The Global Brain

global consciousness

There is a project called the Global Consciousness Project (GCP) but is also referred to as the EGG Project. It is a parapsychology experiment that started in 1998.  It attempts to detect possible interactions of a “global consciousness” using physical measurement systems.

They monitor a geographically distributed network of remote hardware devices dubbed “Princeton Eggs” (short for electrogaiagram, from electroencephalogram a+ Gaia). An earlier version of the project was the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research project (PEAR).

Both believers in the project and skeptics have both said that GCP is trying to detect any “great disturbance in The Force.” The idea of a global consciousness is a concept that challenges not only our scientific view of reality but also our religious view of reality. If you investigate further, you can slip right into occurrences of transpersonal images in dreams (like people that have experienced angelic visions) which leads beyond dream interpretation and psychology to “spiritual emergence” and the transformative shift in our personalities.

The GCP is now privately funded through the Institute of Noetic Sciences and is self-described  as an international collaboration of about 100 research scientists and engineers.

global brain

I first came upon this idea indirectly when I was a kid and a voracious reader of classic science fiction like Jules Verne and H.G. Wells. I stumbled upon World Brain,  a collection of writings by the novelist, social reformer, evolutionary biologist and historian H. G. Wells. They were more than my young brain could grasp at the time, but I remember his idea. He wrote these back in the late 1930s and they describe his vision of a World Brain. He saw this as a new kind of free, synthetic, authoritative, permanent “World Encyclopaedia” that could help world citizens make the best use of universal information resources and make the best contribution to world peace.

In Wells’ time, there was no thought on an Internet, and computer networks were still more like sci-fi than reality in my childhood.  But in 1962, in the book Profiles of the Future, Arthur C. Clarke predicted that the construction of what H. G. Wells called the World Brain would take place in two stages: 1) the construction of the World Library 2) the construction of the World Brain, an artificially intelligent supercomputer. Humans would be able to interact with it to solve world problems. The “World Library” would be incorporated into the “World Brain.” Clarke predicted the “World Brain” would be ready by 2100.

It all sounds very close to the World Wide Web, the Internet itself, Wikipedia and Google’s attempts to collect all information. Wells’ gave 2000 as the date for his concept of a universal encyclopedia accessible to everyone from their home. Was he right, wrong or just damned close?

Oh, there are plenty of skeptics for the global consciousness idea. A good number of intellectuals question the methodology of the GCP in their data selection and interpretation. These people point to the anomalies reported by GCP as the result of “pattern matching” and selection bias. In 2003, a New York Times article dismissed it by saying that “All things considered at this point, the stock market seems a more reliable gauge of the national—if not the global—emotional resonance.”

If this seems irrelevant, I would point you to some widely accepted contemporary books that all talk about the idea of a collective intelligence: Howard Bloom’s Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century, Pierre Levy’s Collective Intelligence, Howard Rheingold’s Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution, and James Surowieki’s The Wisdom of Crowds.

Collective consciousness was a term coined by the French sociologist Émile Durkheim (1858–1917). He meant it to mean the shared beliefs and moral attitudes which act as a unifying force within society.

So, if the Global Brain is a worldwide intelligent network of people connected by information and communication technologies that creates an “organic” whole, does the Internet fulfill the definition? The Net is growing faster, more intelligent, more ubiquitous and more encompassing. It connects into a single information processing system. Is it the Earth’s brain?

The Global Brain is the title of a book from 1982 by Peter Russell in which he argues that the billions of messages and pieces of information flying back and forth are linking the minds of humanity together into a single, global brain. Add to that bookshelf Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century by Howard Bloom who describes the network of life on Earth as one that is a “complex adaptive system.”Each of us plays a sometimes conscious, sometimes unknowing role in this global brain. He feels that the World Wide Web is the latest step in the development of this brain. Blooms’ path to this brain goes all the way back to the big bang and our bacterial ancestors created multi-trillion-member networks 3.5 billion years ago.

From H.G. Wells to now, a global networked brain is always seen as a way of eliminating poverty and war. The political, societal and economic aspects of it are discussed books like Yochai Benkler’s The Wealth of Networks and Thomas Stewart’s  The Wealth of Knowledge.

The global brain has also appeared in a number of fictional works – think of the Borg from Star Trek, ideas in The Matrix films and .

Psi is a term from parapsychology derived from the 23rd letter of the Greek alphabet and from Greek psyche meaning mind or soul. The term was coined by biologist Bertold P. Wiesner in 1942 as a way to have non-theoretical manner of referring to extrasensory perception and psychokinesis.

Back to the Global Consciousness Project which Roger D. Nelson developed based on the earlier twenty years of controversial experiments at the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Lab.  One of the results of that early investigation was that electronic random number generators and random event generators (REG) seemed to be influenced by human consciousness.

Outside the laboratory, investigators examined the outputs of the generators in the field before, during and after group events from theater presentations, to religious rituals, the football World Cup, TV broadcasts like the Academy Awards, and after events like the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. The results showed promise and it was decided that a permanent network of continuously-running REGs was justified which resulted in the Global Consciousness Project.

If you read my earlier post on Terrance McKenna’s Timewave theory, you would see that his plotting of novelty is pretty close to the measurements that GCP is making. Both ideas have a hypothesis that events which elicit widespread emotion or draw the simultaneous attention of large numbers of people may affect the psi/energy/force of the global brain/consciousness and it can be measured by the output seen on the random number generators.

On the skeptical side, two independent scientists, Edwin May and James Spottiswoode, did their own analysis of the data collected around the September 11, 2001 events and concluded there was no statistically significant change in the randomness of the GCP data during the attacks.

So it goes. The network keeps expanding whether or not we recognize it.

Princeton Mind-Matter Interaction Research from Psyleron on Vimeo.

A very brief synopsis of the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research (PEAR) laboratory of Princeton University, whose research into mind-matter interaction forms the foundation of Psyleron Technology. Watch interviews with key PEAR lab staff, as they explain their experiments, including random event generators, their findings, and finally some of their implications. This is footage edited from Aaron Michels’ The PEAR Proposition – an 8-hour DVD set detailing the PEAR laboratory and its discoveries. You can find it on the Psyleron website.

Read about the PEAR project in Consciousness and the Source of Reality by the project investigators Robert G Jahn and Brenda J. Dunne.

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A lifelong educator on and off the Internet. Random by design and predictably irrational. It's turtles all the way down. Dolce far niente.

4 thoughts on “The Global Brain”

  1. Great post,haveing known little about any of these books etc. and not being computor literate,back in the seventies I saw the web as the new earth brain some things that have come up for me is where is this info being embeded , like the mystics talk about the Akashic records where our karma is stored,when we delete where does it go.The other thing that is on a low buzz now is Electronic pollution which will become a major problem when we admit to it.


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