The Global Human Social System
A Brain for Gaia
Keywords:Social system design; brain architecture; information processing
Networks are a key aspect of system organization. All systems can be described as a network of components in which the links between components (nodes) within the system boundary are denser and coupling strengths stronger than between the system and external entities. A special kind of network that is found in all dynamic systems is a flow network in which the links are “channels” and through which flow either materials, energies, or messages (a special form of low-power, modulated energy).
A very important kind of network that processes messages to extract information and construct knowledge is an animal brain. In particular, the human brain and its neocortex constitutes a seemingly infinitely malleable message flow network. Its organization is a hierarchy of functional subnetworks that are arranged in such a way that sensory percepts are constructed in the primary sensory processing areas in the lower-back part of the cortex. Compound percepts are constructed in early association areas just forward of the sensory areas. And increasingly complex concepts are constructed forward of that and into the frontal cortex. From there concepts currently operative in working memory generate motor plans in the posterior frontal lobe and those are forwarded to motor control areas to generate actual outputs.
The brain is recognized as the governance subsystem for an individual. In social animals, the brains of individuals construct concepts of other like-kind individuals and manage interactions between individuals to produce social behaviors. Thus, societies are networks of brains interacting and the individual sends and receives messages to other individuals in the society. Individuals, in this framework, resemble neurons in neural networks. We are led to a conjecture regarding an ideal organization of human societies: if human social organization were along the lines of brain (neocortex) architecture, might the society itself function in a brain-like way to do the same kind of message processing, with action decisions resulting, that provides a governance subsystem for the planet? It is briefly argued that the planet does need governance as it moves into the future.
This paper describes the brain-like social network being considered, how it functions as an information-extraction, knowledge-constructing, and action-deciding subsystem of the whole planet. And we discuss the needs and benefits to Earth of having a brain – Gaia’s brain.