IS4SI Future of the Global InfoSphere (FGIS)


It’s a mistake to assume that the global information technologies that enable billions of people each day to communicate with each other and mediate innumerable small tasks are merely providing a passive conduit through which human interactions pass unmodified. And it would be naïve to assume that the explosive increase in interconnectedness between people and machines leaves human cognition and social interaction unmodified. Already various access providers, corporations, analytic services, and governmental agencies have begun using powerful machine learning systems to analyze and manipulate our habits of thinking, behaving, and communicating. And by subtly modifying the flow of information that is provided to users, they have discovered what is probably the most powerful behavior modification technique in history. But this vast ecosystem of information traffic is also subject to ubiquitous self-organizing tendencies that are often difficult to predict and control. And it is well within the realm of technical possibility that the entire world wide information system could become autonomously regulated by machine learning algorithms whose purpose is to manage the vast flows of information traffic in ways that protect and reinforce its own integrity. This could be the result of the dominance of a single IT service provider, the synergy among many, or simply a collective regulatory effort necessitated by the vast size and complexity of this system, which only an equally complex artificially intelligent system could manage. However this might come about, it would be the first step toward a sort of global AI or collective higher-order intelligence. Many scholars have predicted the emergence of such an autonomously adaptive global intelligence, whether by design or just incidental to our rush to adopt information technologies of ever-greater power and autonomy. They take seriously the possibility that our technological advances could produce a sort of worldwide IT superorganism or global mind, as this network of intelligent systems becomes increasingly interlinked and autonomous. Variations on this theme have been echoed in discussions of a possible computational “singularity” and in speculations about the growth of a global pan human “noosphere.”

These all-too-near possibilities raise many interesting and pressing questions that we hope to explore in this mini conference within IS4SI 2019. We encourage the submission of presentations that address the possible emergence of an information-based super organism/global brain and how this challenges us to rethink the concepts of both information and cognition.

Possible Topics:

  • What are the effects on human cognition and social interaction caused by the explosive increase in information flow and interconnectedness between people and machines?
  • Some scholars postulate a collective higher intelligence forming with our brains connected via networks of machines and AI. Could the integration of human brains interconnected via technology form a single higher order intelligent agent; i.e. a global mind?
  • Could an emerging IT-based global infosphere that linked human cognition with AI create a global pan human “noosphere”? How might a noosphere be different from a superorganism or global mind?
  • To what extent is the concept of a worldwide IT superorganism or global mind an artificial construct (in the sense that it is strictly technology)?
  • Does the possibility of the emergence of an IT-based super organism/global mind require rethinking the concepts of information and cognition?
  • How might the organization and function of a higher order IT-based global intelligent system be similar or different from a biological brain?
  • Could a higher order IT-based global intelligent system have human attributes such as compassion, ethics, etc.? If not, what would be missing? If so, what would be necessary?




  • Distributed consciousness: information processes that may build a global mind

Francis Heylighen

Abstract Description: According to theories of situated, embodied, enactive and distributed cognition, mental processes such as perception, memory, and proble solving extend well outside the brain. For these processes, we rely on our body, environment, tools, technologies, symbols and other people. The Internet functions as a universal information medium that may coordinate all these components and processes into a global brain, i.e. a nervous system for the planet. However, a recurrent issue is whether such a distributed cognitive system would exhibit consciousness. To approach that issue, I review basic theories of consciousness and examine in how far they allow an “extension” outside of the brain. I argue that the basic requirement is that there is strong co-variation or coordination between internal and external processes, which perhaps can be measured with conditional entropy (rather than the mutual information that is more commonly used to measure “information integration”). I discuss several observed examples of “extended” consciousness, and wonder whether they could develop into a global consciousness residing in a “noosphere”.


  • The self in action: Volition in men, mice and machines

Paul Verschure

Abstract Description: The notion of free will is fundamental for moral responsibility while it is mostly not understood and even questioned as an illusion. In parallel, there is a common concern about future Artificial Intelligence and its applications which assumes artificial volition, raising questions on the realization and control of moral machines. Given this controversial nature of free will, a well-defined theory of this phenomenon is both of great scientific and practical interest. Starting from a well-established theory of mind and brain, called Distributed Adaptive Control (DAC, Verschure, 2016), I will advance a neurobiologically grounded theory of volition, DACv. DACv sees volition as a core process of mind and brain, built from systems for executive control, agency, mind-travel and self. I will provide preliminary data from experiments on intracranially implanted epilepsy patients to support DACv and describe its implementation in an embodied AI system and its current application in neuro-rehabilitation and education.


