“It is time for the birth of EcoSentience. ‘Eco’ comes from the Greek root word oikos, meaning house. ‘Sentience’ means to feel or to be conscious. Viewed from every scale, our home is the universe, the galaxy, the solar system, our biosphere, our bioregion, biome, city, neighborhood – indeed our very cells. Thus, EcoSentience means environmental awareness arising from deep self-awareness, ... a continuous loop of subjectivity, objectivity, and reflexivity.” Earth as a Lens, 2004
Before returning to the archetypal sphere, I feel compelled at the turn of this brand new year to talk a bit more about visioning, vision and visionaries.
I believe there is a different way of looking at the history of our world. Through this alternate view we will be able to shift to a new kind of world, an emergent world of beauty, truth and stewardship. To make this shift we must act together to re-vision our heritage and redefine our collective task. To see and to act, each and every one of us must embrace the role of the visionary. And if we do, the world we are poised to create and to witness in the 21st Century will be very different than the one currently outside our doors. It is a world of compassion and pluralism, of tolerance, of multiplicities; it is a syncretic domain of interactionism, of mass intelligence, of manyworlds – the rise of quantum consciousness, and the shared embrace of the global mind.
At the end of first decade of the 21st century we are beginning to witness the unveiling of a world emerging through a series of memes that are rapidly taking hold. This is what Doug Engelbart described as Collective I.Q.; Howard Bloom deemed it the emergent Global Brain or the Mass Mind, Ray Kurzweil coined it the Singularity. Kevin Kelly sees this hive mind or the global superorganism as a manifestation of the OM, or One Machine. Nova Spivack most recently suggests it is a higher order thinking capability with collective consciousness – the meta-individual. This viewpoint, Nova notes, is evolving as our communication tools (such as the semantic web) help to facilitate greater awareness and self-organization. Artificial Intelligence pioneer Steve Omohundro sees the potential of this phenomenon being shared by machines and humans alike, as self aware systems that have the ability to contain and convey wisdom as well as knowledge.
All of the views above were preceded by Peter Russell's call for us to look at planet Earth as a single organism in his 1983 film "Global Brain" and long before him by the vision of Buckminster Fuller.
The synonymous memes above emphasize the distributed nature of intelligence and the importance of global consciousness, a view whose time has come.
In 1975 biologist Edward O. Wilson shook the humanities and the sciences alike when he first released his book that originally invented the term sociobiology – asserting that biology influences social behavior and cultural evolution in the most essential ways. This view received monumental criticism for its first few decades while it began to take the age old nature/nurture debate into a completely new realm. With his newest book, Superorganism, the above memes may now be propagated to a new level once again, this time grounded in both computing and in the biological sciences – carbon and silicon, intertwined as as never before.
As Project Blue Brain completes its first phase, allowing us to visualize the activity of the neurostructure of the brain through the state of the art 3D visualization technologies, Wilson and co-author Bert Hölldobler help us see that the superorganismic traits of social insect societies such as bees and ants mirror the same principles as the neurostructure of the individual human brain. At the same time, writers, psychologists, artists, actors, neurologists and artificial intelligence communities are ignited by the profound ripple effect from the discovery that mirror neurons in the brain demonstrate the biological roots of the empathic response and hold the key to cohesive group behavior.
We can no longer deny that the group evolution is characterized by the same aggregate, autopoeitic behaviors as individual intelligence. We already share this group mind in our individual mind. We are finally becoming aware of its global presence and its transformational power.
Although the global community is experiencing our greatest world challenges to date, this emergent age of delicious entanglement carries with it a new vision for humanity as well – an opportunity to rise to our next evolutionary moment of self-reflexivity. Only now, we must rise together. We must collectively find a way to toggle effortlessly back and forth between the global mind and our own individual POV.
Each of us already, often unwittingly, unveils a scale independent view of consciousness and distributed self-awareness every time we open up the ephemeral vistas of collaborative cyberspace. I am sure we are finally reaching a time when the global brain idea, the superorganism and singularity perspective will not be likened to a cult phenomenon, a hyperbolic claim or merely a utopian vision of technology changing humankind.
Taking this back to Earth, I love to combine James Lovelock’s Gaia (Earth as a single organism) meme with those discussed above, while at the same time embracing Stuart Hameroff and Roger Penrose’s quantum physics model for the invisible interactions that happen in the microtubules of the brain - quantum consciousness. I suggest this is the perspective of EcoSentience - a return to seeing Earth as a quantum organism. We will soon be able to envision the pulsations of the organism and the global mind through visualization convergence in the birth to the geospatial, semantic web.
Over a decade ago, visionary Barbara Marx Hubbard pointed out that our generation’s zeitgeist and potential is an era of “conscious evolution” or the “evolution of evolution.” And in recent years we have begun to use technology to aid spiritual transformation with programs that have attempt to track and ground the presence of the collective human mind in science and practice – with programs such as the Global Consciousness Project (started at Princeton and Edinburgh Universities) and HeartMath’s Global Coherence Initiative. Many more of us are beginning to coalesce our shared intention and to heed Marx Hubbard's call.
As we become more comfortable embracing transformation as a modus operandi, and global consciousness as a compelling way to perceive our world, we will find that Collective Visioning is our key to collaborative transformation and the rise of the self aware superorganism. Now is the time to collectively look into the mirror of EcoSentience and see our conscious reflection. I suggest we already know how to answer the question, “What do I look like?”