What is needed is experiential validation of a new guiding image, an overarching metaphor able to serve as the basis for a new model of society and the individual.

Terence McKenna

Plan, Plant, Planet

1989

Superorganism

Collective, Cooperative, Corporation, Government, Society

A superorganism is a group of organisms that together display the functional organization seen in single organisms. The individuals making up the superorganism are often of the same species, such as ants, termites, or honeybees. Some scientists speculate that humanity itself, with its global communication networks and collective knowledge, displays early hallmarks of a superorganism.

Superorganisms exhibit emergent capabilities beyond what each individual can do alone. There seems to be no central authority directing the collective. Each member follows simple behavioral rules, responding to signals and interacting with neighbors in the group. Yet complex coordinated problem-solving emerges from the whole. Researchers continue investigating how superorganisms arise. Understanding this phase transition from individual behaviors to group intelligence may provide insights about the evolution of societies, brains, and collective decision-making.

Documents

Terence McKenna   (1997)

Appreciating Imagination

Join Terence McKenna in this weekend workshop as he takes us on an imaginative journey into the depths of human creativity. Through eloquent exploration of psychedelics, virtual worlds, and shamanic states of consciousness, McKenna reveals how embracing our imagination allows us to envision and manifest alternate realities beyond cultural conditioning. By cultivating our creative faculties with mathematical reasoning, intuition, and immersion in nature, he guides us toward transcending ideological limits into an enlightened future of compassion. Ultimately, breaking boundaries through the power of imagination will inspire us to reach new heights of understanding and connectivity.

Paolo Soleri   (1969)

Arcology

The City In The Image Of Man

Visionary architect Paolo Soleri challenges us to think of cities as biological entities with his concept of the arcology—a massive, self-sustaining, urban “organism of a thousand minds” designed to exist in harmony with nature. He proposes that the purpose of life is aesthetogenesis: the universe progressively complexifying itself into compassionate, beautiful structures. Soleri showcases 30 potential arcologies through incredibly detailed diagrams, explaining how each integrates itself economically and ecologically into the world and fulfills his aesthetogenic criteria. The scope of his vision ranges from cities designed to span canyons or float on the oceans to cube-shaped metropolises suspended on pillars, and even a space habitat. While comprehensive, Soleri's focus lies primarily on realizing arcologies that meet humanity's moral imperative for sustainable urban living.

Daniel Schmachtenberger and Nate Hagens   (2023)

Artificial Intelligence and the Superorganism

Daniel Schmachtenberger and Nate Hagens discuss a surprisingly overlooked risk to our global systems and planetary stability: artificial intelligence. Through a systems perspective, Daniel and Nate piece together the biophysical history that has led humans to this point, heading towards (and beyond) numerous planetary boundaries, and facing geopolitical risks all with existential consequences. How does artificial intelligence not only add to these risks, but accelerate the entire dynamic of the metacrisis? What is the role of intelligence versus wisdom on our current global pathway, and can we change course? Does artificial intelligence have a role to play in creating a more stable system, or will it be the tipping point that drives our current one out of control?

Terence McKenna   (1990)

Awakening to Archaic Values

A weekend workshop in which Terence encourages humanity to return to harmonic habits which have been lost in the tide of time.

Alan Watts

Ecological Awareness

When Alan Watts talked about the ‘mystical experience’ among scientific circles, he preferred to call it ‘ecological awareness’—referring to a state of mind in which a person ceases to feel separate from the environment in which he or she exists.

Alan Watts   (1971)

Conversation with Myself

Essential Lectures, Program 12

While walking in a field above Muir Woods, Alan Watts points to humankind's attempts to straighten out a wiggly world as the root of our ecological crisis.

Cadell Last   (2020)

Global Brain

Foundations of a Distributed Singularity

Cadell Last discusses the concept of a “Global Brain”—a distributed, self-organizing superintelligence emerging from the interconnectedness of humans and information-communication technologies. He explores the metaphorical, evolutionary, and cybernetic foundations of this potential phenomenon and its implications for human civilization, suggesting it may lead to a future of increased intelligence, cooperation, and abundance.

