Global Brain by Howard Bloom

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Global Brain by Howard Bloom

Postby The Meromorph on Tue Aug 29, 2006 11:56 am

Edit: I split this discussion off from the 'Little Voices in the head' topic in Comparative Theosophy.


I received "Global Brain" yesterday (And I had stuff to do when I got home, so I've only read about a quarter of it so far).
The book is explicitly and passionately about Group Selection and Intelligent Design (though the 'Intelligent Designer' is presented as the collective genetic engineering design skills of an assemblage of bacteria - not as a metaphor, as a literal re-design and re-engineering of their DNA, in situ and with purpose and foresight).
I'm at work, so I can't extract selections for you right now, but I will. I'll also finish the book (I keep my commitments). and keep you updated on my assesments, and with choice quotes. It is very hard work, the author's purple prose and hyperbole, and the multiple cognitive dissonances per page, are wearying to read, but I'll do it...
From his proud declaration that most of his biological theories were developed by physicists and mathematicians, through his avowed extensive sociological research backstage at concerts and in the homes and workplaces of countless celebrities, through his contention that neutrons and protons and electrons 'yearn for their partners', and that neutrons can only exist for 10.3 minutes and simply cease to exist after that, through his assertion that the internet was planned and designed by pre-Cambrian cyanobacteria, etc., etc. I have already learned one thing.
This guy is batshit crazy!


Edit for clarification: A free neutron decays with a half-life of about 10.3 minutes. This is not the same thing as saying a neutron can only exist for 10.3 minutes, still less as saying they cease to exist after they decay (Conservation of Energy etc.). This is a good example of the author's apparent fundamental misunderstanding of his undoubtedly wide reading.
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Postby anon1mat0 on Tue Aug 29, 2006 1:09 pm

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Postby Capellini on Tue Aug 29, 2006 1:14 pm

The Meromorph wrote:
deadgenome wrote:
The Meromorph wrote:I hope you find time to read it, I found it mind-expanding. :fsm_rock:


have you read Howard Bloom's Global Brain? It's about evolution of conciousness combined with a serious alternative to the Dawkins 'selfish gene' model.

With all due respect, I can hardly see a book based on 'group selection' as a 'serious alternative' to genetics, it lacks essential physical requirements to evolve (reproduction, inheritance).


It's called the group selection falacy for a reason
True terror lies in the futility of human existence.

Malcolm Reynolds is my co-pilot.

"The only freedom deserving the name, is that of pursuing our own good in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it. Each is the proper guardian of his own health, whether bodily, or mental and spiritual. Mankind are greater gainers by suffering each other to live as seems good to themselves, than by compelling each to live as seems good to the rest." - John Stuart Mill
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Postby The Meromorph on Tue Aug 29, 2006 2:47 pm

I managed to make it to halfway through the book over an (extended) lunchbreak.
No significant changes in his writing or logical techniques (or the Cognitive Dissonances Per Page Index), but, in my opinion, his basic problem is becoming clearer to me. If you start out passionately convinced that Group Selection must be right, then you are forced to invent group level and higher mechanisms to explain 'selection for what'. He goes with 'collective intelligence' for cyanobacteria etc., and 'social networks as brains' for 'higher organisms'. Then you are forced to invent mechanisms for actually accomplishing genome changes. I'm not confident of accurately and honestly summarizing his ideas here, you'll have to wait until I can pick and enter some quotes, but I can say he has a vivid imagination. I can't say his imagination is reality-based.


More to come...
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Postby The Meromorph on Wed Aug 30, 2006 3:25 pm

OK, I'm about 3/4 of the way through now, and I'm beginning to come to some (to me) disturbing conclusions about the authors underlying philosophies and about his motives for writing the book, but I'll reserve judgement on that until I've finished it.
I did promise some direct quotes, so...
Page 14 Para 2:
The instant of creation marked the dawn of sociality. A neutron is a particle filled with need. Ii is unable to sustain itself for longer than ten minutes (10.3 Minutes to be precise footnote converted to parenthesis). To survive, it must find at least one mate, then form a family. The initial three minutes of existence were spent in cosmological courtship, as protons paired off with neutrons, then rapidly attracted another couple to wed within their embrace, forming the two protons, two neutron quartet of a helium nucleus. Those neutrons which managed this match gained relative immortality. Those who stayed single simply ceased to be.