  • Lost in a forest of exponentials

Paul Saffo

Abstract Description: This is an age shaped by much more than Moore’s Law – it is an age of multiplying exponentials in myriad fields from computer science to life science and beyond, each creating surprise, opportunity – and turbulence. The combined effect is  “hyper-exponential moment” defined by multiple exponential phenomena collectively cross-impacting and cross-accelerating science discovery and technological innovation. The consequence is the defining challenge of our age: the ever-growing gap between hyper-exponential acceleration and slower-moving cultural and social norms and systems. A century of discovery has left us lost in an exponential forest, distracted by our innovations and utterly unable to find our way out. The actions we take to address this in the next decade will define the shape of the next century — and perhaps the future of humanity.


  • Teilhard’s Vision of a Global Consciousness: Notes on the Noosphere

Ed Tywoniak

Abstract Description: Marshall McLuhan predicted in 1964 that we, as a species, were approaching the “nal phase of the extensions of man – the technological simulation of consciousness, when the creative process of knowing will be collectively and corporately extended to the whole of human society …” (p. 3). McLuhan’s prophetic words frame many of the key questions being asked at this mini-conference, and throughout the IS4SI conference in general, including: (1) What are the eects on human cognition and social interaction caused by the explosive increase in information ow and interconnectedness between people and machines? and (2) Could an emerging IT-based global infosphere that linked human cognition with AI create a global pan human “noosphere” to use the language of the late Teilhard de Chardin, and how might a noosphere be dierent from a superorganism or global mind? These questions, and others, were a part of a recent research project investigating the feasibility of an evolving global consciousness. This paper provides some ndings from that inquiry including some eects of living in the digital world on people’s attitudes and emotional well being. This paper will also proer some insights and possibilities pertaining to the intersection of human and machine intelligence; with one such perspective focusing on whether or not such an evolutionary development as a global brain could be considered having a direction, and if so, can such a direction be guided by human interaction.


  • Teilhard de Chardin’s Noosphere as a Great Leap in Being

Brian Thomas Swimme

Abstract Description: It is time to ask such large questions as, How is it that Homo sapiens became a planet-wrecking force? When humans invented symbols enabling the storage of learning in external memory systems, they gave birth to a Lamarckian species that grew in intelligence for 200,000 years. The natural selection dynamics that had maintained the integrity of the planetary systems of life were suddenly impotent, for no other species could compete. Terrence Deacon has remarked that because of this capacity it is more accurate to think of Homo sapiens as an entirely new phylum. We can summarize the situation by saying that though our species developed into a planetary force, we proceeded as if we were just another primate species. A second question we need to ask is, How can a change in our processing of information transform Homo sapiens into a life-generating presence? One fertile suggestion comes from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin who saw humanity as constructing the noosphere, an envelope of thought around the planet. At the present time, the survival and well-being of every species on Earth depends on its relationship with the noosphere. A major step in evolution will come about when we develop the mathematics for the next generation of AI codes. At present, the foundation for our coding is still at the level of a primate species: “acquire free energy and multiply.” We need a planetary AI founded in the mathematics of complex systems and governed by a new principle: “Record data and identify pathways for the enhancement of the systems of life.” [Bio: Brian Thomas Swimme is co-author with Thomas Berry of the Universe Story and is professor of cosmology at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco.]


