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HiveMind

We use the phrase Hive Mind to talk about the theme of mass global communication.

Some of the major parts of the theme are:

When we say “HiveMind,” we do not mean insects serving a queen, as described on MeatBall:HiveMind, Wiki:HiveMind. There is a general, vague fear, that TheCollective will force its will over TheIndividual, in perhaps mentally violent ways, as we develop [Futures:InformationCommunicationsTechnology. The name “HiveMind” seems to work with these fears: People envision themselves as insects, and none of the heroism of Napoleon Hill or Libertarian visions of the Ayn Rand superman – personal transcendence. We’ve had several conversations about the HiveMindName, so that we could find something that people don’t misinterpret. We haven’t really found anything that sticks, though.

We’ve done a little work on a HiveMindTheory, to help us understand and think about how to speed up online organizing efforts.

This page is mainly about what the HiveMind is, what we mean by it.

This page is managed by LionKimbro, who started it. There are a lot of people on this wiki who are interested in these ideas, agree with them, and develop them. Keep in mind, however, that LionKimbro is the main person writing this page. When he writes, (when I write,) the word “we,” keep in mind the ambiguity over who is being talked about. We even have ambiguity over what is being talked about: The HiveMind is a theme, and a very high-level theme at that. (Hence, dividing it into parts, such as GlobalBrain, OrganizedCulture, HyperSocial, CyberneticEconomy.) Some people on this wiki likely disagree with things written here. But it’s more than just LionKimbro, who agrees with what is here. (See also: RoyalWe.)

We now describe, in summary, parts of the HiveMind theme.

The Global Brain

The “GlobalBrain” is what we refer to when we say: “Bloggers amplify ideas.” We imagine that there is some sort of larger “super-mind,” and we imagine the mechanics by which it works. We wonder just how “real” groups are: AreGroupsReal- are they actual functioning machines driven by the force of stories moving in peoples heads, like the robots in the matrix running off the energy in people’s minds? Or are they fictional entities that we can do whatever we want with, like a tool? We wonder. We think a global brain can operate with internal disagreement, like arguments in a kid’s head, choosing between two candies. But can we make decisions peacably? Can we connect organ to organ, in such a way that the whole thing works?

We write about the importance of visualization software. DavidCary says (and I’m paraphrasing :) “When I’m talking about the HiveMind, what I’m really talking about is making you very smart.” To do that, to make you very smart, we’re going to need VisualLanguage, and visualization software. Visualization software will be like the mirror, or the appearance, of the Global Brain. The ability to see demographics and vast affiliation networks composed of groups and subgroups and subsubgroups and individuals will likely challenge our notions of our individuality, and how we conceive of ourselves- like when people first saw the Earth from outer space. The ProjectSpaceNetwork will dance before our eyes. We will see TheHumanAsaMedium, partner with ideas, machines, nature, and perhaps even reality, whom we imagine on the FiveWorldsMandala.

We talk about the possibility, in TransHumanism futures, of bona fida hive minds, and the treatment of CollectiveIntelligence in science fiction.

We have a general plan for the future, and we in the CommunityWiki have a place in the unfolding.

We ask how to judge the development and health of the Global Brain, how to raise it, and about the pragmatics of connecting groups.

Emerging Online Self-Organizing: The HiveMind and the InterNet

http://www.thegreatstory.org/images-salon/peabody-graphic.jpg

– from the Great Story webpages

We believe we are seeing a new organization crystalize on the Internet. Have you ever seen a video of ice forming from water? Ice crystal forms in lines, shooting off in all directions. It feels like that, when we watch the Apache foundation, Wikipedia, Wiki News, Creative Commons, Linux, the Free Software Foundation, Open Source Software, KDE, GNOME, and the greater Wiki community forming. When we see sophisticated, elegant, convenient communications software arise “from nowhere,” made of thousands and thousands of carefully ordered code: we are amazed.

Before, we only saw companies and civilizations forming, but there wasn’t really much room for regular people, something that we could get a foothold of work on, in our free time. But Futures:InformationCommunicationsTechnology has dramatically cut down the cost of interaction, coordinating, and self-organizing. It’s like getting a “do it yourself organizing” kit in the mail, along with all the necessary equipment to talk and coordinate with others.

We never had that before.

So far, we have seen operating systems, an encyclopedia, and two desktop systems come from nowhere. We have seen people perform amazing feats of coordination, out in the material world, using just cell phones and electronic address books- buddy lists.

How far can this go?

What destinations can we imagine?

How can we get there?

We will be dissatisfied if we just imagine and talk; We work to actually get there. (ThinkTalkAct.) This is a major theme for us.

We do a lot of things, but presently, here is what we do:

Outside of here, you may be interested in Global Frequency, a comic by Warren Ellis, which fires the imagination. It’s about a “semi-covert” intelligence agency, coordinated over the Internet.

We are excited by a world where anybody can participate, it’s just a matter of you, and the work you can put in, developing your talents and coordinating with others. It can be competitive, but it operates within a cooperative framework.