Page 15 Para 2:
One of the products of this inorganic copulation was life.
- small snip-
The latest findings suggest that before the new sphere's crust could even stabilize, the powers of chemical attraction yanked together the first detectable life. While massive rains of planetismals were still smacking this sphere like a boxer pummeling the face of an opponent, self replicating molecules paved the path for ... DNA. Massive minuets of DNA generated the first primitive cells - the prokaryotes - by 3.85 billion B.C. A geological wink after that - in roughly 3.5 billion B.C. - the first communal 'brains' were already making indelible marks upon the face of the sea.


Page 16 Para 1:
Another capacity of the colony [cyanobacteria in stromatolites] outshone even its architecture. Evidence indicates that each bacterial megalopolis possessed a staggeringly high collective IQ.


Page 18 Para 2:
In a crisis, bacteria did not rely on deliverance via a random process like mutation, but instead unleashed their genius as genetic engineers.
He's not speaking figuratively, the rest of the paragraph goes into great detail about that...

Page 42 Para continued from previous page:
The result of thirty-two years of field work observing the real thing - the mass mind in action
- small snip -
a technique closer to that used by Darwin and Margaret Mead - becoming a participant when major decisions were made in journalism, popular music, film, television, education, advertising, and politics. Roaming freely with notebook in hand, among the stars, the backstage crews, and crowds at stadiums...


Page 70 Para 2:
The proclamation that"there can be no such thing as an objective fact" has a great deal of validity.

I suspect that on his planet this may be true. :roll:

One other interesting attribute. The book is presented as a 'scientific work' replete with footnotes, chapter notes and bibliography. I was occasionally shocked enough by some of the cognitive dissonances to be moved to follow some of the chapter notes to see 'where he got that idiocy from'. Readers doing that may get some surprises... One illustrative example:
Page 148 Para 2:
Class - a factor that existed 25 million years ago -
has a chapter note reference (#27). The reference consists of a list of five scholarly works on the development of art in the 'upper palaeolithic' - approximately 25 millions years later than '25 million years ago'!


I'm having to slow down my reading of this book to allow my 'memetic immune system' to deal with the 'brain worms' I keep picking up from it. :mrgreen:
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Postby The Meromorph on Mon Sep 04, 2006 3:46 pm

Well, I finished the book. I had to wait a few days (and read a couple of new Pratchetts) to restore my mental well-being before posting a final summation.
The rest of the book grows increasingly confused and self-conflicted. Bloom seems to have a wide knowledge and a very loose grasp of history.
One particular gem is worth a quote:-
Page 161 1st Para
Pythagoras's followers didn't question his commandments, but tranquillized their wills with a phrase borrowed fron slaves"Autos epha ipse dixit"

Interesting that a Greek sect would adopt a Latin motto...

For a while I entertained the notion that Bloom's main purpose in writing this book was to 'massage the egos' of his adored celebrities, as he spends considerable time praising all their worst attributes as essential to the progress of humanity and the "global brain', but I think ,on reflection, that it was only a sideways way of ensuring his future welcome
Page 42,
spending thousands of hours in the private homes of celebrities, media executives ... SNIP ... Conference rooms, arenas,studios, dressing rooms, and the bedrooms and living rooms...

He seems particularly impressed by 'money people' calling them "Resource Sshifters", and likening them to (or perhaps confusing them with) people's consciences. (I said he was bizzare!)
Eventually he winds to a 'conclusion' that the Human race had better be pretty damn quick about improving the Internet, because we're loosing the battle against the global brain of the Bacteria.

I can't recommend any rational person reading this book. I can't guarantee the rationality of any person who has read this book. I had doubts about my own for a while...
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