  • The Third Story: The Poetics of Science and a Metaphysics of Becoming

Monica DeRaspe-Bolles

Abstract Description: Western humanity is guided by one of two cosmological stories. The rst story is primarily a biblical or spiritual tradition of God creating the universe, setting it in motion, and perhaps acting upon it from time to time from the outside. The second story understands the universe as comprised of bits of inert matter governed by xed, external laws. Ilya Prigogine and Isabelle Stengers point out that Western thought oscillates between these two stories: a theology in which God governs the universe; and the “world as an automaton.” They note: “In fact these visions are connected. An automaton needs an external god.” (Order Out of Chaos: Man’s New Dialogue with Nature, 6-7). The fundamental and pervasive assumption of transcendent and external forces – be they Gods or laws– acting on the natural world from the outside is not only unfounded, but disastrous, leading the human to believe it can manipulate its environment and control the future. What is needed is The Third Story, a story rmly grounded in a metaphysics that holds becoming, not being, as the more fundamental, and far more important, reality. Precedence for an emphasis on time-development and becoming-as-fundamental reality is provided by Ilya Prigogine in the science of complexity and non-linear thermodynamics, with his notion of “dissipative structure;” in the semiotic philosophy of C. S. Peirce; and in the evolutionary cosmology of Teilhard de Chardin. The third story breaks completely with the dualistic epistemological issues that normally arise from the incommensurability of mind and body; reveals a far richer understanding of becoming persons in a dynamic, unied, developing universe; and guides the profound and potentially transformative role of the human as embedded collaborator in the ongoing construction of a new era of Earth.


  • Blurring of the human and the artificial. A conceptual clarification

Wolfgang Hofkirchner

Abstract Description: Due to certain progress made in AI and related elds it is a common agreement of facing a blurring of the human and the articial. This presentation will argue that this agreement is rather one that pertains to anthropomorphic notations when dealing with computers and computer-based devices than one that is justied by engineering results. In fact, the language used to describe mechanic functions hides what ontologically goes on and how the autonomy of humans can be endangered. The clarication intended here uses Rafael Capurro’s distinction between agents and patients and translates it into a distinction between self-organising systems and non-self-organising entities. One important question is how the “coupling” of self-organising systems with non-self-organising entities can be conceptualised. It will be argued that the “merger” will not provide a new quality beyond humans (social systems) and machines but a new quality within the scope of the rst only. It’s, in principle, a social system that diers by the usage of technology. However, if designed the wrong way, the qualitative change can be detrimental to the whole social system. This is the case when the articial restricts the autonomous capability of the human.


  • The Singularity Hoax-Why Computers Will Never Be More Intelligent than Humans

Robert K Logan

Abstract Description: We argue that the dream of the supporters of the technological Singularity, the notion that computers will one day be smarter that their human creators will never be realized. The notion of intelligence that advocates of the technological singularity promote does not take into account the full dimension of human intelligence. Human intelligence as we will show is not based solely on logical operations and computation, but rather includes a long list of other characteristics that are unique to humans that the supporters of the Singularity ignore. The list includes curiosity, imagination, intuition, emotions, passion, desires, pleasure, aesthetics, joy, purpose, objectives, goals, telos, values, morality, experience, wisdom, judgment, and even humor.


  • THE “SOCIOTYPE” IN THE INFORMATION ERA: How Homo loquens fares in the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Pedro Marijuan

Abstract Description: Conceived along the genotype-phenotype-sociotype conceptual triad, the sociotype means the adaptive nature of our sociality, the relative constancy or similar fabric of the social world in which each individual life is developed. There seems to be an average of social networking, with very ample upper and lower limits, concerning the number and types of bonding relationships that an individual is able to maintain meaningfully. Actually, the sociotype’s structure basically revolves around two primary questions: With whom do we talk? and, How much are we talking? Social bonds and conversation times functionally correspond to each other and their respective data show very interesting properties and regularities, particularly in their mutual interaction. Although a number of studies have been devoted to social networks, very few –if any– have investigated how social bonds’ creation and maintenance correlate with conversation times. In that respect, the Planckian Distribution Equation has been applied to empirical data on this “quantitative sociotype”. Age, gender, personality, occupation, social class, local culture, etc. are individual and supraindividual factors strongly inuencing the sociotype; but the means of communication, media, and entertainment of each epoch become further formidable modiers. Analyzing historical variations of the sociotype in those “revolutionary” epochs when, apparently, everything changes around the communication structures of homo loquens becomes an intriguing exercise. [Independent Scholar, dedicated to Bioinformation Group Aragon Institute of Health Science (IACS), 50009 Zaragoza, Spain]