Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Superorganism Meme Returns (Although It Never Really Left)

E.O. Wilson's new book reignites the superorganism debate. The issue of the superorganism is particularly relevant to cybernetics (and any discussion of emergence) because superorganisms seem to: "exhibit a form of distributed intelligence–a system in which many individual agents with limited intelligence and information are able to pool resources to accomplish a goal beyond the capabilities of the individuals."

Here, Wired recounts the history of the superorganism meme:

It became a powerful meme among computer geeks, as any Google search reveals. Programmers got to work building "ant-based" search and scheduling-optimization algorithms modeled on the foraging patterns of real-world ants. Cybervisionaries saw in the superorganism an ideal way of describing the networked global brain that they were just beginning to imagine. The idea meant the singularity might be nearer than anyone thought. Wired's Kevin Kelly drew on Wilson's theories for the conceptual framework of the Hive Mind, humanity's emerging cognitive interconnectedness. Even today, Kelly is writing about the One Machine and the Technium, a neologism he defines as "a superorganism of technology."

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