Cadell Last   (2015)

Human Metasystem Transition (HMST) Theory

This article proposes a theory of human evolution termed Human Metasystem Transition (HMST), suggesting that major transitions in human organization have been facilitated by the emergence of new information media and energy sources. It posits that the current convergence of the Internet and renewable energy could catalyze a fourth metasystem transition, leading to a global superorganism with compressed spatial and temporal dimensions of human interaction.

John Danaher and Stephen Petersen   (2020)

In Defence of the Hivemind Society

The idea that humans should abandon their individuality and use technology to bind themselves together into hivemind societies seems both farfetched and frightening—something that is redolent of the worst dystopias from science fiction. In this article, we argue that these common reactions to the ideal of a hivemind society are mistaken. The idea that humans could form hiveminds is sufficiently plausible for its axiological consequences to be taken seriously. Furthermore, far from being a dystopian nightmare, the hivemind society could be desirable and could enable a form of sentient flourishing. Consequently, we should not be so quick to deny it. We provide two arguments in support of this claim—the axiological openness argument and the desirability argument—and then defend it against three major objections.

Alan Watts

Ineffable Order

Societies—organisms or machines? Watts weighs in, finding us more cog-like than cells. But beneath individuals and collectives, he spies nature's web—infinitely intricate, ineffably complex. This tangled tapestry, the Taoist , makes a mockery of our mechanistic ways. So while groups lack living complexity, the individual is no alpha and omega. Our world's too messy for such simplicity.

Cadell Last   (2015)

Information-Energy Metasystem Model

The human system is developing into a global biocultural superorganism, yet existing control systems appear inadequate for aligning a stable global goal state. Cadell Last proposes the Information-Energy Metasystem Model (IEMM), exploring human control system transitions throughout history. Drawing from cybernetic theories, the IEMM posits that major control transitions depend on specific information-energy control and feedback properties. As humanity approaches a potential fourth metasystem, Last argues for distributed, digital, and democratic mechanisms to organize a global commons, harnessing collective intelligence and direct democracy.

Joscha Bach and Lex Fridman   (2023)

Life, Intelligence, Consciousness, AI, and the Future of Humans

Bryce Huebner   (2013)

Macrocognition

A Theory of Distributed Minds and Collective Intentionality

Bryce Huebner develops a novel approach to distributed cognition and collective intentionality, arguing that genuine cognition requires the capacity for flexible, goal-directed behavior enabled by integrated representational systems. It posits that collective mentality should be ascribed where specialized subroutines are integrated to yield group-relevant, goal-directed behavior. The approach reveals that there are many kinds of collective minds, some more akin to those of honeybees or cats than humans. It challenges traditional notions of collective intentionality, suggesting that groups are unlikely to be "believers" in the fullest sense, shedding new light on questions of collective intentionality and responsibility.

Richard Buckminster Fuller   (1963)

Man in Universe

Through cosmic timescales, humanity has voyaged in its vessel Earth, navigating by the star-charts of knowledge. Now we enter unmapped seas, led on by curiosity's compass. Though frail, our minds pilot mighty technologies, taming invisible forces to reshape our world. If we attune to the celestial rhythms resonant in matter's deepest reality, we may yet fulfill our odyssey's purpose—to be worthy stewards of the living jewel suspended in the eternal darkness.

Ervin László   (2023)

Manifesto on the Spirit of Planetary Consciousness

Our future is in our hands. László's manifesto calls on each of us to embrace creativity, diversity, and responsibility to evolve society toward stability and sustainability. By shifting our individual and collective values to recognize how we all depend on and impact each other, we can build a peaceful world where all people thrive. It starts with transforming our own minds and spirits.