Before, ideas could only be developed by book-authors and paper-writers, inside the walls of Academia. Now anyone can participate. We’re excited.

Proper respects paid to those without the wealth and technology to join us. We are working on it, literally as we speak.

Visions of a Hyper-Social Future

Our last major part of the theme “Hive Mind” is about the “hyper-social future.”

This is what you get when you have a hoards of sophisticated SocialSoftware and MetaData. Where you can look at a person, and see their activities and social networks and immediately see your connections with the people around you. When you go off on lunch break, and a heads-up display shows who is also interested in the things you are interested in, and how much time they have off on their lunch-break as well. Wherever they may be in the world.

With systems like OverHear, an open conversation with a friend may quickly become a conversation between 10 people, scattered all over the place. The others may just listen in, or they may have important things to tell you about what you are saying.

This vision feeds right into the online organizing efforts: It will be easy to find and contact people of related sympathy and effort. It will be easy to guage how well we are assisting our efforts.

We talk about these things here, we also talk about limits: InformationOverload, the SmallGroupDiscussionSizeLimit, and the DunbarNumber? (on ConnectedGraphSquaringProblem.)


CategoryCommunicationManagement

See also: DreamsOfWiki

Unsorted Text

This page was originally amorphous, I’m trying to give it structure now, by focusing on just the major visions of the HiveMind, and then redirecting other stories elsewhere.

But we still have some old content, interesting, but unsorted. It follows:

Free Software Movement as a Hive Mind

Consider that SlashDot could be considered a Shared Awareness System for the Free software / FreeCulture communities.

If you are in the FreeSoftware community, you may not read SlashDot, but you almost certainly know someone who does, and they will likely tell you about the things that are of note to you on SlashDot. Thus, its observations extend your observations.

The FreeSoftware community, however, has poor eyesight. Visibility is poor. Communication is hard. (I mean - look. You leave a message on someone’s blog somewhere, and you can’t even get a response, because you forgot their URL.)

This is good, because it means that the tremendous power that we have already shown will only increase, and dramatically so, if the theory is sound.

Future of Free Software & Free Culture

Warning: From here on out has not been significantly reworked.

I’m still working on this, incorporating the different things people have said, and putting it together.

This section in particular describes something now called the “ProjectSpaceNetwork.”

When we bring intelligence (right information at the right place at the right time) to the Free Software world, which will happen, we will be able to see our projects on a map. We will be able to see which projects are related to which. We’ll be able to position our particular projects with relation to the other projects. We’ll be able to quickly identify who’s working on what, and how we can join on in, and we’ll be able to automatically download all the software needed to work on the code, and it will configure itself to work on our system. We will have a well known WeldingProcess.

But this is a software-centric view of the world. It makes sense that the first wiki in the world are interested in programming and wiki technology, no? Similarly, the HiveMind that came to know itself through communications technology, necessarily focuses on communications technology first.

As the HiveMind unfurls, we see it self-organizing. The major threads of thought in the world appear besides each other, mapped out, and relationships between them identified.

There will of course be a subversive element to all of this. People will full and attack and destroy segments of the system. And it will be untrustworthy. But what else do you expect from a mind? No mind is infalliable, massive or small. No mind is perfectly united. This is actually essential to the operation of the mind, since no symbol, no idea, no matter how well articulated, can completely map onto the underwater currents. So there is always imperfection, and then therefor tensions, at work within a mind. And they always require resolution.

Back to the major threads- The threads and cultures and ideas in our unconscious become conscious and articulated and mapped and related. I strongly suspect you will be able to visualize it and traverse the (imperfect) map. (Some people argue that because an imperfect map cannot be created, that such a map will never exist or could possibly be useful. I ignore them, whenever I use a Thomas guide. In the US, that is a standard map. It cannot be perfect, of course. But it is “good enough.”)

Who knows what happens when we the little minds have easy access to we the big mind? When we can see the blueprints and schematics, from thousands of miles up in the sky, looking down? Who can know what will happen?

Let’s go back to software, because I know software.

If we can as the FreeSoftware world can build an accurate census of how many devs are working on what, then we can begin to make strategies about what software needs to be worked on, and what software doesn’t need to be worked on. We can start to think about how to work together more effectively.

I am eager to see an end to the Visual:LongImageIncorporationProcess.

Now:

Of course all these ideas could well be wrong. Of course all these ideas could be complete bologna. Of course it could all be a sham.

But it’s a good story, and I like to take part in a good story.

My observation is that people make realities, they don’t discover them.

My belief is that it’s not just people that make realities, as individuals, but HiveMinds that make realities.

People and HiveMinds? work together to make realities.

People who are unconsciously serving their HiveMind, (and this may be all of us,) are no less people than those who do not, or who serve God, (or maybe the HiveMind serves God,) or whatever. It’s all Metaphysics at that point, and there’s no reason not to bring in fairies and deamons and elves and lords of karma and gods and cosmic machine beings and pattern creatures.

It all mixes up together, as far as I can tell. I’ve made my peace with the universal mind. :)

If we want to talk HiveMind from an academic pattern-god perspective, a better page would probably be CollectiveIntelligence or StigMergy or something like that.

