The 1Planet Project: 1. The Global Brain Metaphor


This 1982 landmark book [1] by Peter Russell was very inspiring to me to make more technical and human connections. I hope it will also inspire you to connect!

I prepared the following extract to present as a  dinner speech at the Conference on Complex Systems in Amsterdam last week, but the seating at the conference dinner made that impractical. I had checked before the dinner with Stuart Kauffman to make sure my short speech would not interfere with his keynote speech the following morning.

============extracted from books [1,2,3]=================================

I. Peter Russell found that after the Big Bang the millions of years of evolution on Earth can be characterized by a number of sudden transitions: evolutionary leaps where many diverse components combined (interconnected) into a new more complex synergistic entity and platform. For instance atoms –> molecules—>life platforms: cells–> tissues, organs—> bacteria—> animals—> selfconscious humans–> agricultural soc–>Industrial soc–> network society, see [1]. 

These sudden transitions happen when a threshold is crossed of at least ten billion (10^10) components that do interconnect in a meaningful way and a new order of existence emerges. That seems a staggering number but is not uncommon in nature to have such complex soup present. For instance in bacteria colonies the size of several square cm’s hundreds of billions of bacteria are interconnected. And within each cell of Escherichia coli there are about 4 x 10^10 atoms.  

2. In a human baby growing after conception in the womb of his/her mother wonderful things happen. The first is a massive explosion of the growth of number of neurons (complex nerve cells) in brain and spine, starting eight weeks after conception, increasing by many millions each hour. After five weeks this process slows down. The stage of proliferation of neurons in the brain is completed, with about hundred billion cells. Then a second phase of development starts as the billions of isolated nerve cells begin to make connections with eachother, sometimes growing out fibres to connect with cells on the other side of the brain.

Each brain develops these connections in an unique way by a process of selforganization that is NOT centrally controlled by one brain area or programmed by DNA. The cells search as much as possible locally for the best contacts [4]. 

By the time of birth, a typical nerve cell may communicate directly with several thousand other cells. And the growth of connections continues after birth. 75 % of connections for the babybrain still have to be made after birth and grows 350 gram to 1500 gram with this proliferation of connections. Mainly under influence of the signaling functions of the brain and the incoming information from the different senses. And (self) consiousness, social interactions and learning starts at a impressive pace the first 2 years of childhood and onwards.  By the time of adulthood many human nerve cells are making direct connections with as many as a quarter of a million other cells.

3. Similar trends can be observed in human society on this planet. For the last couple of centuries the number of ‘cells’ (humans) in the embryonic global brain has been proliferating, to about 6.5 billion people. But the last decades population growth is slowing down and will reach about 10 billion (!) people in 2020 depending on a number of uncertain factors. But it is also moving into the next phase — the linking of the billions of human minds into 1 single network. At present (2016) there are about 10 billion cell phones sold and about 5 billion people connected to the internet with fixed links or wireless. This looks like a planetary nervous system for a Global Brain that is starting to function, including with memory for knowledge, search engines for pattern recognition and other brainfunctions.  Will Gaia wake up about now as a baby, and will it become self conscious?  Will we notice that as just nerve cells of a awakening global brain? I hope to live to see it happen and maybe you will notice it too when it happens. 🙂


This positive vision of the future of mankind is in fact an antidote to the recent upcoming retro-political slogans for the insecure:  of racial hatred, clinging to nation state superiority and other stupid forms of fascism, like dreams of gone empires. These all failed for good reasons, and obsolete like the geographical borders that telecom networks cross. Let alarm bells ring when champions of such idea’s talk about “pure” and “cleansing” since what they mean is beheadings and killing on a serious scale of anybody different from them. Xenophobia is only a mild form of it but a sure forboding of a wrong direction that should be stopped. The murder of an MP and a Polish guest worker in the UK should be taken very seriously by the rest of the world.

It can be argued that Spinosa and Ben Goertzel have expressed similar mindset changing metaphors of a Conscious Planet of which we are the brain cells, but that is not the main message. The metaphor is that each of us may be of a very diverse tribal or cultural background, but  are part of a COMPLEX LIVING ORGANISM: NATURE on ONE PLANET ( 1Planet) . And that connecting the diversity of people for collaboration in commons makes us all stronger. Such is the reason for connectivism.

Jaap van Till, TheConnectivist

PS1. So let us skip the outdated and artificial ‘Nation States’ as organisms. The living systems of ‘Smart Cities‘ and ‘Chains of MegaCities‘, like Corridoria , are the next evolutionary steps from “people”/’families’/tribes towards a PLANET that is alive and conscious, about around 2020, but already visible if you know how and where to look, which is the objective of this blog 🙂

PS2. I have reserved and for this project. 


[1] Peter Russell, “The Awakening Earth” – Our Next Evolutionary Leap – ; Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd.; 1982;   (c) Peter Russell 1982 ISBN 0-7100-9318-7

[2] Peter Russell, “The Awakening Earth” – The Global Brain – ; ARK PAPERBACKS 1984 an imprint of Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd.   (c) Peter Russell 1982 ISBN 0-7448-0012-9

[3] Peter Russell, “The Global Brain”-The Awakening Earth in a New Century –  ;  Floris Books 2007 (c) 2007 Peter Russell ISBN 978-086315-616-8 . This book is available for purchase at Amazon UK.

[4] Dick Schwaab, Ons Creatieve Brein, 2016.

((version 1.0 September 2016 ))


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