The core narrative describes the human family moving from a long history of geographic separation to, within a generation or two, nearly instantaneous global communication and connection. Humanity has developed tools that are supporting a quantum increase in our collective communication—and our collective consciousness—as a species. Our ability to communicate has enabled humans to progress from nomadic bands of gatherers and hunters to the edge of a planetary civilization. Because we are in the midst of an unprecedented revolution in the scope, depth, and richness of global communications, the impact of this revolution on our future will be equally unprecedented. The spectacular growth in global communications offers humanity the possibility of communicating our way through this time of planetary challenge.
The awakening of collective consciousness is a theme in all of the stories of Great Transition. In turn, the Internet, television, cell phones, and other social media are vital in providing the technological infrastructure to support global awakening. The “Global Brain” is a metaphor for the worldwide network formed by people coming together with communication technologies that connect them into an organic whole. As the Internet becomes faster, more intelligent, more ubiquitous, and more encompassing, it increasingly ties us together in a single communications system that functions like a “brain” for the planet Earth.
Although the underlying ideas are much older, the term was coined in 1982 by Peter Russell in his book The Global Brain. Russell goes further than just drawing the parallels between the Internet and a nervous system. He sees the new technology leading to the full awakening of the consciousness of humanity. The global communications system combines the reach of television with the depth of the Internet and has already played pivotal roles in political, social, and environmental revolutions. We are recognizing that we are a single species with a common destiny. An awakening global brain will play a critical role in our spiritual awakening—helping us make the transition from the predominately self-centered, materialist worldview which lies at the root of many aspects of our global crisis, to the more compassionate and holistic consciousness at the foundation of the world’s wisdom traditions.
Television combined with the Internet is creating a transparent world where injustices are difficult to hide. This transparency is bringing a new level of accountability and ethicality into institutional conduct. There is no longer a rug under which corporations can sweep unjust labor practices, or governments can hide human-rights abuses. Just as a rising tide lifts all boats, so too does a rising level of global communication lift all injustices into the healing light of public awareness. What we see and hear through the new media may challenge the emotional intelligence and maturity of the species. As our social consciousness awakens, deep psychic wounds will emerge that have festered through history. We will begin to hear the voices that we have ignored and the pain that we have not acknowledged. Awakening will bring with it awareness of the dark shadows of human history in the form of racism, ethnic conflict, and religious discord.
For the first time in human history, we are acquiring a way to listen to and talk with one another as members of one family. For the first time, all the cousins in the human clan can communicate with one another. In awakening to ourselves as a planetary species and seeing ourselves directly and whole for the first time, we will see that we have the potential for an evolutionary leap forward. The question is whether we will have the collective maturity to seize this precious opportunity.
The Story in Action
Numerous articles have been written recently about the combined impact of the Internet revolution, cell phones, television, and other communication technologies. Social movements ranging from the ‘Arab Spring’ to various ‘Occupy’ initiatives use these new tools of collective communication to connect via a collective consciousness and sense of solidarity that transcends traditional boundaries. A new kind of world community is weaving itself together, grounded in a new consciousness — of solidarity with the least privileged, a care for the Earth, and recognition of the importance of working as a holistic community for a future of sustainable prosperity.
However, the ‘global brain’ still seems to be in its early stages of development and we can learn lessons from individual development that are helpful for understanding the development of our ‘global brain.’ See, for example: Growing Pains in Maturing Brains and Global Networks by Andrew Revkin for the New York Times.
Origin of idea of The Global Brain
Peter Russell talks about the origin of his thesis of a global brain, before the Internet even existed as such, discussing the parallels between our own brains and the growing interconnectivity of our computer networks. But will it be a sane or insane global brain? That depends upon the level of consciousness of us human beings, the neurons of the global brain. Can we free ourselves from our current ego-centric mode of consciousness so that we can use the global brain with wisdom?
The Global Brain
Peter Russell’s award-winning video is based on a live audio-visual presentation in 1983. He explores the idea that the Earth is an integrated, self-regulating living organism and asks what function humanity might have for this planetary being. It suggests that we stand on the threshold of a major leap in evolution, as significant as the emergence of life itself, and the essence of this leap is inner spiritual evolution. Moreover, Peter Russell maintains that it is only through such a shift in consciousness that we will be able to manage successfully the global crisis now facing us.
Take Back the Airwaves
The mass media have a profound impact on the mass mind. In this half-hour segment, Peter Russell (author of The Global Brain) and Duane Elgin (author of Awakening Earth) discuss the need for a new level of citizen activism that “takes back the airwaves” to communicate our way through our time of profound transition.
- Peter Russell
- Frances Heylighen
- Duane Elgin
- Andrew C. Revkin, Exploring Humanity’s Evolving ‘Global Brain’ (December 2012)
- Piotr Czerski, We, the Web Kids (February 2012)
- Nipun Mehta, Would Gandhi Use Social Media? (February 2012)
- Dana Klisanin, The Hero and the Internet: Exploring the Emergence of the Cyberhero Archetype (2012)
- Duane Elgin, The Power of a Community Voice Movement (November 2011)
- Duane Elgin, Can Television Help Awaken a Healthy World? (July 2011)
- Frances Heylighen, The Social Superorganism and Its Global Brain (May 1996, March 2000)
- John Timmer, World’s total CPU power: one human brain (Spring 2011)
- Peter Russell, The Global Brain Awakens (1995)
- Duane Elgin, Awakening Earth: Exploring the Evolution of Human Culture and Consciousness (1993)
- Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Future of Man (1964)
- Howard Bloom, Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century (2001)
Video & Audio
- Birth of the Global Mind (Tim O’Reilly): The global mind is us, augmented