On Collective Minds


Recall the Lovelock-Marguli Gaia principle according to which the living and the non-living on Earth are so inexorably interconnected that we may consider their totality to form one complex interconnected Whole whose parts, though they locally function as separate integral units, are actually subunits, not unlike the cells of a living organism.
Whether this Gaia is a conceptual worldview, an insightful metaphor that conjures up a super-physical entity that behaves like a grandiose body, or represents an actual monstrous unit that functions very much like a living organism may be debated.
Likewise, though our individual brains are physically independent, their functioning is very much linked to activities in countless other brains, past and present. Every idea we entertain, every  opinion we hold and express, and every insight we think we have is connected in one way or more to ideas, opinions, and insights that have emerged from other brains. In the realm of thought every my, when probed sufficiently, has more than a touch of an our. In this sense, our minds are part of a larger insubstantial realm of thoughts which activate and sustain our mental life.
What is different from the Gaia notion of an overarching body is that here we have a great many of collective brains: Not every one of us is privy to all the brains, past and present, of the human family. The complex of thoughts to which we ourselves are affiliated is but a small subset of zillions of such subsets that exist and have existed in human history. Thus, more than metaphorically speaking, we may picture a conglomeration of separate thought-blocks floating in abstract space, somewhat like clouds in the sky, sometimes overlapping, sometimes drifting in their separateness, but always a composite formed by the vaporous rise of thoughts from various individual brains, and which also rain into the many brains which we all carry.  
These collective minds do not belong to tangible physical brains with neurons and axons  subsisting somewhere up there in the earth’s atmosphere, but they are as intangibly real as the cyberspace of the internet world. Even as the space around us is replete with signals which a sensitive detector (like a cell phone or a radio receiver) can respond to, our individual brains are susceptible to spurts from these abstract thought bunches that excite our individual brains. We may with more than poetic license call them collective minds. They are like vectors in a Hilbert space to which quantum states belong.
August 12, 2012

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About Varadaraja V. Raman

Physicist, philosopher, explorer of ideas, bridge-builder, devotee of Modern Science and Enlightenment, respecter of whatever is good and noble in religious traditions as well as in secular humanism,versifier and humorist, public speaker, dreamer of inter-cultural,international,inter-religious peace.
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