If I may be so bold, I’d like to reserve HiveMind for personal use on this wiki. :) I’ve talked about it a lot already, and it’s come to mean (I believe) “Lion’s dream of the HiveMind.” As I said earlier- other people share the notion. Maybe MattisManzel, I don’t know for sure. But the people who share it are not necessarily operating on the wiki. So I wouldn’t be terribly excited about LionsHiveMind?. Hmm…

a shared awareness system, to my mind, is probably necessary for a community to act with unity of purpose, but by itself does not produce unity of thought. and yes, the reason i don’t like the term hivemind is that the way i learned the term, it definitely included a unity of thought (and not a good one :). i agree with you in thinking that there is no human group that is a hivemind, even though some cults might come close.

So, well, okay.

I already think of the Free Software movement as a hive mind. I already think of wikipedia as a hive mind. I think of us all as a hive mind.

It has no clear borders, the way I think of it.

Perhaps my notion is simply:

  • Groups of people get together.
  • They share ideas.
  • They eventually disolve, or reform, or whatever.
  • This process is probably for the good, even when it looks for the bad. (Optimism.)

Perhaps my notion of the HiveMind is basically just Humanism (“people are worthwhile”), or TransHumanism (“people will transcend what they are.”) But there are some specific statements and goals I’m making with this page.

For one, I’m talking about SharedAwarenessSystems?, so I’m acknowledging the presence of something underneath individuals, and how it can help groups, that carries itself across individuals, whether we like to think it or not. And so maybe the HiveMind is a culture.

I see no reason not to believe that individual cultures could be like individual thoughts within people, and that there could then be a super-culture beneath the culture. A culture of cultures. A super-pattern beneath the pattern.

(My definition of culture is “a pattern for life,” or “a pattern for living.”)

pir- Note that the CriticalTheory talks about these things; At least, that’s what I’m hearing in there.

Check this out:

Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent-resister may sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals could rise from the bondage of myths and half-truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal, we must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights of understanding and brotherhood.

Guess who that is? Martin Luther King!

… Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with an its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

Wow! The words are near identical.

Martin Luther King is saying that there’s such a thing as “justice” and a better society.

He said the word growth. That’s significant, because contemporary po-mo’s (“there is no truth”) say that’s impossible.

It seems to me that Martin Luther King believes in the HiveMind. I mean, I can’t say for sure. But it does seem, from the little that I’ve read of him, that there is a consistent theory behind what he writes.

It seems to resonate with the CriticalTheory, and it seems to resonate with my unarticulated HiveMind notions.

I believe this is getting to the point where I feel okay about the page. I reworked about half of it, I still need to rework the other half.

Perhaps I should start pulling pages out of it, like I, ahem, started, with the ConnectingwikiEssay?. (Dunno. Maybe “manifesto decomposition” doesn’t work.)

The most important addition I made just now was the section on “How does a HiveMind work,” stressing Communication, Visibility, Shared Awareness, and Commitment.

When the software and hookups exist that shows a nice top-down view of all the Free Software work going on, and the interconnections between all the projects and what not, the whole discussion of “What’s a HiveMind” and “Is there a HiveMind” and “Is the HiveMind going to force me to work in a boot camp or not” will be trivially moot.

It’ll be just-

You point to the screen and go, “That.”

“That is the HiveMind.”

“That.”

A brilliant contribution in German on HiveMind of Helmut on http://www.wikiservice.at/gruender/wiki.cgi?HiveMind

babelfish: http://world.altavista.com/ machine translation added there. Correct please.

There seems to be several things that seem to be becoming more and more like this idea of the hive mind.

Do you picture each of them becoming a hive mind ?

Or do you picture them linking up into a single hive mind (like there is only a single Internet) ?

DavidCary

That’s like lava surface, like the surface of the sun, in permanent change. We have a certain degree of HiveMind already now by mass media and information technology. Several “Hiveminds” existed before when you think about world wars and the cold war. Strange that humankind is so good to develop a strong HiveMind, when in a war situation and there is an enemy. This time it corcerns one hivemind. Information speed, translation speed, openness and the end of importance of physical distance, of the location of somebody on planet earth should make it possible. Having several hiveminds like an arabian/islamic and a western/christian influenced one which are not compatible to each other would be desatrous. Not Two-, no, OneBigSoup.

The essential thing is rythmn. A HiveMind doesn’t permathink on one level. It stays together by moving, by pulsating, by swinging around an imagined, never reached center. MindTheGap, the donkey. I help on GlobalFlashMob for this reason.

Global Frequency - TV show that almost made it to the Air. Talking about it on Slashdot. Should be viewed in the context of the Incredibles, and SpiderMan. Don’t worry if this doesn’t make any sense- I’m writing a book about how these things connect up. We’ve lost the battle, but won the war.

Re: Having several hiveminds like an arabian/islamic and a western/christian influenced one which are not compatible to each other would be desatrous.

Not necessarily; the financial markets are something like a hivemind, yet we have different stock markets in different countries which can move different ways in reaction to the same news.

