The Internet as a Global Brain

This is a pretty minor observation, but while reading Gonzo Marketing on BART this morning, my brain cross-pollinated some of Christopher Locke’s ideas on micromarkets with the ideas of Global Brain, and realized that the World Wide Web maps very well to Howard Bloom’s conception of a Global Brain.

Let’s review the elements that Bloom suggests are elements of a “collective learning machine”:

  1. Conformity enforcers – Google provides this functionality for the Web by making the power law explicit, where “them that has, gets”; in other words, the preeminence of popular websites is reinforced because popular websites are the top results on Google, making people more likely to visit them.
  2. Diversity generators – The Web provides this by making it so easy to start a website of one’s own. Everybody can start a blog with Blogger or LiveJournal. If your ideas are interesting, people will start reading, and you can be launched up the power law curve. Look at the extraordinary rise of bloggers like Kos.
  3. Inner-judges – I think this is the flipside of starting a website. If one does not attract a sufficient audience to keep one’s interest, one gives up. There are a lot of dead websites and blogs out there. What the necessary level is to sustain interest depends on the person, but if we are not getting the feedback that we desire, we give up (no, this is not a plea for readership 🙂 ).
  4. Resource shifters – There are all sorts of tools for resource shifting on the Web, where attention is the scarce resource. From, to bloggers posting links, to passing emails around, we all tell our friends about web pages that we find interesting. The more people we tell, the more attention a web page receives, until it has risen to the top of the Google ranks, and is the new conformity.
  5. Intergroup tournaments – This is the only element of Bloom’s model that doesn’t fit very well. Alas.

Anyway, I thought it was interesting that tools like Google and blogging correspond so well to Bloom’s model. I’m not sure it means anything, but I thought I’d share the observation.

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