Who is the conscience of the global brain?


The Business21C radio program on Monday morning broadcast an interview with myself and and a representative of Anonymous on the topic of cybercrime.

You can listen to the 25 minute cybercrime program as a podcast from the Business21C site. Here is the description of the program:

Last month the hacking of Sony’s PlayStation3 system that compromised 77 million credit card users’ details gained worldwide attention as Sony shutdown its PlayStation network and music streaming service.

The network breach raised questions about how the companies that fall victim to cyber crime can track down hackers, and whether they can overcome the challenges posed by online security breaches.

If the key to security is raising collective consciousness through education, how can this be done effectively? Is the government’s proposed Internet filter an adequate protection measure?

This week in part 2 of Business21C Weekly’s series on cybercrime, we speak to Ross Dawson, keynote speaker and expert on the future of business and technology; and we are joined by a member from the activist hacker group Anonymous, to discuss what is needed to ensure cyber security for individuals and business.

It was a fascinating conversation, particularly given the participation of Anonymous, though as he noted, no one person can truly speak for a distributed network.

One of the things that the anonymous hacker said is that Anonymous is “the conscience of the Internet”. Given I have delved deep into the concept of the global brain, this struck me as a fascinating metaphor.

As I discussed in the program, we can take the idea of the global brain idea a long way, including considering the mental health of our collective intelligence. Individual humans rarely have highly integrated personalities. In the same way, the different desires and needs expressed within a large group of people are often conflicting. The global brain definitely has mental health problems, not least a lack of integration of its psyche.

In the field of Neuro-Linguistic Programming, which I qualified in as a Master Practitioner in the 1990s, there is an important role for the idea of us having different ‘parts’ within us, and processes for helping to integrate those parts. While Jungian and other branches of psychology also identify parts of the psyche, the NLP approach relates more strongly to people’s individual experience of the conflicting desires within their personalities.

Moving back to the collective metaphor, it certainly makes sense to think of the global brain as having a conscience. However what gives the right to any particular group to proclaim themselves the conscience to others? Absolutely nothing. However to have your actions guided by the idea of being a conscience certainly gives a positive intent.

From the perspective of NLP, all ‘parts’ within us have a positive intent. It is just that the positive intent is sometimes expressed in destructive ways. That intent needs to be integrated into the whole to be beneficial to the entire person.

Anonymous has no more or less a right to act as the conscience of the Internet than anyone else. As a distributed network, it cannot be of a single mind itself. Yet the relative clarity of its values and its overt intention to act as a conscience, in the absence of others in that role, offer it a clear place.

I have long thought there is a valuable role to play as psychotherapist to the global brain. We are deeply troubled in many ways. Yet we do have, perhaps in many ways, a conscience. Where do you think that conscience resides?