You may say that these markets are all interlinked into a greater “financial markets” hivemind, though.

I don’t think the word “HiveMind” is just an obscure way of saying “Civilization.”

Using the word may mean that you have to be suggesting Technology.

Today, I’m guessing I’ve “heard” the voices of at least 300 people. At least. If you include advertisers and what not, it’s probably up in the 1,000’s.

I think it has more to do with the geometry of message-passing, than the way people choose to live their life (Civilization). Not that they don’t overlap, but that they are different.

In the text, I sort of anticipated this kind of question;

The Hive Mind is large. It’s larger than a community, which is itself larger than a cluster of cliques. There are groups that are against other groups in the Hive Mind. And yet they work, quite willfully, towards the benefit of the others, even though they may disagree with them. The benefit likely even flows out beyond the borders of the Hive Mind membership.

We should probably figure out what I mean, (I can only feel it, I don’t have it fully articulated myself yet,) and make it a little clearer.

Perhaps a distinction for “HiveMinds?” would be the pattern of communications that come out of global Television, vs. the pattern of communications that come out of the Internet.

But then, I don’t know if I’d call TV-and-viewers a HiveMind, because there’s only extremely weak interaction between viewers and the stations. Whereas on the Internet, while there are certainly users that are mostly like TV-viewers, (today,) I think it’s different enough that I’d say it’s “a different HiveMind.”

As for conflict within the HiveMind:

Consider Wikipedia for a second. In wikipedia, there are factions that work against one another. I think we even look outside WikiPedia- the wikipedia Trolls, for instance. Even though groups disagree with each other, even war against each other at times, the HiveMind does seem to play out, for the greater benefit of everybody. (It seems to me.)

That’s what I meant.

Language barriers are large- it is hard for me as an English speaker to understand Arabic Wikipedia. So I only get limited benefit from their Wikipedia. But as language translators develop, I think those barriers will reduce.

Maybe we should say this:

A HiveMind is something that appears between a group of people. In a HiveMind, the shape of communications is such that most anybody can communicate with most anybody else, with ease. A HiveMind requires some technology superior to just language. A HiveMind must be generally inclusive. A HiveMind can include pockets where groups are accessible by only limited contacts. A HiveMind is “liquid,” but can have pockets of “solid.” But if it is mostly solid, with very little liquid to it, then it is not a HiveMind.

I know it’s a lame characterization, but I think it works somewhat.

“Multiple Languages” can be viewed as a technology limitation. (Not saying we shouldn’t have many, but- from a communications perspective, it can be seen as a limitation.) I think it’s the main obstacle, to there being just one HiveMind. After it’s resolved, I think everyone will be connected to “the One” HiveMind.

As people move into outerspace, it is reasonable to believe that the delay in interaction will lead to multiple HiveMinds? existing again. (And then, if you had an ansible of some sort, which I don’t believe in, you would have broken that again.)

Today, I’m guessing I’ve “heard” the voices of at least 300 people. At least. If you include advertisers and what not, it’s probably up in the 1,000’s.

But … but … that completely violates the Dunbar Limit ! :-) “The Dunbar Number as a Limit to Group Sizes” http://www.lifewithalacrity.com/2004/03/the_dunbar_numb.html

That reminds me of the fact that neurons in the human brain have over 1000 dendrites connecting them to other neurons.

Given some group of people, more connections are often better. The “telephone game” illustrates the problems with “only 2 connections”.

See ConnectedGraphSquaringProblem for some related ideas.

(Thanks for the link help, sigi ).

I just saw this complicated page. I haven’t read the whole thing, that will take a while. But I saw a quote I wanted to share:

In much the same way, the nonprofit technology sector must also come to see itself as something greater than the sum of its individual parts, for it too is a network - a network with the potential to become a movement.

I see this message as part of the self-awareness of the HiveMind: We recognize our efforts, and organize to network them together, conscious of our collective power and mutual interest. I called this the “Hive-Mind Comes to Self-Awareness.”

He continues with:

What holds it back from its potential as a movement is the lack of a unifying mission.

I’m not sure this is quite right. Most people’s lives, I think, do not have a “unifying mission.” People branch out in all directions, it seems to me, and the same seems true of organizations. Living things don’t seem to regularly put all their eggs in one basket.

I think we will buid a sense of unified identity, and self-recognition- a “shared brand among us,” so to speak. (I think that “shared brand” will be “The Internet.”) But I don’t think we will all be in the same mission. I would be very surprised if we didn’t even embody contradictory missions. (I see it all the times in myself and others, and in all sorts of organizations, I would be surprised if this were any different.)

The Hippies in the 60’s were a movement. But did they have a unifying mission? It doesn’t seem like it to me. And yet, it seemed very significant to me. I believe things changed via the 60’s. In particular, I’m thinking about the role of women, and racism. I believe these improved because of what happened in the 60’s. There were missions. Where they unified? I don’t think so. I think there was a sense of unity though; And I think that it is in this sense that we may find the HiveMind.

