MAYBE WE NEED A TRANS-NOOSPHERIC BIOSPHERE. What does that mean? It is simply a noosphere that looks beyond itself. Rather than being narcissistically self-involved, it optimizes for hybridization with cosmic & biospheric patterns.Noosphere?
You're pretty hip. Obviously you know that the memetic term “noosphere” was popularized by the Soviet bio-geologist Vladimir Vernadsky and then by the famous French Jesuit paleontologist-priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.
A biosphere envelops the geospheric mineral planet. Likewise, a noosphere (from a cool ancient Greek word for mind
) is a semantic sphere of dynamic knowledge that enfolds the living realm. This idea seemed pretty far out in the 1920s but appears quite plausible now that telecommunications satellites and digital internets have literally surrounded the biosphere with an ocean of constantly flowing human information.How exciting! Look what we did! This technological exoskeleton of pure data is like a whole new regime of consciousness! It is probably evolving into a global brain whose unfathomable superintelligence will absorb us all. Huzzah! We should be piously studying it like a living organism. What are its various organs? How has it emerged?
These kinds of thrilling questions predominate in this short video
on “Mapping the Noosphere" from the the good folks at humanenergy.io
. It is part of their Noosphere Film Series
. Plus on their website you can download a special app from Google
where you can watch the unfolding emergence of the noospheric superbeing. Observe the astonishing history of electric lights overlaid with how many roads exist! Look at a global fetus made from clusters of millions of random human beings.
Let the noosphere into your mind...Okay, What's Missing?
There's virtually no mention of ecology. Even, somewhat disturbingly, in their articles on ethics
. In fact there is virtually no discussion around any kind of discernment between different types or qualities of noospheres with different relationships to the rest of the system.
What's healthy? What's authentic? Why aren't we asking things like this about noospheres?
One way to open the question of qualitative differences within noospheres would be to look at how well their technosocial patterns replicate or resonate with biological patterns. It is common judge a human mind to be unhealthy if it deviates dramatically from the natural functional realities of its embodied, affective organism -- which is embedded in complex natural realities.
Perhaps we should apply a similar kind of judgement to the noosphere? After all, the emergence of a vast. concrete city without trees is not necessarily a great leap forward into a new superintelligence. It could be a tragic stumble backwards into a barren landscape of pre-biological geology? Grey. Unyielding. Devitalized.
Does a dehumanizing technological situation count as noospheric -- or anti-noospheric?
Thinkers like John Allen (founder of Biosphere 2) and Wade Davis have proposed that ethnospheres
are necessary. In their terminology, these are culturally rich fusions of human technology & biospheres. Poetic and pragmatic cultural patterns that encode a biospheric constraint upon the technosphere. An emergent way-of-living that is predicated upon the idea that the value
of a noosphere lies precisely in its adaptation to ecologies.
By that standard we could argue that the noosphere peaked centuries ago and has been going downhill ever since...
Yet we must we surely guard ourselves against a naïve liberal optimism which trusts that processes are always unfolding toward their most glorious future state. The optimal and maximal are not identical.
Getting warmer after a dip in a freezing river is lovely... but continuing to increase your body temperature is not an astonishing trajectory toward triumph.
The Google-aligned folks at the Human Energy project seem, in general, to treat the prominent display of technological artifacts as if that were identical to the noosphere. (Check out this blog
for one approach to differentiating technosphere, noosphere & global brain.)
The mere flow of information might not indicate actual noospheric activity any more than our everyday, stress-based and automatic mental self-talk constitutes any real thinking,
Without trying to make even basic qualitative distinctions, we risk conflating a real noosphere with Moloch
...Back to the Biosphere
Philosopher Sean Kelly refers to the Anthropocene as the Gaianthropocene
to suggest that mass-scale human activity is part of the awakening sentience of the biosphere. Maybe that's true. Maybe it is a poetic way of suggesting that we need to start insisting that human activity is only legitimate as an ethical and intentional convergence with the long-evolved functional patterning of Gaian systems.
That is another way of saying that the digitally-empowered noosphere should be inspecting nature rather than itself. One common critique of the large language models that run ChatBot pseudo-intelligences is that they are not mapping reality. They are only mapping conversations.
Language about language about language... like legendary Narcissus staring into his own pond.
Any future advances in artificial intelligence will likely require these systems to experientially map the actual world. Mapping quite dissimilar types of data across different domains seems essential for both sanity & sapience.
For example. the school of Ecological Economics points out the dangers of a global economy that refers only to itself:
If the quantities involved in price-negotiations are derived without reference to the value of pre-sold, pre-processed and ecologically-embedded (and fundamentally limited) natural resources, then the invisible hand of the market
is doomed to operate in a schizoid, self-destructive manner.
Obsessively watching your own unfolding processes is a well-known recipe for failing to attend to the relationships upon which your wellbeing and strength depend. Regression or Advance?
Ken Wilber's integral critique
of mystical flatland ecology points out that nature is not
more inclusive than humanity simply because it is physically larger.
In his strange model, the biosphere is not above us but rather it extends “sideways” from the cells within an individual's evolutionary stack. The biosphere is the social dimension of the cells in your brain. The noosphere is the social dimension of your brain.
So human minds are bigger than ecology?
This weird idea usefully challenges the regressive tendency that is build into a lot of mystical naturalism. A living planet without culture and technology is not necessarily a paradise. A tribal animism devoted to flow states and ecological immersion will not solve all our problems.
Yet that is not exactly what happens then the shaman encounters the Spirit of the Forest speaking to her through the wind-creaked oak.
In that type of encounter, there is a phenomenological unveiling (or production) of a supra-meaningful semantic experience that has the additional virtue of being hyper-coordinated with living systems. It is something new. It is a leading edge of emergence that includes-but-transcends both
the noosphere and the biosphere.
A trans-noospheric biosphere.