The Global Mind Hypothesis

The next stage in evolution (in fact the current one) is a socialization, the development of a Noosphere, consisting in a continuously progressing integration of the individual mind contents. This process culminates into a global or universal unanimity of minds, with an intense global interaction, but without losing their indivuality, and thus conserving the ability tp stay aware of, and to consciously control reality, each individual at the highest possible intellectual level. Of course, devices from Internet to direct computer-to-brain connections will significantly enhance this ability. The arguments for this hypothesis state that such a vision is perhaps more in compliance with the general laws of universal evolution than the Gobal Brain hypothesis does.


If we make projections for the future, i.e. the future of the current socialisation stage (stratum 9 of the evolving Universe model), most of authors are unanimous that probably a greater form of collective consciousness will be developed. Yet two major hypotheses are advanced: the Global Brain hypothesis with the related Gaia hypothesis, and the Global Mind hypothesis.

The Global Brain hypothesis is a "hardware" hypothesis, describing the ultimate integration of all human minds, probably combined with powerful computers, forming together one hyper-brain, functioning on a higher level than each separate brain, like then human brain functions on a higher level than each separate nerve cell. As nerve cells don't get a global image of the brain activities, ultimately the individual human brains will no longer hold a global impression of the intellectual activities of the Global Brain. A comparison can be made with company employees (or soldiers, or spies), each working on some limited aspect of a big project, and just transmitting their results to a board of directors, who assemble the details and are the ones to oversee the whole operation.

Contrasting with this Global Brain hypothesis we can consider the Global Mind hypothesis, developed by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, though without this name.

The most popular hypothesis of both is the Global Brain hypothesis. It is more compatible with Science Fiction (the development of a electronic Superbeing), and seems even to be obvious when one looks to certain schemes of Teilhard: the basic entity of each stratum is built up from individual elements from the previous stratum. As cells form metazoa (multicellular beings, including man), the development of a multi-human super-organism seems to be the next logical step.

But along Teilhard and a number of other evolutionists (including Wildiers) individuality of each human will be preserved, at least with some nuances.


The Global Mind hypothesis is a "software" hypothesis. It states that the individual psyches can be considered as independent variants of a more general psyche programme.

We could compare it with a computer programme that can be personalised by each user, making macro's and adding higher definitions. Some creative people elaborate new "routines", that progressively are "copied" by other people, and become ultimately a part of the "updated" culture. As happened with the host of totally different word processors that existed since the 80s and progressively converged ("integrated") towards two or three programs with little or no differences, we can expect that the different psychological ways of functioning, by interaction and mutual inspiration during education and each form of social contact, will progressively converge to one polyvalent, but fundamentally identical "psychological software" used by all men, each adding some personal flavours and nuances.

Other meanings

The notion Global Mind is currently used in a series of other although related meanings (1.300.000 links from Google)

1. Any kind of "intelligence" guiding a complex behaviour of a group of organisms. E.g. the rather successful struggle of bacteria against antibiotic drugs and the immune system seems to be directed by a bacterian Global Mind

2. A world-wide feeling of responsibility, at least a curiosity for things that happen elsewhere on this globe.

3. A Global "consciousness" that can be achieved by paranormal interaction when people on the globe meditate synchronically.

4. A bio-neurological, electromagnetic induced form of mind control which will block men's higher sensory abilities; this attack will occur in 2004 (sic).

5. A name for management and global economical vision development companies.



The Global Mind hypothesis offers perhaps the most plausible explanation for the age-old immortality dream. Immortality can be defined as the transition of the individual "mind" towards another hardware, e.g. another person. Of course, this implies a discussion of many personalization issues, discussed elsewhere. Individual people die, but the Global Mind seems to be immortal. Computer software never exists outside a computer (only as a "dead" printout or a file on a disk), but always needs a kind of hardware "to come into life". The same way the Global Mind, the Psyche functions: it never exists ouside a human.


To describe the Global Mind hypothesis we enumerate some of its most striking characteristics:

1. The most important aspect of this hypothesis is the fact that each individual consciousness keeps an integral awareness of what it/he/she is thinking about. Human cooperation occurs along a synergistic, i.e. an egalitarian, democratic model (comparable with a good relationship between two or more people), and not along a hierarchic model (comparable with an army, religious community, etc.). The participants of the synergy never delegate the globality of their consciousness to a kind of higher authority, as the Global Brain hypothesis suggests.

2. The inevitable convergence of human thinking, defined as an increasing similarity between independent (human) intelligences and minds, is not realised by replacing the individuals by some or one super-brain (as suggested by the Global Brain hypothesis), but by the simple fact that the utilized "software" becomes even more similar.