I’d like to add that in my mind, previous to the emergence of the Internet, Academia was the closest thing to a HiveMind. It’s probably as conscious of itself as the internet is. With it’s system of peer review, reputation, self correction, it could advance towrads it’s goal, knowledge of how the world works.

The problem is, it’s still a pretty slow system, compared to what technology makes possible nowdays. It’s high time Academia starts speeding up it’s thought process. Increasing use of academic blogs and the push for free academic journals are evidence that things are moving in the right direction, but it’s still far from widespread. – EmileKroeger

it is hard for me as an English speaker to understand Arabic Wikipedia. So I only get limited benefit from their Wikipedia. But as language translators develop, I think those barriers will reduce.

I am pretty excited by improvements in language translation – both improved “machine translation”, and also improved learning techniques.

I have tried to learn a few human languages (still need a lot of work to get fluent). Recently I have heard several people have told me that language learning isn’t anywhere near as difficult as I’ve been led to believe, and that (contrary to the common myth) there is no evidence to suggest that it's any harder for a child to acquire two languages than it is for the child to acquire one language. ... many linguists feel that knowing a second language actually benefits a child's cognitive development.

I just recently learned that the "English" version of the wiktionary, tries to list “all words in all languages” (with definitions in English) – going far beyond my set of 2-way dictionaries. Surely this will help language translation.


Implicit in this idea of the HiveMind, however, is Egalitarianism. That is, we think people are equal. The picture is that human minds are like individual neurons, within the larger world-mind. Individual neurons look like grey clods, regardless of which part of the brain you look at. Likewise, no one person in the Hive Mind is particularly privileged over other people.

I have two minor suggestions for this part. First, I interpret Egalitarianism to be “equality of opportunity” or “equality of natural rights”, in contrast to “sameness”. Second, I don’t think we know enough about the brain to say if some neurons are more privileged than others.

Sure, sure. I wouldn’t nail it down to “equality of opportunity” or “equality of natural rights,” either, though.

I don’t know how to say the feeling of egalitarianism that I intuit. But allow me to try for some words.

I believe that if a rich man respects a poor man, and vice versa, that it is a good thing.

If a rich man looks at a poor man, and thinks to himself, “Man, that guys made horrible decisions his whole life; What a loser,” then that does not seem egalitarian to me.

So, there seems to be something about putting ourselves in other people’s shoes, that strikes me as egalitarian. The knowledge that we could have just as easily been born into that person’s body, and into that person’s mind.

“Equality of natural rights” and “equality of opportunity” seems to me to miss some of these ideas. “Sameness” likewise. We do not want to be all the same. I don’t think anybody likes that idea.

What would seem egalitarian to me, is if the rich person worked to explain to people how to become rich. Or if the rich person sought to understand how to communicate such a thing, if simple spoken explanations would not work.

Or perhaps the rich man has it all wrong, and it’s the poor man who has something to teach to the rich man.

Or perhaps it is both. I don’t know, really.

Perhaps we don’t share these feelings, sympathies, values. If this is the case, we can adjust the text. This page is colored by my character; I am okay with changing it to be more inclusive. But I would want a section that says that: LionKimbro, here, feels this way, thinks this way, about this thing.

I sincerely think people are basically equal. People exercise reason. They imprint with different cultures, beliefs, attitudes, roles, and things like that. But I see an essential unity.

My dad told me: “The longer you live, the more you see people are different, and the more you see people are the same.”

I understand that among the Libertarians, Objectivists in particular, “Egalitarianism” is a bad word. It means that you want to take away all the prizes from the gifted, to “invent new ways to celebrate mediocrity,” to force people into communist poverty, to smash out desire, aspiration, effort, competition, etc., etc.,. And I’ve met the lefties that actually fit the mold of the bad word. (Perhaps, even, in reaction to the idea of the mold: exploring the option; PassagesOfPerspective.) But both miss the mark. I don’t see a reason why Egalitarianism has to be like that. If you believe in the Golden Rule, it doesn’t mean you have to force yourself on women, just because you wish they’d force themself on you. These are primitive and perhaps even willfully ignorant understandings of Egalitarianism and the Golden Rule.

I’m rambling. These things are important to me, and they play a role in my conclusions.

But we can loosen the page up.

Nah, don’t change it if you don’t want to – i’m not really sure exactly what the word “egalitarian” means, and anyway, on second thought i suppose that the reason why we want to provide equality of opportunity is that, in some sense, we believe that people really are of equal worth.

but do think about changing the “neurons are equal” bit.

(smile) :)

I’m just curious: Are the neurons actually physically different, or, are they different by position in the network?

I mean: Are there weirdo mutant neurons, or different types of neurons? I thought they were mostly the same? How do neurons vary?

(Somewhat OffTopic.)

I’m okay with taking the “neurons are equal” part out.

(diverging even further off topic)

I don’t know much about biological neurons.

