Nova Spivack's "Web as World" Observation Leads Us Further Down the Rabbit Hole

September 23 2008 / by Alvis Brigis / In association with Future
Category: The Web   Year: General   Rating: 4

Summary: Spivack‚Äôs observation that the web is saturating the world (rather than just enabling a super fast web that the world and humans can enter) reinforces the idea that our system as a whole is amplifying its total intelligence and capabilities, rather than just supporting the digitization and “upload” of everything. It’s a basic, yet profound distinction that fundamentally changes how we expect the future to unfold.

Nova Spivack has posted some interesting thoughts up on his personal Twine, noting that “The Web is starting to spread outside of what we think of as ‘the Web’ and into ‘the World.’” He points out that “the digital world is going physical”, an idea that opens up an array of new futures previously not imagined by thinkers who’ve largely focused on digitization and inner space as the inevitable human destiny. Spivack concludes that “Beyond just a Global Brain, we are really building a Global Body.”

This thinking resonates with me because it moves away from a human-centric view of the future (digitization is good because we can live forever) in favor of a more systems-centric explanation (the system as a whole is getting smarter for its own reasons). It also makes sense in the context of an ongoing discussion I’ve been having with good friend and EvoDevo systems thinker John Smart about the direct relationship between A) our collective drive to tunnel toward Inner Space (nanotech, chemistry, energy efficiency, etc.) and B) our drive to expand into Outer Space (exploration, space travel, universe mapping, manufacturing, resource discovery).

An increasingly intelligent, self-orgainzing web that furthers growth of both the Global Brain, a concept originally advanced by Francis Heylighen in 1995, and what Spivack calls the Global Body, seems like the necessary tissue connecting our Inner Space and Outer Space focused appendages. In other words, the web that Spivack observes is not only concerned with creating better simulations, but also with expanding reach and bettering physical capabilities.

This jives with the idea that the point of the game of life, including the human-created web, is to ensure the survival of our global system via knowledge gathering and expansion, and less with the species-centric view that the future is solely about digitizing ourselves and escaping our biological chains. If in fact we are living in a system that purposely or automagically (to borrow a term from another futurist colleague, Jerry Paffendorf) seeks to increase control over its perceived environment (COPE) in order to ensure survival and expansion, then the creation of a web that serves this system, rather than just its human components, seems perfectly rational.

From this perspective, a merger between the web and physical world makes a lot of sense as it accelerates the input, sorting and output of information, resulting in increased system quantification and knowledge generation. In other words, a world-as-web + web-as-world boosts both our collective intelligence and capabilities.

Of course, this sort of thinking steadily pulls us down the rabbit hole to a place where the physical world can be viewed as web and the web as increasingly physical. But, then again, we’re due for some serious paradigm shifts, aren’t we?

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