From Human Computation to the Global Brain: The Self-Organization of Distributed Intelligence



The present chapter wishes to investigate the wider context of human computation, viewing it as merely one approach within the broad domain of distributed human-computer symbiosis. The multifarious developments in the “social” Internet have shown the great potential of large-scale collaborative systems that involve both people and the various information and communication technologies (ICT) that process, store and distribute data. Here, I wish to explore this development in the broadest sense, as the self-organization of a distributed intelligence system at the planetary level—a phenomenon that has been called the “global brain”.


Collective Intelligence Global Brain Multifarious Development Present Chapter Challenge Component 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Anderson ML (2003) Embodied cognition: a field guide. Artif Intell 149(1):91–130CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bartholdi JJ III, Eisenstein DD, Lim YF (2010) Self-organizing logistics systems. Annu Rev Control 34(1):111–117. doi: 10.1016/j.arcontrol.2010.02.006 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bernstein A, Klein M, Malone TW (2012) Programming the global brain. Commun ACM 55(5):1. Retrieved from Google Scholar
  4. Booker LB, Goldberg DE, Holland JH (1989) Classifier systems and genetic algorithms. Artif Intell 40(1–3):235–282CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Clancey WJ (1997) Situated cognition: on human knowledge and computer representations. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  6. Clark A (1998) Embodied, situated, and distributed cognition. In: A companion to cognitive science. Blackwell Publishers, Oxford, pp 506–517Google Scholar
  7. Cowan N (2001) The magical number 4 in short-term memory: a reconsideration of mental storage capacity. Behav Brain Sci 24(01):87–114CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. De Rosnay J (2000) The symbiotic man: a new understanding of the organization of life and a vision of the future. Mcgraw-Hill, New York. Retrieved from
  9. Dressler F (2008) A study of self-organization mechanisms in ad hoc and sensor networks. Comput Commun 31(13):3018–3029CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dror IE, Harnad SR (2008) Cognition distributed: how cognitive technology extends our minds. John Benjamins, AmsterdamGoogle Scholar
  11. Elmenreich W, D’Souza R, Bettstetter C, de Meer H (2009) A survey of models and design methods for self-organizing networked systems. Self-Organizing Syst, pp 37–49Google Scholar
  12. Faieta B, Huberman B, Verhaeghe P (2006) Scalable online discussions as listening technology. In: Proceedings of the 39th annual Hawaii international conference on system sciences—volume 01, HICSS’06. IEEE Computer Society, Washington, DC. p 15.3, doi: 10.1109/HICSS.2006.427
  13. Fischer G (2006) Distributed intelligence: extending the power of the unaided, individual human mind. In: Proceedings of the working conference on advanced visual interfaces, AVI’06, ACM, New York, pp 7–14, doi: 10.1145/1133265.1133268
  14. Galbraith JR (1974) Organization design: an information processing view. Interfaces 4(3):28–36. Retrieved from Google Scholar
  15. Goertzel B (2002) Creating internet intelligence: wild computing, distributed digital consciousness, and the emerging global brain. Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Helbing D (2012) Managing complexity. In: Helbing D (ed) Social self-organization, understanding complex systems. Springer, Berlin/Heidelberg, pp 285–299. Retrieved from
  17. Helbing D, Bishop S, Conte R, Lukowicz P, McCarthy JB (2012) FuturICT: participatory computing to understand and manage our complex world in a more sustainable and resilient way. Eur Phys J Spec Top 214:11–39. Retrieved from…11H
  18. Heylighen F (2002) The global brain as a new utopia. In: Zukunftsfiguren. Suhrkamp, Frankurt. Retrieved from
  19. Heylighen F (2007a) Why is open access development so successful? Stigmergic organization and the economics of information. In: Lutterbeck B, Baerwolff M, Gehring RA (eds) Open source Jahrbuch 2007. Lehmanns Media, Berlin, pp 165–180. Retrieved from
  20. Heylighen F (2007b) The global superorganism: an evolutionary-cybernetic model of the emerging network society. Soc Evol Hist 6(1):58–119. Retrieved from