In artificial neural networks (ANNs), every neuron is interchangeable with every other neuron. All the information is contained in the connections between neurons. (Some ANNs set up specific connections between neurons, then store a “weight” for each connection. Other ANNs have a place for the “weight” from each neuron to each other neuron – a neuron that is “unconnected” to some other neuron is the same as one that is connected, but with a weight of zero. Making a new ANN by shuffling the rows and columns of the connection matrix may shuffle around which neuron does what, and make the ANN work internally very differently, but from the outside it’s impossible to tell the difference betweeen the original ANN and this new ANN.)

John von Neumann and others figured out that “thinking machines” could be far, far simpler than anyone ever suspected.

Apollo Guidance Computer ... The Apollo flight computer … used 4,100 ICs, each containing a single 3-input NOR logic gate. … The decision to use a single IC design throughout the AGC avoided problems that plagued another early IC computer design, the Minuteman II guidance computer.”

Only one kind of gate is necessary to build a computer. Every IC in the AGC was completely interchangeable with any of the 4,099 other ICs in the AGC.

(straining to bring things back on topic)

However, some ICs in the AGC were placed in far more important positions than others. If an IC in the “branch” section failed, the entire machine would just sit there and hum, doing nothing useful. Other ICs, were they to fail, might cause some minor glitch every few minutes. A few ICs, were they to fail, might fail in a way that would never be noticed during the entire mission.

It is not true that every human in a hive mind is somehow bland, boring, the same as all the others, without independent personality. However, it is true that no particular human is inherently superior to all others. However, it is true that certain goals the hive mind may have are somehow “independent” of any particular human. There are enough people “interested” in certain goals that, if the people currently working on those goals were to lose interest and stop, others would step in. Conversely, if a big influx of new people started working on those goals, some of the less-interested people working on those goals might decide there are plenty of people in that area now, and switch to doing something else.

The hive mind can self-organize and make this kind of decision (“How many people should work on X?”) without any sort of hierarchy or central coordinator. But this requires people to make decisions for themselves (“Should I work on X or on Y?”), rather than simply following orders.

While some biological neurons might happen to be different than other neurons, my current understanding of the mechanist world view is that, if some other physical substrate (which could be composed of billions of identical repeating blocks) were able to accurately model enough of the connections between neurons in some brain, it would be impossible (from the outside personality alone) to distinguish the original brain from the model.

Not to go into too much detail since it’s offtopic on this page, but the answer (for biological neurons) to Lion’s question is:

  1. yes: there are physically different types of neurons which behave very differently.
  2. maybe: there may be differences in connectivity/role even amongst neurons of the same type.

(1) there are tons of neuronal subtypes. See a Google image search for neuron types for a picture of some of them. See neuronDB for a very small list of some of them. There are many, many more subtypes than this; they haven’t all even been classified (not nearly), so there’s no definitive count, but I’d guess hundreds or thousands. The subtypes can behave very differently; for example, some are silent and then fire single spikes, every now and then, some fire continuously at varying rates, some are silent and then suddenly have a burst of firing, and then some fire continuously and also burst (some pictures of some neural behaviors are [1]). There’s lots more differences too.

(2) We don’t know much about how neurons of the same type are connected, or about how computation works in neural systems. So we don’t know enough to know if, even among neurons of the same type, there are some “privileged” neurons with qualitatively different/more important “command” roles by virtue of their positioning/connectivity.

(mattis: 3 min flash on the second favorite organ here)

Amazing. Totally amazing.

They didn’t teach us that in high school. We learned about the synapse and the dendrite, and we learned about the chemicals that were sent across.

But this seems much more interesting. There are all kinds of different shapes of communication happening. Different shapes of connection, different shapes of activation. It is much more lively in there than I thought.

This isn’t a perceptron of uniform nodes, signals, and back-propagation algorithms.

I would suggest to identify humans with neurons and online communities with cells of a global brain (NooSphere, HiveMind). It’s like atomic structures replicated in solar systems. We will understand brain looking at us in analogy. Currently the NooSphere isn’t fully working, not cooperating, insane from an overall point of view. The globe doesn’t act as one organism, but parts act against each other. Currently the global brain system is in the state of bootstraping. While many are aware of something going on, the system has no awareness. This is a social process not an economic process, so most of science and economy seem to miss the point. People like AndriusKulikauskas (IndependentThinkers?) and FranzNahrada (GlobalVillages) seem to be at the forefront of understanding and pushing this process.

MattisManzel: Neurons are cells. they are the major cells in in the brain and the spinal cord and can make connections to nerve cells all over your body. Each nerve cell typically has several dendrites, and each dendrite has many synapses – perhaps that’s the word you meant to use?

Great to run into this page and this community. I am part of starting the SolSeedMovement where SolSeed is defined as “the body of all life” I think I may have found a new online hangout here at CommunityWiki :)

I think GlobalBrain is a better term than HumanCybernetics?.

