Being raised in the village: on distributed consciousness

The mobile device or the ubiquitous and real-time internet comes closer to connecting our raw thought to the network of minds, ideas and utterances. Simply speaking we have more bridges today to collective consciousness. Social media together are a clearinghouse where ideas are collected, played with, then buried, amplified, interwoven or transformed. The author and her individuality isn’t dead yet. Far from it. She must simply negotiate more frequently and in closer proximity to a massive episteme — the earth’s bazaar of interlinked ideas, the “noosphere”.

I am interested in the future of mental individualism in the face of this “distributed” or collective consciousness. Stevan Harnad points out that thought can only be “‘distributed’ within the heads of thinkers, but not across thinkers’ heads.” The global “brain”, therefore, is a metaphor, an illusion of an entity. I take this to mean that we will never become less of individual thinkers just because of some massive, inescapable sphere of mental activity that seems to overshadow everything else.

Yet we individual cognizers are being affected by the public sphere in ways we can only begin to understand. I co-founded Mindbounce, partly as an experiment, to see what happens if we accelerated the interaction our brains would have with an external hive of ideas in real-time. In the beginning there was physical and temporal distance separating our minds from the public sphere. You had to ride a horse or log into the internet to reconcile your thoughts with the external thinking public. Now the public is attached to our hip with a mobile device. Mindbounce would ideally accelerate this trend by letting a public of sorts proactively come into many separate individual mental spheres in real-time. Collective intelligence now whispers into your ear, if you let it.

See the tour on YouTube: “Text editor turned wisdom market”