Notes on
the writings of Howard Bloom
Some context about my interest in these works and their importance in that context.
In response to forecasts that ubiquitous globally networked computers will evolve into a "global brain" Bloom tell us that a worldwide neo-cortex has existed already for three billion years. In this book he tells us its story.
Some context about my interest in these works and their importance in that context.

I read both these books some time ago, Global Brain first (online at telepolis, and some years later in hard copy) and The Lucifer Principle later.

They were for me significant works (primarily Global Brain) and changed the way I thought about the world. To some degree this may have been because at that time I was bothered by a problem which Howard's effusions helped to clarify for me, and so what I think I got from the books may well be very personal and highly influenced by my needs at that time.

I'm going to try briefly to explain what my problem was and how Howard's insights helped me in this section, which may tell you more about me than it does about the books. Then I will say one or two things about each book which I hope will be a little bit more informative about what they actually say and to what extent I agree with the main claims and themes.

As to my own predicament when I read the books, let me first mention what I think of as the only previous time I came close to a similar predicament. This was my coming to the conclusion that there is no god, about which I have already written a few words. This I did at the age of 12, in what was a relatively painless process. The biggest problem to overcome was to accept that so many distinguished and important people could apparently believe in something which did not exist. Once reconciled to the possibility of mass delusions of this kind I moved on. I have thought very little about the matter since, and have avoided entering into debates about the existence of god, partly because I have never heard any arguments which hold water (and cannot conceive what such an argument might be like), but more because I have never even heard a coherent definition of what god is supposed to be (without which considering the existence question seems futile).

At around the age of 50 I retired from full time employment with a mind to do, among other things some philosophy. The kind of philosophy I had in mind included problems which belong to what in that century (the last one) was called analytic philosophy, which I had previously taken to be the most rational of the kinds of philosophy.

An early philosophical objective was to give an account of a particular kind of AI, of an architecture to realise it, and the philosophical rationale for that architecture. Fundamental to the rationale was the analytic/synthetic dichotomy. Though I was previously aware that this had been attacked by Quine in his paper "Two Dogmas of Empiricism" [Quine53a] I had not previously been aware of how successful that assault had been. I revisited the paper and once again found no merit in the critique, but now appreciated that the critique had been so substantially absorbed into the culture of analytic philosophy in the second half of the twentieth century that it seemed virtually to be taken for granted.

What I now believed was, that virtually the entire philosophical community appeared to have accepted a thesis (that the analytic/synthetic dichotomy is untenable) which seemed to me not only false but completely without merit. The arguments presented in the paper seemed to me entirely sophistical, and I could not believe that philosophers accepting them could be doing so rationally. There seemed no point in making a rational response, for the basis for acceptance could not possibly in my view have been rational (and there had been some good rational responses at the time, which apparently had little impact).

Here was for me a problem much greater than the problem of why eminent and apparently intelligent people could believe in God. Here we have an entire community which prized itself on its intelligence and rationality believing a proposition on grounds which I could not conceive as rational. It is not just that they were mistaken, I simply could not believe that their acceptance was rational and would yield to counter-arguments. Furthermore, this was more of a problem for me than belief in God ever was, for in England in 1960 the fact that some people believed in God did not greatly impact those who did not. As a 12 year old at a boarding school, I was required to attend church every Sunday, and this was of course, to my mind, a waste of time, but still, not a big deal.

The irrationality of philosophers was a much bigger issue, for I wanted to do philosophy, and this belief undermined the entire enterprise. What is the point in writing (analytic) philosophy if the only people who might conceivably read it are irredemably irrational?

Reading Global brain helped me to understand this phenomenon. It did not get me out of the bind exactly, but it helped me to see the irrationality of philosophers as a consequence of an intelligible evolutionary process. (I should add perhaps that this has little to do with the title or the central thesis of the book, which seems to me window dressing to give the underlying perceptions about the nature of evolution and its impact on human nature more impact. One of Hume's messages in his "Treatise on Human Nature" was that it is our nature to believe propositions for which there is no basis in our sensory evidence. Bloom's message is in part that we are, by nature, much more radically irrational than Hume imagined.)

The Lucifer Principle
The following quote gives you an idea of what "The Lucifer Principle" is:
The nature scientists uncover has crafted our viler impulses into us: in fact, these impulses are a part of the process she uses to create. Lucifer is the dark side of cosmic fecundity, the cutting blade of the sculptor's knife. Nature does not abhor evil; she embraces it. With it she moved the human world to greater heights of organisation, intricacy, and power.
As a foundation underlying the Lucifer Principle the Bloom offers the following five principles:
  1. the principle of self-organising systems
  2. the superorganism
  3. the meme
  4. the neural net
  5. the pecking order
Global Brain
In response to forecasts that ubiquitous globally networked computers will evolve into a "global brain" Bloom tell us that a worldwide neo-cortex has existed already for three billion years. In this book he tells us its story.
The purpose of these notes.
Biology, evolution and the Global Brain.
1. Creative Nets in the Pre-Cambrian Era
4.55 billion b.c, to 1 billion b.c.: From the big bang to the microbial global brain.
2. Networking in Paleontology's 'Dark Ages'
3. The Embryonic Meme
720 million b.c. to 65 million b.c.: As soon as you get a nervous system with a brain you have memory and organisms evolve to pick up behaviour from their peers.
4. From Social Synapses to Social Ganglions: Complex Adaptive Systems in Jurassic Days
Complex adaptive systems in Jurassic days.
5. Mammals and the Further Rise of Mind
6. Threading a New Tapestry
7. A Trip Through the Perception Factory
8. Reality is a Shared Hallucination
9. The Conformity Police
10. Diversity Generators: The Huddle and the Squabble - Group Fission
11. The End of the Ice Age and the Rise of Urban Fire
12. The Weave of Conquest and the Genes of Trade
13. Greece, Miletus and Thales: The Birth of the Boundary Breakers
14. Sparta and Baboonery: The Guesswork of Collective Mind
15. The Pluralism Hypothesis: Athens' Underside
16. Pythagoras, Subcultures and Psycho-Bio-Circuitry
17. Swivelling Eyes and Pivoting Minds: The Pull of Influence Attractors
18. Outstretch, Upgrade and Irrationality: Science and the Warps of Mass Psychology
19. The Kidnap of Mass Mind: Fundamentalism, Spartanism and the Games Subcultures Play
20. Interspecies Global Mind
21. Conclusion: The Reality of the Mass Minds Dreams: Terraforming the Cosmos

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