Monday, May 12, 2008

Collective Intelligence, Cognitive Surplus, Chaos

A couple of weeks ago I started a series of blogs about the Fifth Dimension, in celebration of my easy-going article published in the current issue of Urban Garden Magazine: the article is entitled "The Fifth Dimension is a Dangerous Idea". Now, here are a couple of blog entries I'd like us to take a serious look at:

Henry Story discusses the Fifth Dimension
Henry Story discusses the 10 dimensions of reality

I recently came across the above two wonderful blog entries by Henry Story, the first of which I know I saw briefly back when they were published but at that time I was so immersed in launching my project that I didn't really do justice to his thoughtful presentations, which he wrote partly in response to my eleven minute animation. Now that I have spent some time at Henry's blog I am in awe of the leading-edge work he is doing with the Semantic Web (a concept I touched on last fall in a blog entry called E8 and the Semantic Web), meme-tracking, and other "Web 3.0" developments. Henry works at Sun, and he writes The Sun Babelfish Blog, check it out.

As it turns out, Henry found my animation through a blog posted by Nova Spivack. Nova's blog, Minding the Planet is equally awe-inspiring: and I am linking to Nova's blog entry about a chapter he wrote for a new book on the subject of Collective Intelligence. Again, rather than fill this entry with quotes from these people's writing, I invite you to read his chapter, which is an eye-opening exploration of just how fast our world is changing right now, how useful the Semantic Web is going to be in helping this change along, and how services like (which comes from Nova's company Radar Networks) will be part of our toolset as these advances occur.

Another related idea is being promoted by Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody. Yes, "Cognitive Surplus" is one of those buzzword-memes making the rounds right now, but Clay explains the idea well. Take a look at a couple of recently-posted videos of him discussing these ideas:

Direct links to these videos are at

Clay makes the point part way through his presentation that it's very hard to predict the outcome of the changes that are happening now, because it's more like the complexity of predicting the weather rather than predicting (for example) gravity. I found this particularly interesting as an idea because of an upcoming blog I was working on about how the regions of chaos and sudden bifurcations to new states can be very similar to what we just tried to imagine in "Anime, Gaming, and Cusps": what comes to mind as we try to visualize a five dimensional labyrinth made of 10 directions all at right angles to each other? How could we create a map showing the cusps and tipping points, the interactions of memes, genes, and spimes that work (in concert with randomness and the patterns that spring from randomness) to create our reality? For me, this brings to mind those diagrams I was first introduced to in James Gleick's "Chaos: Making a New Science": regions of seemingly random noise that are actually complex interactions of tiny systems, interspersed with sudden jumps to new coherent states, as a map of our fifth-dimensional probability space from moment to moment. How's that for a visualization of the background layer creating our beautiful and intricate reality one planck length at a time from the fifth dimension?

Enjoy the journey,

Rob Bryanton

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