Also here the computer comparison can be very inspiring: although nearly everyone nowadays uses the same text editor, probably Word, (while the competitors, e.g. Claris Word have become surprisingly similar), this does not imply that all those individual computers are replaced by one. Nor does it presuppose that each user knows the process at every level.
One can delegate some aspects of the global process without quitting a global control, even if one is responsible for a part of these subordinate processes.

3. Even with the same psychological "programme", each individual can react with personal differences and variations.

Classical music illustrates this Global Mind phenomenon. It is not because musical rules practically are the same for each piece of classical music, that any such piece sounds identical. Each piece can exploit other aspects of the same rules, as each programme user can install personal preferences within the same programme.
4. The Global Mind is a possible explanation for the human immortality desire. Although individuals die, their dead has to be compared to a drop-out of the hardware for this particular global psyche programme, that, in itself, continues its existence running on billions of other biological hardwares. This Global Mind, at least up to now, never exists ouside a human.

5. Its steady progress is induced by adopting and integrating the contributions of creative fellow-humans. Culture is just another name for this fertilizing interaction.

6. The computer analogy is very insufficient concerning the 'anthropomorphic', personalized characteristics, leading to the feeling of an individual that (s)he is an autonomous, unique person. He doesn't feel himself a hardware, nor the zillionth reproduction of a standard code. He just feels, acts and reacts as if he were the Global Mind, and --well considered-- he is, also in his illogical conviction that he is or ought to be and eventually will probably be immortal. These personalization aspects are discussed elsewhere.

7. Probably the socialisation stage is the last phase of evolution. The individual organisms progressively (but now very quickly) attain the maximum level of awareness and conscious participation in the evolution of the universe.

8. Teilhard was aware of the probability of other inhabited planets, the existence of other intelligent organisms. Along Wildiers his viewpoint was that there will occur some day a socialisation with these other living beings, but not with these planets as building blocks, adding a new complexification stratum on top of the nine we discern today, but with the mixed individuals of these planets developing one interplanetary socialisation. Anyway, the socialisation stage leading to the Omega Point, is the last stage of this evolution.


a. Quotations from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (The Phenomenon of Man, Revised English translation, 1975)

the human elements infiltrated more and more into each other, their minds ... were mutually stimulated by proximity. (p. 240)

the noosphere tends to constitute a single closed system in which each element sees, feels, desires and suffers for itself the same things as all the others at the same time. (p. 251)

the plurality of individual reflections grouping themselves together and reinforcing one another in the act of a single unanimous reflection. (p.252)

In the perspective of a noogenesis, time and space become truly humanised ---or rather super-humanised. Far from being mutually exclusive, the Universal and Personal (that is to say, the 'centred') grow in the same direction and culminate simultaneously in each other. (p. 260)

Personalisation ...defines the collective future of totalised grains of thought. (p.260)

what is the work of works for man if not to establish, in and by each one of us, an absolutely original centre in which the universe reflects itself in a unique and inimitable way? And these centres are our very selves and personalities. The very centre of our consciousness, deeper than all its radii; that is the essence which Omega, if it is to be truly Omega, must reclaim. And this essence is obviously not something of which we can disposses ourselves for the benefit of others as we might give away a coat or pass on a torch. For we are the very flame of that torch. To communicate itself, my ego must subsist through abandoning itself or the gift will fade away. (p.261)

the grains of consciousness do not tend to lose their outlines and blend, but, on the contrary, to accentuate the depth and incommunicability of their egos. The more ' other ' they become in conjunction, the more they find themselves as 'self '. (p. 262)

Love alone is capable of uniting living beings in such a way as to complete and fulfil them, for it alone takes them and joins them by what is deepest in themselves. ...In truth, does not love every instant achieve all around us, in the couple or the team, the magic feat, the feat reputed to be contradictory, of ' personalising ' by totalising? (p. 265)

Mankind, the spirit of the earth, the synthesis of individuals and peoples, the paradoxical conciliation of the element with the whole, and of unity with multitude --all of these are called Utopian and yet they are biologically necessary. (p. 265)

Expressed in terms of internal energy, the cosmic function of Omega consists in initiating and maintaining within its radius the unanimity of the world's ' reflective ' particles. (p.269)

we have as yet no idea of the possible magnitude of ' noospheric ' effects. ...human vibrations resounding by the million --a whole layer of consciousness exerting simultaneous pressure upon the future and the collected and hoarded produce of a million years of thought. Have we ever tried to form an idea of what such magnitudes represent? (p.286)

