|Planet Earth Nervous System|
We frequently recognize the technological and economic components of the "information explosion." At one time or another, one or the other or both of these factors are cited as the primary causes of the explosion. For instance, we are sometimes characterized as victims of the technological developments of the electronic computer and related equipment. In one of my blue sky ways of perceiving our situation, I do not think we are in the electronic information processing trap because of either technological or economic reasons. I have an impression the planet earth is in an emergent stage as a coherent living organism.
An experience we all shared that has stimulated my thinking along these lines were the pictures of the earth returned from our manned missions to the moon. This image invites viewing the globe as a single living entity. With this thought in mind, the development of electronic and communication technology takes on a very different perspective. Any complex organism has a nervous system as an essential part of its makeup. Our communications ability provides the link between each individual or organization to communicate with others in the same network on the planet. (Note 6)
When I speculate in these terms, the analogy of the individual to a single cell in the human body seems to have merit. We each are to the emerging planet earth nervous system as a nerve cell is to the human nervous system. Our information processing technology represents the rudimentary stages of the development of a mental capacity for the earth organism. In this view of information technology, we are being swept along beyond our power to predict or to control in the development of an organism in which we are merely cells.
An example of this style speculation in reverse was described by Loren Eiseley in an incident when he fell to the pavement striking his head and causing a heavy flow of blood for a few moments. (Note 7) As he was lying on the sidewalk waiting for help, he considered the situation of the cells in his blood that was spilling on the sidewalk. He imagined that had they adequate consciousness, they would be aware of the destruction of their "universe." We are like the cells in Eiseley's blood stream being carried along in the development of an organism which we do not recognize and over which we have no control.
What value does this blue sky speculation have. First, it provides a means of breaking completely out of our conventional ways of looking at things. This ability to break out seems to be at the heart of the process of the discovery of new solutions to difficult problems. As long as we continue in routine modes of thought, we cannot arrive at a truly revolutionary problem solution. Viewing ourselves as part of an emerging organism provides a fundamental reorientation in our perception. We are forced to move from an analytic piece by piece consideration into a holistic view of the situation.