Sunday, October 26, 2008


The contributions of human minds paired with the knowledge synthesizing mechanisms of the Internet has evolved into what can be considered a bio-mechanical global mind.

Kevin Kelly has discussed how the internet and the emerging cloud of computing resources can now be, or will soon be, considered a Global SuperOrganism (see also Nova Spivack). Others see the planet as a global community of people united through universal responsibility (Dali Lama).  It is these concepts together which comprises an entity which behaves as a global mind, combining the spirit and creative energy of people with the content and connectivity of the Internet's mechanical knowledge synthesis systems, leading to more collaborative decision making by all knowledge consumers.

The biomechanical global mind includes both the human minds contributing as well as the mechanisms used to derive and deploy knowledge. Knowledge contributors, algorithmic mechanisms, and collaboration derived filtering create, organize and synthesize stored knowledge.  The result is the availability of weighted verifiable truths (and meme's) which are propagated into the behavior context of individuals and the global society. The knowledge formed and vetted by the behavior context has direct effects on actual behavior of people, organizations, governments and industries. That is, people take action based on what they believe is true, which is rendered by their behavior context, which is influenced by the biomechanical global mind.

Individual people are knowledge consumers who access knowledge in the behavior context. However, people know that too often "truthiness" is proposed that seems to diverge from token maxims or which have no basis in fact, so trust is challenged. A key aspect of knowledge contribution is vetting the truthfulness of information. When consumed, society's reflection of trust must decorate proposed truth. More advanced knowledge contributors contribute, refactor, verify and filter knowledge based on their capabilities and experiences within their own behavior context.

The biomechanical global mind is self-improving, evolutionary and now self aware. The knowledge filtering systems improve continuously. Infrastructure builders optimize the collection, evaluation and filtering by knowledge contributors to provide high quality knowledge that feeds the behavior context.

To help facilitate discussion on how to best optimize the creation of high quality knowledge, a model of the biomechanical mind is proposed here. This model is called Model Alpha and represents an early exploration into how such a global mind would be structured, how it would think, and how it would influence behavior. Model Alpha is a starting point for discussion, refinement, refactoring and extension of the global mind.

Model Alpha

Model Alpha postulates a mind structured as interconnected channels which operate to enhance knowledge collection, formalization and distribution.  Consider the channels of human contribution and consumption as knowledge flows through the web:


Every channel is connected to every other channel; proximity and color in the diagram is used to cluster related capabilities.

Particular web sites and clients merge knowledge consumption and contribution from multiple channels.

People participate as both Knowledge Contributors and as Knowledge Consumers in the Behavior Context.

The general public receives most of its information from Broadcast Media (TV), Mainstream Web Sites, and Printed Media (Newspapers).  These channels are more accessible to knowledge consumers than more technical channels. Broadcast Media, Mainstream Web, Printed Media and Formal Knowledge Web have a higher barrier to entry for contribution, and content is tightly controlled, but the quality of the knowledge presented is usually higher than channels without formal editorial control.

The Informal Knowledge Web includes general webs and collaborative wiki's that formalize knowledge, but do not follow the strict editorial controls of the formal, mainstream, and media webs.

The Existential Web is often the most informal medium, where many messages are ethereal and pertinent to a small audience at a particular time; however, conversations in the Existential Web almost always precede or trigger conversations and other formalizations.

The Conversational Web, which includes blogs and e-mail, enables discussions of various topics with minimal editorial control. 

The Streaming Media Web provides all kinds of audio, video and data streaming, both live and delayed.  This channel can act as a kind of telepresence for the sake of understanding and vetting knowledge.

The Technical Infrastructure Web enables the evolution of the infrastructure, such as new kinds of capabilities and the specific kinds of collaboration to maintain and extend the infrastructure [for example, Jazz]. The Content Production Web provides technology and services for managing the production of content.

The Filtering Web provides a way for a community to categorize and score knowledge, facilitating better distribution and reputation.

Each channel presents its own quality of knowledge and provides its own optimization to the knowledge stream.

Mechanical Insight Channels

In addition to channels produced and consumed directly by people, there are also channels which automatically analyze, synthesize, and deploy knowledge. These systems provide insight into the global state, synthesize this into derived knowledge that can be consumed by people, and maintain a feedback loop with remotely controlled systems and sensors. Global state interpreters were initially built for use in security and corporate data mining, although more open and integrated systems are emerging. Similarly, remote systems controllers initially prospered in corporate data centers, but now these are extending into less formally controlled resources. Derived knowledge webs have existed since the beginning, showing automated reports and derived trends to web users, but are now available to provide insight into any set of complex interrelated facts.

Here is the Model Alpha mind with these channels integrated:

Further observations:

As before, each channel is connected to every other channel.

The Global State Interpreter watches the entire stream of information to identify states and patterns. This information can be used as pure derived knowledge or as a means to directly control autonomous systems.

The Derived Knowledge Web is the published forms and presentations of data,  trends and patterns. The information in the Derived Knowledge Web is often embedded in other webs.

The Remote Systems Controller provides autonomous real world data and control, optimizing the system and resource utilization. [This is the channel we need to unplug if things go horribly wrong, Dr. Forbin -ed]

Humor aside, the channels described herein exist today and are growing exponentially. Their use can easily disenfranchise individuals. We must be dilligent in protecting access and avoiding conditions that negate individual rights in an environment rife with corruption and greed.  However, this is an organic system, and organic systems are notorious for disregarding individual desires, or even the needs of entire populations, which intefere with the system's natural momentum.  As part of the system, however, we must influence its motivations so that it will be a catalyst for good.

Mechanical insight along with human contribution enables the Model Alpha mind to meld biological and mechanical systems in ways that generate higher-order realizations than could be conjured separately. The next steps are to explore examples of this model, to identify motivational forces within the model, and to find ways to activate the motivations which lead the system towards creating and maintaining a sustainable environment which promotes health, happiness and prosperity for all.

Knowledge Formalization

This Model Alpha discussion is an example of how knowledge formalization can occur. The biomechancial global mind concept started as a Twitter tweet from me, Larry Smith (@smithlc),  to Luis Suarez (@elsua, "Giving up on work e-mail" evangelist):

"Tweets are the sensations firing in the short term memory of the bio-mechanical global mind."

This triggered the idea of a biomechanical global mind. 

As is typical with knowledge evolution, my tweet was in response to Luis's tweet which was in response to a Twitter-related blog post by Jay Cross. The tweets triggered the discussion of what such a mind might be like, and I was inspired to blog it after seeing Kevin Kelly's GlobalOrganism blog entry.

This then shall further evolve as we discuss and refine the concept, create a wiki or a web site to describe the model,  and organize work around it to better define its characteristics.

If the concept gains traction, it may trigger some infrastructure improvements, content production improvements, and research and development. The concept may be picked up by the mainstream media, broadcast and print. 

Model Alpha shall exist until it is replaced by a better, more true model.

Regardless of what model we use, if there is a biomechanical global mind, what would it look like and how would it think?

24 Oct 2008 Version 0.01 - Initial publishing
28 Oct 2008 Version 0.04 - General refinement, added version tracking.
13 Nov 2008 Version 0.8 - Added Mechanical Insight Channels.