The Holistic SuperBrain

Overview:

The idea of a "control system" is taken from cybernetics and applied on the global scale to the problem of realising a better world.
Introduction
The holistic aspect of The Global SuperBrain is introduced as a thought experiment, to help us think about the future and how to make it turn out the way we want it to be.
Control Systems
A brief description of how a control system is put together.
Heating Example
The control system is illustrated by the example of a thermostatically controlled heating system.
Global Control
Now we try to make some capital out of thinking of the the whole earth as a control system in which the global superbrain exercises the control.
Local Action
Though the information processing in the holistic superbrain is distributed, every action is undertaken by an independently intelligent subnode, usually a person.

Introduction:

The holistic aspect of The Global SuperBrain is introduced as a thought experiment to help us think about the future and how to make it turn out the way we want it to be.
Thought Experiment
This holistic dimension of the Global SuperBrain may be considered as a thought experiment which may help us to get a handle on how the human race plots its course into the future.
Biosphere as Superorganism
The first stage in the thought experiment is to consider the earth's biosphere as if it were a single superorganism. (It doesn't matter whether its really a superorganism, whatever that means).
The Brain of the Superorganism
Next we consider what the brain of this superorganism is. This is what we are going to talk of as "the global superbrain". Its not crucial for present purposes exactly where the boundary lies; lets include the brains of all the humans on the planet, all the communications media which may help these brains to work together, and all the artifical brains we have built. So this includes the internet and all the computers hanging off it.
The Cybernetic Perspective
Next we think of the earth as a whole, superbrain, superorganism and the rest of planet earth which is its home, as a control system. Its worth talking through whether this makes sense and what purpose it may serve.
Optimising the Future
The control system is controlling the future of earth and all who sail in her. The idea is, that if we can make the control system work better, we can have a better future.

Control Systems: Principia Cybernetica - control

A control system consists of a controller with an objective, with sensors to observe and with levers to influence the controlled system.
Elements
A control system consists of the following elements:
  1. A system being controlled
  2. An ideal state which we would like the system to be in
  3. A controller which tries to get the system closer to the ideal state
  4. Some sensors which provide information about the system for the controller
  5. Some effectors which the controller can use to influence the state of the system
Control System
Negative Feedback Principia Cybernetica - feedback
Information is fed from the system via the sensors to the controller which then influences the system using the effectors so as to bring the system closer to the ideal state. This circular flow of information which attempts to eliminate divergence from the ideal is called a negative feedback loop.
Dynamics
A homeostatic Principia Cybernetica - homeostasis control system tries to maintain the system in a static ideal state. The ideal state need not be fixed, but could be subject to modification. The ideal might also be itself be dynamic, a control system need not be homestatic.

Heating Example:

A control system consists of a controller with an objective, with sensors to observe and with levers to influence the controlled system.
System
To illustrate simple (homeostatic Principia Cybernetica - homeostasis) control systems we consider the example of a thermostatically controlled heating system. Each of the key features of control systems are illustrated by reference to this example. The controller in this case would be some electronics, the controlled system would be a room or a building.
Ideal
In the case of the heating system the ideal state is that the room be at the temperature set on the thermostat.
Controller
The controller would be a bit of electronics which is connected to the sensors and effectors (or maybe just a wire!).
Sensors
The sensor would be one or more temperature sensors or thermostats, which either indicate the temperature or indicate whether the temperature is above or below the ideal.
Effectors
The effector is the switch which turns the heater on and off, or maybe something which controls the amount of fuel or power being fed to the heater.
Negative Feedback Principia Cybernetica - feedback
When the temperature looks too low, the heat is turned on, which brings the temperature closer to the target. When its too high, the heat is turned off, and the temperature should fall.

Global Control:

The Global Brain is a "society of minds" each acting as a control system for its environment. The combined effect is that of a distributed global brain controlling the global superorganism and ecosystem.
System
The system is planet Earth including all its inhabitants.
Ideal
The ideal is our vision of the how things should be. This may be a mix of high level ideals (fulfillment for all) and detailed low level principles (e.g. low crime, low pollution).
Controller
The global superbrain, a distributed controller consisting of every human brain on the planet connected together through broadband computer networks (and some more traditional channels).
Sensors
All the sensors which come attached to the human brains plus whatever else we care to hang off the computers.
Effectors
Billions of hands and feet and other human parts. Any computer controlled machinery connected to the network. Better, however, to think in terms of economic, political and social decisions made by the individual brains.
Negative Feedback
The idea is to make every decision count. So we need best possible information on the effects of our purchase and voting choices in relation to progressing towards our ideals, both at local and global levels.

Local Action:

Though the information processing in the holistic superbrain is distributed, every action is undertaken by an independently intelligent subnode, usually a person.
Autonomous Viewpoint
Each individual has a perspective in which he alone is attempting to influence local and global outcomes by using a repertoire of possible actions which includes various ways of influencing others.
Goals
Each individual will arrive at his own ideas about which of the possible futures is preferable. He may just prefer a future which has been articulated by some other person or group of people, or he may himself actively engage in the development and articulation of proposals for the future.
Information
In many matters the individual will rely upon the information gather by others and presented to him through the global network, since he has himself neither the sensors nor the processing power to match the global capability. Nevertheless he will require this information to be oriented towards his special purposes and circumstances.
Action
The individual seeks to maximise the effectiveness of his every action in contributing to the realisation of his preferred futures. He may find that the most effective steps he can take are directed to influencing others.


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