And, perhaps most explicitly:
Surely it is within this generalized cosmic process that the noosphere, a particular and extreme case, has its natural place and takes its shape. The maximum of complexification, represented by phyletic infolding, and in consequence the maximum of consciousness emerging from the system of individual brains, coordinated and mutually supporting. (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Formation of the Noosphere, Revue des questions scientifiques, Louvain 1947, in The Future of Man, New York 1964, quoted by Lawrence Hagerty, The Spirit of the Internet, 2001, p. 61-62)
These quotations seem to clearly suggest that Teilhard envisages the Noosphere rather as a collectivity of personalized individuals than as a kind of a higher degree organism wherein the human brains --the building blocks-- lose their individuality. He even feels that such an integration is the ultimate realisation of the individual self.

Of course, the fact Teilhard suggests the conservation of the individual within the Omega point, doesn't in itself be a proof that this hypothesis should be more plausible than the Global Brain hypothesis. Other arguments are to be advanced, and they essentially consist of the indication that the Global Mind hypothesis is more compatible with the universal laws of evolution than the Global Brain vision.

b. On first view some arguments --even Teilhardian-- seem to suggest a global Brain rather than Mind:

[An eye of Supercomputer HAL 9000 in 2001, A Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick]

1. A superficial comparison between layer 8 (the metazoa) and layer 9 (the socialization culminating into the noosphere) seems to suggest that, like individual cells lose their individuality to form a unity at a higher level, i.e. man (and, of course, plant and animal), individual brain (and its biological seat: man) will lose its individuality to form a higher unity, i.e. global brain, in fact a novel evolutionary organism. In this "intregration" intelligent computers could take part at the same level as biological brains. One could even think of artificial biological computers, and/or a kind of biological neural networks, added to this global brain network. This trend could be continued: suppose that each inhabited planet builds up such a planetary brain, one could envisage one day a superbrain of planetary brains, let's call it a Cosmic Brain, or should there be Galactic Brains as superstructure between Planetary Brains and the Cosmic Brain? Each such brain develops its own consciousness and elaborates global knowledge and visions which the "lower" individual constituents --men-- are unable to comprehend.

2. There are arguments for the formation of a super-organism:

Many thinkers have noticed the similarity between the roles played by different organizations in society and the functions of organs, systems and circuits in the body. For example, industrial plants extract energy and building blocks from raw materials, just like the digestive system. Roads, railways and waterways transport these products from one part of the system to another one, just like the arteries and veins. Garbage dumps and sewage systems collect waste products, just like the colon and the bladder. The army and police protect the society against invaders and rogue elements, just like the immune system. (Heylighen)
This approach culminated in the Gaia Hypothesis (Lovelock and Margulis) which describes the whole living nature on earth, and even the whole earth, as one biological or at least cybernetical organism, a Cybiont (de Rosnay).

3. Recent developments in computer applications, and especially the World-Wide Web seem to point into the same direction. The WWW will enable the development of intelligent agents, a kind of miniprograms circulating through the Internet and trying to answer or resolve specific questions, retrieving adequate bits of knowledge where they can be found, and developing new insights. After such an intelligent search the answer will be sent back to the person who started the intelligent search. Such an intelligent Internet is only one step from a kind of Superbrain, emerging by a Metasystem transition (a step towards a more complex 'Teilhardian' evolutionary level):

To become a metasystem, thinking in the super-brain must not be just quantitatively, but qualitatively, different from human thinking. The continuous reorganization and improvement of the super-brain's knowledge by analysing and synthesising knowledge from individuals, and eliciting more knowledge from those individuals in order to fill gaps or inconsistencies, is a metalevel process: it not only uses existing, individual knowledge but actively creates new knowledge, which is more fit for tackling different problems. (Heylighen)
c. Arguments for a Global Mind rather than a Brain
1. Man himself doesn't want to be surpassed by a machine, how ever intelligent that could be. The profound aspiration to be and remain autonomous and equal to his fellow-humans seem to emerge ineluctably each time certain temporarily stronger social subgroups try to install a control upon other social groups. Social hierarchy, that progressively seemed to be the destination of human kind, already installed well circumscribed social "layers": slaves, priests, nobility, kings and princes. As occurred with the Indian castes, the appartenance to such a subgroup tended to become inheritable, making a physical or genetical split between those groups even more likely in the long run. Aldous Huxley, in his A Brave New World divided future people into 4 physical categories, from alpha to delta, showing that in his perception and time such a segregation seemed an essential characteristic of future society. The ants nest hierarchy seemed to be an appropriate model for modern society.