  21. Heylighen F (2008) Accelerating socio-technological evolution: from ephemeralization and stigmergy to the global brain. In: Globalization as evolutionary process: modeling global change, Rethinking globalizations. Routledge, London, p 284Google Scholar
  22. Heylighen F (2012a) Challenge propagation: a new paradigm for modeling distributed intelligence (no 2012–2001). GBI working papers. Brussels, Belgium. Retrieved from
  23. Heylighen F (2012b) A brain in a vat cannot break out: why the singularity must be extended, embedded and embodied. J Conscious Stud 19(1–2):126–142. Retrieved from
  24. Heylighen F (2013) Self-organization in communicating groups: the emergence of coordination, shared references and collective intelligence. In: Massip-Bonet À, Bastardas-Boada A (eds) Complexity perspectives on language, communication and society, understanding complex systems. Springer, Berlin, pp 117–149. Retrieved from
  25. Heylighen F, Busseniers E, Veitas V, Vidal C, Weinbaum DR (2012) Foundations for a mathematical model of the global brain: architecture, components, and specifications. Global Brain Institute working papers no 2012–05, Brussels. Retrieved from
  26. Heylighen F, Kostov I, Kiemen M (2013) Mobilization systems: technologies for motivating and coordinating human action. In: Peters MA, Besley T, Araya D (eds) The new development paradigm: education, knowledge economy and digital futures. Routledge, London. Retrieved from
  27. Hollan J, Hutchins E, Kirsh D (2000) Distributed cognition: toward a new foundation for human-computer interaction research. ACM Trans Comput Hum Interact (TOCHI) 7(2):174–196CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hutchins E (1995) Cognition in the wild, vol 262082314. MIT press, Cambridge. Retrieved from
  29. Hutchins E (2000) Distributed cognition. In: Smelser NJ, Baltes PB (eds) International encyclopedia of the social and behavioral sciences. Elsevier Science, AmsterdamGoogle Scholar
  30. Iandoli L, Klein M, Zollo G (2009) Enabling on-line deliberation and collective decision-making through large-scale argumentation: a new approach to the design of an internet-based mass collaboration platform. Int J Decis Support Syst Technol 1(1):69–92CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Loftus EF, Pickrell JE (1995) The formation of false memories. Psychiatr Ann 25(12):720–725Google Scholar
  32. Mayer-Kress G, Barczys C (1995) The global brain as an emergent structure from the worldwide computing network, and its implications for modeling. Inf Soc 11(1):1–27CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. McLeod P, Plunkett K, Rolls ET (1998) Introduction to connectionist modelling of cognitive processes. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  34. Miller JG (1995) Living systems. University Press of Colorado, NiwotGoogle Scholar
  35. Minsky M (1988) The society of mind. Simon & Schuster, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  36. Nagar Y (2011) Beyond the human-computation metaphor. In: Privacy, security, risk and trust (PASSAT), 2011 IEEE third international conference on and 2011 IEEE third international conference on social computing (SocialCom), pp 800–805. Retrieved from
  37. Parunak HVD (2006) A survey of environments and mechanisms for human-human stigmergy. In: Weyns D, Parunak HVD, Michel F (eds) Environments for multi-agent systems II. Springer, Berlin, pp 163–186Google Scholar
  38. Prokopenko M (2009) Guided self-organization. HFSP J 3(5):287–289. doi: 10.1080/19552068.2009.9635816 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Rumelhart DE, McClelland JL (1986) Parallel distributed processing. University of California Press, San DiegoGoogle Scholar
  40. Stock G (1993) Metaman: the merging of humans and machines into a global superorganism. Simon & Schuster, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  41. Tushman ML, Nadler DA (1978) Information processing as an integrating concept in organizational design. Acad Manage Rev 3:613–624. Retrieved from Google Scholar
  42. Wagner C (2006) Breaking the knowledge acquisition bottleneck through conversational knowledge management. Inf Resour Manage J (IRMJ) 19(1):70–83. Retrieved from
  43. Woolley AW, Chabris CF, Pentland A, Hashmi N, Malone TW (2010) Evidence for a collective intelligence factor in the performance of human groups. Science 330(6004):686–688. Retrieved from Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Global Brain InstituteVrije Universiteit BrusselBrusselItaly

Personalised recommendations