Global SuperOrganism

A nice essay to freak you out from Kevin Kelly… computing superorganisms…

I am not the first, nor the only one, to believe a superorganism is emerging from the cloak of wires, radio waves, and electronic nodes wrapping the surface of our planet. No one can dispute the scale or reality of this vast connectivity. What’s uncertain is, what is it? Is this global web of computers, servers and trunk lines a mere mechanical circuit, a very large tool, or does it reach a threshold where something, well, different happens?

So far the proposition that a global superorganism is forming along the internet power lines has been treated as a lyrical metaphor at best, and as a mystical illusion at worst. I’ve decided to treat the idea of a global superorganism seriously, and to see if I could muster a falsifiable claim and evidence for its emergence.

My hypothesis is this: The rapidly increasing sum of all computational devices in the world connected online, including wirelessly, forms a superorganism of computation with its own emergent behaviors.

10 thoughts on “Global SuperOrganism

  1. BigD145 says:

    Heinlein covered this some 40-50 years ago. Get with the times, bub.

  2. Pat says:

    I think his ordering is wrong in the middle. First is exist, second should be smart, third should be autonomous, fourth should be conscious. You can be smart without being autonomous – any Bayesian spam algorithm is, to some degree, smart: it gains in effectiveness as it’s exposed to data.

    Autonomous would be a spam algorithm deciding whether or not something was spam on its own and using that to add to its dataset. I don’t think you can remotely consider Google, Amazon, etc. to be autonomous yet, nor do I ever think they would be. They’re there to make money for their companies, and the companies would never let the algorithm decide what might do that.

  3. Toxyn says:

    Have none of you seen the Terminator films?

    SKYNET is coming!!

  4. The Snob says:

    This is the sort of thing I’d expect to hear at 2am in the dorms after a couple bowls of good hydro. Fun, but I see nothing particularly rigorous in the approach.

  5. Frank Herbert says:


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