Teilhard and the Web


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Teilhard and the Web. Metaphors for New Space James Hayes-Bohanan, Ph.D. Bridgewater State College Department of Earth Sciences and Geography Center for the Advancement of Research and Teaching (CART). Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Born Auvergne, France 1881 - PowerPoint PPT Presentation
  • Teilhard and the Web Metaphors for New Space James Hayes-Bohanan, Ph.D. Bridgewater State College Department of Earth Sciences and Geography Center for the Advancement of Research and Teaching (CART)
  • Pierre Teilhard de Chardin Born Auvergne, France 1881 Studied geology and paleontology; taught physics and chemistry Ordained as Jesuit priest 1912 Sorbonne doctorate 1922 Paleontology research in China 1923 to 1946 Legion of Honor 1946 Died in New York 1955
  • Unity of Creation “… each of us is perforce linked by all the material organic and psychic strands of his being to all that surrounds him [sic].”
  • Continuity with Past and Present “If we look far enough back in the depths of time, the disordered anthill of living beings suddenly, for an informed observer, arranges itself in longs files that make their way by various paths toward greater consciousness.”
  • Human Role in Evolution “… there is an absolute direction of growth, to which both our duty and our happiness demand that we should conform. It is [the human] function to complete cosmic evolution.”
  • Evolution is toward greater complexity Geological Evolution: Energy Biological Evolution: Life Human Evolution: Consciousness
  • Noosphere “… above the animal biosphere a human sphere, a sphere of reflection, of conscious intervention, of conscious souls” “human consciousness turned in upon itself”
  • Science For Teilhard, science was in the service of directed evolution toward higher orders of consciousness. “… research students are numbered in the hundreds of thousands -- soon to be millions -- and they are no longer distributed superficially and at random over the globe, but they are functionally linked together in a vast organic system that will remain in the future indispensable to the life of the community.” 1961
  • World Wide Web Gophers Gopherspace Archie, Jughead, and Veronica Hypertext Hyperspace Images Commerce-free
  • 1999: The Year of eCommerce 0.1% of U.S. Commerce
  • Has the Internet Changed Our Daily Lives? Where did Jeremy’s message go on its way to his mother?
  • Noosphere?
  • Y2K Connection The y2k computer failure problem is like a massive intertwined ring of dominoes - one little nudge anywhere in the rings and you stand to witness an amazing chain reaction. In this case the nudge is the year 2000 and the intertwined rings of dominoes are those aspects of our society - worldwide - that interact with computers. Rev. Dacia Reid
  • An Ever-Denser Network � JH-B Page 1 1/30/00 c:\dos\~wro0002.doc
  • … at all scales “Net” gives way to “fabric” More information in smaller spaces Oxygen Smart Dust Biological Models
  • Questions Is the Web really different from earlier technologies - from Gutenberg to the telegraph (the Victorian Internet)? Does the Web represent some sort of collective consiousness? If not, is this nonetheless a good metaphor? Could better metaphors be found?
  • More Questions Will the Web do more to unite -- as Teilhard might have hoped -- or to divide? Given the bugs seen in today’s technologies, are such developments as Oxygen and Smart Dust really possible?
  • More on Teilhard and the Web HTTP://TOPCAT.BRIDGEW.EDU/ ~JHAYESBOH/TEILHARD.HTM Although I studied religion as an undergraduate, I became aware of Teilhard only in relation to the Internet In 1990, a friend at Quaker Meeting shared my growing interest in the web - in fact he went on to get a degree in it It was he who introduced me to the theological dimensions of the web, and to a whole world of metaphors about the web Born to a pious Catholic family Had chosen Jesuit training early Steven Jay Gould has associated him with the 1908 Piltdown Hoax In China, was involved in the discovery of Peking Man Essentially captive in China during WWII From China, he returned to France, but left for a freer environment in the U.S. Rejected by both church and scientific community, but devoted his life to unifying the two I would like to outline a few key aspects of Teilhard’s thinking that have drawn a lot of attention in recent years Note the link between order and progress Evolution for Teilhard is “guided.” Higher orders of evolution involve more sophisticated forms of energy, but each flows naturally from the others Advocates of Artificial Intelligence maintain that with half of its evolutionary history remaining, Earth is quite likely to generate a form of consciousness that is not tied to Homo sapiens; A possibility is Machina sapiens. 1990s Netheads were not the first to apply these ideas to emerging communication technologies. Marshall McLuhan drew on Teilhard in his Gutenberg Galaxy Here Teilhard seems to presage the emergence of increased collaboration among people with incredibly specialized academic (and other) interests. All of the people with a balloon fetish in Bridgewater would not constitute much of a group (we imagine), but on a global scale there are plenty. As late as the mid-1990s, a marketing director told me that the Web was strictly for kids and hackers. In 1998 and 1999, the stories of e-commerce have dominated both the popular and technical media, but it must still be remembered that the Web does much more than sell CDs. The web is changing the way we communicate and relate. It may also be changing how we think about the world. “A glow rippled outward from the first spark of conscious reflection. The point of ignition grows larger. The fire spreads in ever-widening circles … till finally the whole planet is covered with incandescence.” The noosphere results from the combined action of two curvatures: 1) the roundness of the earth 2) the cosmic convergence of the mind We will never know how true the dire warnings of Y2K would have been in the absence of unprecedented efforts to solve the problem. In the wake of Y2K let-down, will it now be denied that these connections persist, and that they matter? I submit that the scare has given us an opportunity to reflect on the role of technology in our lives - particularly technologies that connect us across space in new ways What is the largest area you know without a road network? Without a computer network? The latter is getting smaller and smaller As the spaces between the net get finer, fabric would be a better metaphor Bell Labs can already put 1.6 terabytes per second through a single fiber optic wire - greater than peak U.S. phone traffic The simultaneous increase in information capacity and decrease in hardware size leads to smart dust - e.g., for tracking packages - and Oxygen - systems that are ubiquitous Engineers working on such systems are looking to biological systems for ideas on redundancy and resilience The biological models include actual biological components - as in DNA computers Issues of equity and distribution remain - the fully-deployed systems such as Oxygen would not work without nearly universal adoption - or they would work only to further isolate those without access Also, consider the armies of technically savvy and creative people such systems would require - are they coming out of our higher education system?