Since individual neurons are considered not to have an awareness of the perceptions and thoughts which they help create, would we, as the individual information-processing units in this Global Brain, be capable of sensing the higher forms of information processing that might emerge?

from The Global Brain as an Emergent Structure from the Worldwide Computing Network (1994)

Portrait of Gottfried Mayer-Kress

Gottfried Mayer-Kress

Professor and Researcher

Gottfried Mayer-Kress is a German complex systems professor and researcher at the University of Illinois at Urbana‐Champaign.

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Francis Heylighen

The Global Brain as a New Utopia

The global brain can be conceived most fundamentally as a higher level of evolution, the way humans form a higher level of organization that evolved out of the animals. Although the analogy between an organism and a society can be applied even to primitive societies, it becomes clearly more applicable as technology develops. As transport and communication become more efficient, different parts of global society become more interdependent. At the same time, the variety of ideas, specializations, and subcultures increases. This simultaneous integration and differentiation creates an increasingly coherent system, functioning at a much higher level of complexity.

Francis Heylighen

The Global Superorganism

The organismic view of society is updated by incorporating concepts from cybernetics, evolutionary theory, and complex adaptive systems. Global society can be seen as an autopoietic network of self-producing components, and therefore as a living system or “superorganism”.

Francis Heylighen and Johan Bollen

The World-Wide Web as a Super-Brain

If society is viewed as a superorganism, communication networks play the role of its brain. This metaphor is developed into a model for the design of a more intelligent global network. The World Wide Web, through its distributed hypermedia architecture, functions as an “associative memory”, which may “learn” by the strengthening of frequently used links. Software agents, exploring the Web through spreading activation, function as problem-solving “thoughts”. Users are integrated into this “super-brain” through direct machine interfaces and the reciprocal exchange of knowledge between individual and Web. (Published in Cybernetics and Systems ’96, p. 917–922.)