Francis Heylighen's Abstract

Title: Distributed consciousness: information processes that may build a global mind.

Abstract: According to theories of situated, embodied, enactive and distributed cognition,

mental processes such as perception, memory, and problem solving extend well outside

the brain. For these processes, we rely on our body, environment, tools, technologies,

symbols and other people. The Internet functions as a universal information medium that

may coordinate all these components and processes into a global brain, i.e. a nervous

system for the planet. However, a recurrent issue is whether such a distributed cognitive

system would exhibit consciousness. To approach that issue, I review basic theories of

consciousness and examine in how far they allow an "extension" outside of the brain. I

argue that the basic requirement is that there is strong co-variation or coordination

between internal and external processes, which perhaps can be measured with

conditional entropy (rather than the mutual information that is more commonly used to

measure "information integration"). I discuss several observed examples of "extended"

consciousness, and wonder whether they could develop into a global consciousness

residing in a "noosphere".