Man always opposed to this apparently "natural" organization of society. The Great Dictator and Big Brother model rather seem to belong to the past than to the future. His opposition to the revolt of the Supercomputer HAL in Stanley Kubrick's 2001, A Space Odyssey, is more than a fight of the astronauts to preserve their personal safety. If man is opposed to the supremacy of some fellow-men, his reluctance to accept the supremacy of a machine, even an intelligent and a "sensible" one, probably will be even stronger.

His ability, and hence his desire to keep a total vision and consciousness of reality and universe, and to play an active role in any kind of decision making concerning himself, appears to be one of his strongest drives, perhaps his most fundamental aspiration and, in a way, the sense of existence. To be reduced to just an element of a higher mechanism should be even more frustrating and humiliating than to be a slave.

2. In the earlier stages of evolution, progress and complexification always meant structural adaptation and loss of individuality of the components: cells as well as tissues in the body become building blocks with a restricted functionality; developing new physical abilities (swimming, eating, flying) implies phyical changes ("differentiation") creating new possibilities for the organisms, but often blocking further development. The highest developed organisms developed most often from poorly differentiated predecessors, as cells do. Homo can be considered as one of the least specialized mammals, save for his brains.

But starting with man, the biological evolution stops, and is replaced by extra-corporeal technology (tools from hammers to computers) and psychological evolution (education, personality development, culture). Physical adaptations are no longer required to implement evolution. Material and physical evolution transited to a software evolution, freeing man, in all senses of the word.

[biological evolution, ending and being replaced by a combined psychological and a technological evolution]

Returning to a kind of physical dependance and subjugation to a Supercomputer seems highly improbable in the light of the laws of evolution.

3. An argument that perhaps could be just temporary, is the fact that, up to now, all computers function along a deductive mode of thinking, combined with a high exactness and unchangeability (and undeletability --unless on purpose or by accident) of their memories. Contrary to this, human brains brains function essentially along an associative mode, enabling in the first place inductive thinking. Moreover, most of man's knowledge is irrational, in the sence that it can't be completely rationally formulated. Therefore, his creativity is mostly subconscious, making it very difficult to communicate. It is even better to call his knowledge experience or even intuition. This mode of thinking seems also to be rather inexact,and his memory is quickly fading out. This inexactness could prove more linked to the essence of his creativity and abstracting potential than we like.

A thinking device is by its very nature less accessible to experience, inexact intuitions and extinguishing memories, which could prove the conditions for inductive, creative and integrative thinking.

Of course, one could extend a computer with experiential and intuitive facilities; moreover, one day the induction paradigm, searched now for several centuries, could be discovered. One could even put a computer into a humanoid case, so that biological humans should not be aware of the difference, as long they don't stab a knife into its chest. But that kind of humanoid is perhaps not what is aimed by the protagonists of the Global Brain hypothesis.

4. As was the case with earlier stages of social and political structures, the fact that humans have access to all kinds of knowledge and experience enhances dramatically their inspiration, creativity and motivation. Reducing their intellectual territory to some pre-circumscribed and delimited application fields will at the same time probably reduce their intellectual productivity.


1. One could state that this hypothesis is at the same time an integration between the eastern and the western soul hypotheses: the collective aspect and the progressive evolution, stressed in the reincarnation hypothesis, is preserved, as well as the personalised aspects of the soul in western monotheistic religions. In the light of the Global Mind hypothesis, both primitive soul hypotheses appear to be much less naive as they were at first glance.

2. That a global information technology is developping at light speed is beyond doubt, and that its implications are still unpredictable is a certainty. As happened with calcultators, it's highly probable that important intellectual functions will be assisted by or even replaced by "intelligent" devices. We are already enhancing our global awareness thanks to information tools, and this technology could eventually yield very "enriched" human brains. The Global Mind hypothesis only suggests that, whatever the technological progress, man will eventually remain at the controls of his destiny and probably the destiny of universe, by a complete awareness and comprehension of all important things to know, enabling him to intervene at a panetary and later at a cosmic scale, and replacing Coincidence (or Design) by his conscious actions, to finish cosmic Evolution.

3. Integrative science doesn't search the right answer between several proposals. It's only aim is to integrate apparently conflictuous hypotheses, proceeding from the conviction that each approach probably hides some important contributrion for the final insight. As long as these theories can't be completely integrated, it's essential to remain aware of their implications.

A more creative approach, and a greater concern about inductive thought processes could perhaps bridge the gap between both hypotheses. The approach of Heylighen with the intelligent agents looks very promising.

Posted 10/3/02