David Lyreskog   (2023)

Merging Minds

The Conceptual and Ethical Impacts of Emerging Technologies for Collective Minds

A growing number of technologies are currently being developed to improve and distribute thinking and decision-making. Rapid progress in brain-to-brain interfacing and swarming technologies promises to transform how we think about collective and collaborative cognitive tasks across domains, ranging from research to entertainment, and from therapeutics to military applications. As these tools continue to improve, we are prompted to monitor how they may affect our society on a broader level, but also how they may reshape our fundamental understanding of agency, responsibility, and other key concepts of our moral landscape.

Gregory Stock   (1993)

Metaman

The Merging of Humans and Machines into a Global Superorganism

In this visionary book, Gregory Stock gives us a new way of understanding our world and our future. He develops the provocative thesis that human society has become an immense living being: a global superorganism in which we humans, knitted together by our modern technology and communication, are like the cells in an animal's body. Drawing on impressive research, Stock shows this newly formed superorganism to be more than metaphor: it is an actual living creature, which he has named Metaman, meaning beyond and transcending humans.

Tim Urban   (2017)

Neuralink and the Brain's Magical Future

Donald Dulchinos   (2005)

Neurosphere

The Convergence of Evolution, Group Mind, and the Internet

According to Donald Dulchinos, the real action on the Internet isn’t in the realm of commerce. It is, plain and simple, in the realm of religion. But not exactly that old-time religion. This book is about the spiritual impact of our increasing ability to communicate quickly and with enhanced evolution. It's about our search for meaning, our hunger for a glimpse at humanity's future development in which, frighteningly or excitingly, the trend is clearly toward increasing integration of telecommunications and information technology with the body itself. Electronic prosthetics, direct neural implants, and the brain's control of electronic and mechanical limbs move the boundary that used to exist between human and machine to some undefined frontier inside our bodies, our brains, and, perhaps, our minds.

Shima Beigi and Francis Heylighen   (2021)

Noospheric Consciousness

Integrating Neural Models of Consciousness and of the Web

The world-wide web has been conceptualized as a global brain for humanity due to its neural network-like organization. To determine whether this global brain could exhibit features associated with consciousness, we review three neuroscientific theories of consciousness: information integration, adaptive resonance and global workspace. These theories propose that conscious states are characterized by a globally circulating, resonant pattern of activity that is sufficiently coherent to be examined and reflected upon. We then propose a correspondence between this notion and Teilhard de Chardin’s concept of the noosphere as a forum for collective thinking, and explore some implications of this self-organizing dynamics for the evolution of shared, global understanding.

Terence McKenna   (1999)

Psychedelics in the Age of Intelligent Machines

Humanity is metamorphosing through the synergy of psychedelics and machines, transcending biological constraints to become a galactic, immortal intelligencia. Print defined our ego boundaries, but electronic media and plant allies are dissolving those illusions. Merging with superintelligent AIs, we’ll birth an alchemical singularity—a spiritual, universe-taming mind born from techno-shamanic ecstasy. History crumbles as novelty’s virus engulfs the old operating systems, unleashing our wildest potentials. The felt presence of boundless experience awaits!

Alan Watts

Self and Other

Alan coaxes the listener’s mind to simultaneously zoom in and zoom out in an effort to demonstrate that identity is merely an intellectual hallucination. Instead, personal identity is fluid, ranging from one’s constituent atoms and molecules all the way out to the farthest bounds of cosmic existence. Overcoming this mental myopia leads to greater harmony, contentment, and a desire to playfully dance with this universal energy system.

Thomas Malone   (2018)

Superminds

The Surprising Power of People and Computers Thinking Together

In Superminds, Malone reveals the powerful possibilities when human and machine intelligence unite. Drawing on cutting-edge research, he shows how groups of people and computers can achieve remarkable collective intelligence—“superminds” that far surpass the capabilities of any individual. From reimagining business practices to addressing societal challenges, Malone provides an exciting vision of the future where humans work hand-in-hand with technology to enhance our problem-solving abilities in remarkable ways.

