trade with others.
The reasons why people want to specialize in this way go beyond the field of economics and their implications are profound. Hints
at this may be discerned in the "Wealth of Nations" by Adam Smith, but they are only the barest hints. It was only Von Mises who
pointed out that the area of study which economists have made their own is only a small part of a much larger field of study which
previously was not formally studied by anyone and had no name. Von Mises studied it and gave it a name. It is the study of human
action and he called it praxeology.
Von Mises tells us that the amount of human interdependence is increasing, that it has increased throughout human history, and that
it exists when people have the freedom to choose what they will do, to own what they create and to trade the products of their
labors to others in order to gain something to benefit themselves.
Ludwig von Mises addresses this issue directly in Human Action, Chapter VIII, at the end of Section 1 regarding Human Cooperation:
“The principle of the division of labor is one of the great basic principles of cosmic becoming and evolutionary change. The
biologists were right in borrowing the concept of the division of labor from social philosophy and adapting it to their field of
investigation. There is a division of labor between the various parts of any living organism. There are, furthermore, organic
entities composed of collaborating animal individuals; it is customary to call metaphorically such aggregations of the ants and bees
“animal societies.” But one must never forget that the characteristic feature of human society is purposeful
cooperation; society is an outcome of human action, i.e., of a conscious aiming at the attainment of ends. No such element is
present, as far as we can ascertain, in the processes which have resulted in the emergence of the structure-function systems of
plant and animal bodies and in the operation of the societies of ants, bees and hornets. Human society is an intellectual a
nd spiritual phenomenon. It is the outcome of the purposeful utilization of a universal law determining cosmic becoming, viz., the
higher productivity of the division of labor. As with every instance of action, the recognition of the laws of nature is put into
the service of man’s efforts to improve his conditions.”
Earlier in the same section he writes about the question of whether the interests of society or the individual are more important
and whether there is really any conflict between the two:
“The questions whether society or the individual is to be considered as the ultimate end, and whether the interests of society
should be subordinated to those of the individuals or the interests of the individuals to those of society are fruitless. Action is
always action of individual men. The social or societal element is a certain orientation of the actions of individual men. The
category “end” makes sense only when applied to action.”
His, point is that there are no interests of society which are different from the interests of individuals. There is no society at
all without individuals. I have often pointed out that society is only a collection of individuals. Von Mises goes farther and
points out that society exists only in the particular actions of individuals. He is right, too. There is nothing other than the
actions of individuals cooperating which shows us that such a thing as society exists or who is a member of it.
The people who wrote the articles on the “Global Brain” website (not to be confused with the Global Consciousness
Project) seem to think that technology is creating a “global brain” that will create a more interdependent and more
closely connected society. As I said, it is in fact the division of labor which is causing both the increasing levels of
cooperation and also the advances in technology. Von Mises directly addresses this issue in Chapter VIII, Section 5 on the effects
of the division of labor:
“The division of labor splits the various processes of production into minute tasks, many of which can be performed by
mechanical devices. It is this fact that made the use of machinery possible and brought about the amazing improvements in technical
methods of production. Mechanization is the fruit of the division of labor, its most beneficial achievement, not its motive and
foundation spring.”You might wonder why he refers to “Mechanization” rather than “Computerization” or
“machinery” rather than specifically the “internet”. The reason is that he wrote this before there was any
such thing. The book I’m quoting was published in 1949, but it’s amazing that he is quite accurate in telling us the
reasons for the development of computer technology and the internet. He is telling us that these technologies, indeed, nearly all
technologies, are caused by the division of labor. The increasing interdependence of individuals in society, this new phenomenon
now called “Globalization” is also an effect of division of labor. He knew that back in 1949, but the guys writing
about the “Global Brain” are still guessing (incorrectly) that Globalization is caused by technology. Not at all.
Technology is a tool which makes it possible for society to operate on such a large scale, but the reason why anyone would want to,
otivation is the division of labor in furtherance of the self interest of all the individuals in the world.
The idea which has gotten the “Global Brain” crowd so excited is that there might be some grander, collective
consciousness evolving, a mass-mind, a super brain for all humanity which will make our decisions for us more intelligently than we
ever could individually. They look for signs of this and they find signs of exactly that. Somehow, over the internet, people are
communicating and together they are processing far more data than any one person could. They are doing it in such a way that even
though the individuals may not understand all the reasons for their actions, they act in ways which benefit society. What is this
thing they have discovered? How does it really work? What is this “super-organism” which increasingly causes people to
behave in the best way for society? Adam Smith called it the “invisible hand.” It is the same phenomenon.Yes, they are
talking about cutting edge technology like making web links which work like neurons. The electronic connections of the internet
seem like a great analogy to the human brain. But after a real brain finishes thinking about something, it sends signals to the
muscles of the body to act. By what means does this network the Global Brain fans adore send neural signals to anyone to actually
act? Yes, the internet connections may relay the data, but what makes the people who receive the data want to act on it? And they
must want to act on it because the internet compels no one and human beings have a little more independence than muscle cells. The
price system is the only means yet devised for collating and analyzing all the relevant data for a large scale economy,
communicating that data to the people who need to act on it and motivating them to do so. Price data is one of the main things
which is being communicated on the internet. Yes, some people who have authority to give orders (such as mi
litary personnel) may send these instructions over the same net. But this is the collectivist model. This is not a “Global
Brain”, it is one person’s brain trying to control all those under his command. What the “Global Brain”
guys are talking about is an information processing system which operates spontaneously and without compromising the independence
and volition of the individuals involved in it. As I have said for several years now, this is (without the clumsy and misleading
Global Brain analogy) the thing which many futurists have predicted using terms like “decentralized network”. It is
real, it is happening and the driving force behind it is the economic forces such as division of labor and all that flows from that
such as markets, prices and trade.
There is no Global Brain. There is, however, a global market, a global information network and a rapid move towards greater
cooperation on a global scale, greater technology and greater prosperity. Economic forces are what is driving this. To understand
it we should not look to unworkable analogies like the “super organism” or the “global brain”. Biology
cannot explain what is happening. Economics and Praxeology already have.
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