Good evening, my friends. All of you have heads. They contain your brain. Something like 17 cm in a circle, not sure. Not very big, let’s say like a very large processor (explicitily joking). From this CPU signals get transmitted to parts of your body that are not further away than your feet, 2 meters of a network wire max. No, the bus-system are nerves, capable of an incredible multitasking but so slooow. The signal that you burnt your hand on the kitchen-stove takes a couple of dozens of milliseconds to be transmitted over this lousy distance of 1.5 m, from hand to brain. When I send a skype-message to lion, who is behind the atlantic and the land mass of north-america from where I am my message travels with the speed of light. Bus-systems: 1. intraindividual neuronal, 2. hive-mind. This’s why the hive mind works, I think. It takes ages til the server’s cpu has processed my fast travelling message, it takes even more ages til lion has read it, but the basical difference between the used lines: the neurons or the electic conducor remains. How long would it take me to realize if my arm was Berlin-Seattle long and I’d burn my hand in lions kitchen?


By the way, this nytimes article got me thinking about how mirror neurons could maybe serve as a system of thought transfer individuals in a group mind. Mirror neurons are neurons that respond both when you do a certain thing, but also when you see others doing the same thing.

If you have a set of neurons in your brain that are mirror neurons for task A, and Katy has a set of mirror neurons for task A, and Katy does task A with you watching, then maybe your sets of mirror neurons will fire in roughly the same patterns at the same time. So the mirror neurons would be somewhat like a telephone line between your brain; nearby neurons could cause Katy’s neurons to change their pattern, and presuming that this causes her to change her outward behavior, your mirror neurons would absorb the changed pattern. So neurons next to your mirror neurons could receive a signal from neurons next to Katy’s mirror neurons. (I’d like to note that I don’t know much about mirror neurons, and I don’t know if mirror neurons are actually capable of this… Do they influence behavior? Do sets of mirror neurons actually end up matching the patterns of firing of another person’s mirror neurons, or do they just become more likely to fire on an individual level? It seems pretty unlikely that they’d have the properties that would be needed to do this.. but it’s neat to think about)

There’s other connections to imitation, too. The article implies that mirror neurons help humans imitate other humans. If you’ve read it, remember how in Vernor Vinge’s group minds, the individuals sort of babble and imitate what one say a lot – the imitation is perhaps serving as a method for transfering data between the distributed processors that make up the group “brain”.

HiveMind might be driven by Stigmergic Collaboration. Also informative is Mayfields Ecosystem of Networks, and

Shoot! It looks like you were cut off; I’d really like to know the rest of what you were saying! :)

Of the two papers:

  • Stigmergic Collaboration – This one made me think of firms vs. markets. The social relationships are fine to connect the small group, but larger than that, and you have to go to an impersonal market model, or “StigMergy.” (in particular: price signalling.)
  • Ecosystem of Networks – I <3 this one; If I need to get anybody up to speed really fast on this stuff, I hope that I remember to show them this paper.

The second paper had a neat diagram in it, the “EcosystemOfNetworks.” What a great map! And good theory to explain it. It makes good sense to me, and explains (it seems to me) how the GlobalBrain functions.

My immediate thought:

I’m intentionally not doing this, so that you can start to flex your CommunityWiki editing muscles. :) No need to do it all; just pick one and try it out.

The most interesting one to me is EcosystemOfNetworks. That is not something I had seen before, and it nicely puts together a number of other thoughts & observations. It’s an attractive model.

I’m thinking: “Gee, I’m getting the CommunityRepository all set up now, …”

“Perhaps we should make a text format for collecting our thoughts and annotations on links, papers, what have you.”

So if we have a link to a page that we have thoughts about, perhaps it’d open up in a frame, and on the left you see our thoughts and categorizations and notes, and on the right, you see the page itself. Or something like that.

I am going to work on those today, Lion. I think it’s interesting how virtually all online communities seem to be a systemic hybrid of mass collaboration (StigMergy), and more localized social negotiation collaboration.

Your idea for CommunityRepository is starting to remind me a little of what we have been doing with WebAssistant TeleCommunity software. At least in terms of PersonalKnowledgeManagement? (PKM). (Maybe I should take that discussion to CommunityRepository?)

Yes, I am seeing this in more focus, too. I suspect one day, we’ll have a very clear (and communicable, and published, and communicated,) understanding about how people work together, what they are doing, how they are doing it, and so on.

We’ll be able to say: “Show me where groups are building something, what they are building, and show me the general field they are aware of and responding to.”

Like this NSA database, but visualized for everybody, for everybody who wants to be visible, and with security classifications that will surpass the IntelligenceCommunity? in complexity and depth: way beyond the simple “Personal, Group, Public” classifications we use today.

This message is visioning, and those visions establish goals and plans.

As for the repository: Yes, there’s an aspect that is similar in spirit to TeleCommunity?. I have a specific process and software in mind that I’m persuing, based on my old notebook system. I’ve just uplaoded my modified EMACS thought tagging module, that has identifiers for individual thoughts, tags for thoughts, timestamps, and summary lines. I’ve made more advanced notes on my other computer, that I want to upload soon as well. I’ve got the plans in my head for how to automate transfer to Inkscape, and am working out how to make the Inkscape blueprints for arranging thoughts. This is an angle of it that I am specificly persuing.

But also: The communal aspects, shaping our own collective, shaping our website, and our experience, and so on. It’s not just an intelligence system, it can also be a home, which has a different feel to it, like the CommunityWiki.

