A 6/23/09 article in New Scientist reports on “the first evidence that tool use alters the body map.” That is, researchers have found that a human brain’s internal map of the body is adjusted to account for a tool that extends the body’s reach. Researchers were excited to note that this means that a transplanted hand or a prosthetic limb would similarly be incorporated into the ‘body map’ inside the brain. This is an important example of the plasticity of the brain.
What struck me about this article is the implication for collective intelligence and collective consciousness:
The more we use tools that embody collective intelligence, and tools that increase our awareness and use of the perceptions, knowledge and experiences of people in other parts of the world, the bigger and bigger becomes our brains’ “body map” — and “self map”.
As social media are evolving, they are becoming more and more tools for getting things done, visualizing and then solving complex problems, finding answers, getting support we need, etc. A key is the shift from passive viewing of world events on nightly television news (which had its own expansive effects), to a much more intimate using of collective intelligence, and participating in it.
We are physically evolving into a new species – by rewiring our brains to encompass tools for accessing and using collective intelligence.
The two principles that shine through when collective intelligence becomes collective consciousness are:
The Whole is more than the sum of the parts.
The Whole is contained in the parts.
The gradual rewiring of human brains to encompass more and more of the whole species and planet is the physical embodiment of this second principle.
(Confession: Whenever I write something like this, which I seem to like to do, I often hear an internal chorus of “Yeah, yeah, yeah, but now what?” The “but now what” is the interesting part.)