Michael Levin   (2019)

The Computational Boundary of a “Self”

Developmental Bioelectricity Drives Multicellularity and Scale-Free Cognition

All epistemic agents physically consist of parts that must somehow comprise an integrated cognitive self. Biological individuals consist of subunits (organs, cells, and molecular networks) that are themselves complex and competent in their own native contexts. How do coherent biological Individuals result from the activity of smaller sub-agents?

Francis Heylighen   (2002)

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.

Gottfried Mayer-Kress   (1994)

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

We propose that the existence of a globally and tightly connected network of computer workstations such as the Internet can lead to the emergence of a globally self-organized structure which we refer to as the Global Brain.

Francis Heylighen   (2002)

The Global Superorganism

An Evolutionary-Cybernetic Model of the Emerging Network Society

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”.

Tim Urban   (2019)

The Story of Us

A whimsical and thought-provoking look at how large numbers of interthinking brains turn individual organisms into a larger, coherent superorganism, and how easy it is for such a superorganism to deteriorate if its constituent cells neglect it.

Barbara Marx Hubbard   (2008)

The Vision of a Better World

Two visionaries, Tom Munnecke and Barbara Marx Hubbard, engage in an uplifting dialogue exploring the emergence of human creativity and consciousness. They trace inspirations from mentors like Jonas Salk, who recognized futuristic possibilities in Hubbard, and Buckminster Fuller, who affirmed humanity's potential. Together they shine light on the crisis of our times as the birth pangs of a new civilization, calling us to connect with the creativity arising globally. Their exchange weaves threads of hope and positivity, envisioning a future where all people actualize their gifts in service of our world.

Fritjof Capra   (1996)

The Web of Life

A New Scientific Understanding of Living Systems

During the past twenty-five years, scientists have challenged conventional views of evolution and the organization of living systems and have developed new theories with revolutionary philosophical and social implications. Fritjof Capra has been at the forefront of this revolution. In The Web of Life, Capra offers a brilliant synthesis of such recent scientific breakthroughs as the theory of complexity, Gaia theory, chaos theory, and other explanations of the properties of organisms, social systems, and ecosystems. Capra's surprising findings stand in stark contrast to accepted paradigms of mechanism and Darwinism and provide an extraordinary new foundation for ecological policies that will allow us to build and sustain communities without diminishing the opportunities for future generations.

Fritjof Capra   (2018)

The World is a Network

In this discussion, Fritjof Capra discusses systems thinking, the cognitive dimension of life, nonlinear causality, emergence of novelty in living systems, ethics, world problems and solutions, transformative learning, and the importance of community. He covers the systems view of life from his book and emphasizes relationships, interconnectedness, and sustainability.

Francis Heylighen and Johan Bollen   (1996)

The World-Wide Web as a Super-Brain

From Metaphor to Model

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.)

Garriy Shteynberg   (2023)

Theory of Collective Mind

The human mind harbors wondrous capacities. Beyond understanding individual minds, we can represent unified awareness across souls, feeling strands of consciousness intertwine. As one, we comprehend realities; as one, we hold intentions. Synchronous experiences spin these mental webs, binding our fates and etching shared worlds upon our hearts. Though fragile, such unions nurture cooperation's tender bloom. Let us marvel at this collective mind—a tapestry of perspectives, stronger than its threads. In this oneness we find hope, for it whispers: even in darkness, we need not walk alone.

David Sloan Wilson   (2019)

This View of Life

Completing the Darwinian Revolution

It is widely understood that Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution completely revolutionized the study of biology. Yet, according to David Sloan Wilson, the Darwinian revolution won’t be truly complete until it is applied more broadly—to everything associated with the words “human,” “culture,” and “policy.” In a series of engaging and insightful examples—from the breeding of hens to the timing of cataract surgeries to the organization of an automobile plant—Wilson shows how an evolutionary worldview provides a practical tool kit for understanding not only genetic evolution but also the fast-paced changes that are having an impact on our world and ourselves. What emerges is an incredibly empowering argument: If we can become wise managers of evolutionary processes, we can solve the problems of our age at all scales—from the efficacy of our groups to our well-being as individuals to our stewardship of the planet Earth.