Incidentally, I do not see this as a replacement for the CommunityWiki. CW is much more live, and is incredibly mature. I see the repository as an addition, not a replacement. (Just in case you’re reading and wondering, Alex..!)

Sam, I’d really like to hear about TeleCommunity?, and what plans you have for it. :)


The power of names

Despite my proclivity for synthesis, I have become convinced that for a project of the magnitude and importance of the one described here, it is better to have a good array of names than the One True Name. The reason for this is that different names for the endeavor connect you to different communities of knowledge and technique and suggest the use of different tools and approaches.

For example, all my life I have struggled with periods, ranging from minutes to months, when it is very hard for me to get work done. Over the years I have given this problem a list of different names, including procrastination, writer’s block, sin, and attention-deficit disorder. Each name brought me a different set of books, theories about the cause, management techniques and therapeutic approaches.

If I understand correctly what you mean by HiveMind, it might be described as a mind, a cybernetic system, self-organized group of agents, a community, a government or enterprise, an economy, a classical game, an evolutionary game, a breakthrough to a new evolutionary level, a commons, a research project, an ecosystem of people, an ecosystem of ideas, and I am sure more. Each descriptions comes with one or more special inquiry and supports a unique set of tools and theories. Some of the focal questions could include:

  • What integrates the activities of a brain into a mind?
  • What promotes rapid, accurate communication in cybernetic systems?
  • What determines whether agent-based systems self-organize into stable larger structures?
  • What causes a community to be more or less cohesive, committed, or fun?
  • What causes some governments to provide excellent governance while others provide services that corrupt or low-quality?
  • Why do enterprises with similar levels of resources have widely varying productivity?
  • What makes some economies grow and others falter?
  • How can the system be set up so that individuals who intelligently maximize their own satisfaction will produce collective benefits?
  • When do organisms co-evolve toward mutualism?
  • What determines whether organisms make fundamental jumps in organization and capacity, through mutation, collaboration with similar organisms, or fusion with dissimilar organisms.
  • Under what conditions are commons and public goods maintained?
  • What structures and features lead to effective, productive research teams?
  • What factors tend to make ecosystems productive, stabile, and or diverse?
  • What determines how the intelligence, knowledge and wisdom of a group’s members aggregate into the intelligence, knowledge and wisdom of a group?
  • How does cooperation of evolve in replicator games between populations of strategies?

Each of these questions has a paired question: “How is the HiveMind like a____” (mind, game, economy, ecosystem, etc.)?, i.e. “Which of these lessons transfers, and which do not?”

Is this list, or portions of it, relevant and useful for the HiveMind project as you conceive it, or am I completely off track?

There are several of these framing questions in which I am pretty interested and about which I have at least a little rudimentary knowledgeable. Would it be useful to have short synopses of conditions that the literature suggests contribute to any of the following: stabile preservation of a commons (Ostrum), the success of cooperative strategies in evolutionary games (Axelrod, Sigmund, Binmore), coevolution of organisms toward mutualism (Margulis, Herre, Sachs), productive and stable ecosystems (Pimm), evolutionary leaps through fusion or cooperation (Smith & Szathmary, Michod), or networks of indirect reciprocity relations (Nowak, Leimar & Hammerstein)?

Andrew - I don’t have anything specific to add, but your comments regarding “the power of names” resonante so strongly for me when combined with other current lines of thought, that I thought I should (finally) at least make an introductory comment. In case you are interested, Lion has done a lot of work around LocalNames that I am in the muddle [sic] of working on. Also, The extensive discussions of “Namespace”(s) (in which I particularly respect the opinions of Alex and Helmut) also appear quite related from my perspective. These are also part of my current musings about TransClusion, MicroContent and microBlocks that are “intertwingled” with the issues of LinkLanguage.

My intent in posting this is to provide a few links links to related material that you may find interesting and that may at least remind me to strive to weave these (thought) threads together into a recognizable tapestry.

I must add that I like this multifaces approach as well - and here I add some literature. I’ve just started exploring the articles by Bettina Rockenbach and they are right dead on here. For example: Human altruism: economic, neural, and evolutionary perspectives, The Fisherman’s Problem: Exploring the tension between cooperative and non-cooperative concepts in a simple game. From another angle: When Collections of Creatives Become Creative Collectives: A Field Study of Problem Solving at Work by Andrew B. Hargadon, Beth A. Bechky.

Many science fiction works explore the idea of something similar to a “hive mind”, often condemning them as inevitably horrible and dehumanizing.

However, a few science fiction works suggest that a hive mind might be a positive natural development: “the city hive-minds. These instances of occasional group-consciousness were almost entirely human in composition … Group consciousness can be seen as a natural development … With hindsight, we can see the middle of era 15 as the “Age of Innocent Hives”. That is to say, in those times, where urban group-minds shimmered on the edge of existence they did so by and large without any clash with human freedom. … very few cases that went wrong … Otherwise, peace and goodwill reigned between city-minds and individual man.” – The Phosphorus Era

Also– FoundationsEdge?, by IsaacAsimov?.


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