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The Evolution of the Noosphere

The Evolution of the Noosphere

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Published by stefanpistorius
1 Noosphere Epistemology

13.02.2010 19:08:04

- A unified description framework for evolutionary and social epistemology - by Stefan Pistorius, Zirndorf -

ABSTRACT According to Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, nature's latest mainstream of evolution is the ‘noosphere’, the global sphere of human thought. We interpret Teilhard’s holistic view on the noosphere as an evolving network of knowledge. To model the network, we introduce the concept of interactive adaptive Turing machines (IATM). Based on t
1 Noosphere Epistemology

13.02.2010 19:08:04

- A unified description framework for evolutionary and social epistemology - by Stefan Pistorius, Zirndorf -

ABSTRACT According to Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, nature's latest mainstream of evolution is the ‘noosphere’, the global sphere of human thought. We interpret Teilhard’s holistic view on the noosphere as an evolving network of knowledge. To model the network, we introduce the concept of interactive adaptive Turing machines (IATM). Based on t

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Published by: stefanpistorius on Mar 08, 2010
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13.02.2010 19:08:04
 © Stefan Pistorius
1
Noosphere Epistemology- A unified description framework for evolutionary and social epistemology -
- by Stefan Pistorius, Zirndorf -
ABSTRACTAccording to Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, nature's latest mainstream of evolution is the‘noosphere’, the global sphere of human thought. We interpret Teilhard’s holistic view on thenoosphere as an evolving network of knowledge. To model the network, we introduce theconcept of interactive adaptive Turing machines (IATM). Based on the IATM model, wedefine epistemic concepts like ‘factual’ and ‘transformational’ knowledge, 'knowledgedomains', and the 'propagation' and 'evolution' of knowledge. The model takes into accountboth people and their cognitive technical equipment. So the noosphere network embracesthe Internet and all humans. It is complex, dynamic, and adaptive. According to the model,the ontogeny of an individual’s knowledge follows rules analogous to the phylogeny ofknowledge domains and the overall noosphere. Thus, the model is a first step towards aunified evolutionary and social epistemology. Moreover, the network view of knowledgeallows us to derive new epistemic insights from observations of the evolving Internet andfrom complex network research. In the light of the model, we finally discuss Teilhard's visionof the noosphere converging towards the so-called Omega Point.
1 Introduction 
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (born 1 Mai 1881 near Clermont-Ferrand; died 10 April 1955 inNew York) was a French Jesuit, palaeontologist, anthropologist and philosopher. In his workhe tried to reconcile science and religious faith. In his two most important works ‘ThePhenomenon of Man’ (orig.: Le Phénomène Humain, 1955)
1
and ‘The Appearance of Man’(orig.: La Place de l'Homme dans la Nature, 1956)
2
he describes the evolution of theuniverse from its beginning to the formation of the planets and the evolution of the biosphere.With the dawn of humankind a new sphere evolves, the noosphere, the sphere of thought.Now the evolution of the noosphere is the most important thread of evolution. In its firstphase, it expands, conquers the globe, and diversifies into a multitude of different culturesthat evolve, disappear and cross-fertilize each other. In its second phase, which according toTeilhard, has just begun, the noosphere is in a state of accelerated convergence. Now thespiritual forces strive for unification. At the end of this phase, in a few million years, at theOmega Point, humankind could be united in a collective consciousness, based on aharmonised world view
3
. Teilhard was convinced that humans would find ways to bring theirbrains to perfection. Between 1948 and 1950, he wrote,‘I am thinking of the amazing performance of electronic machines (the results and thegreat hope of the aspiring ‘Cybernetics’). These devices replace and multiply thecomputing and inference capabilities of the human mind by such ingenious methodsand to such an extent that in this direction we can expect an equally great increase inour abilities as it has brought the evolution of our vision.’
4
 
1
TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Pierre (1959)
2
TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Pierre (1965)
3
Teilhard did not seem to be sure about the success of the human race. In 1949 he concluded hiswork, (see Conclusion of TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Pierre (1965)), with some ‘prospects andprerequisites for the success of the venture man'.
4
TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, Pierre (1984), English translation from German, page 118.
 
13.02.2010 19:08:04
 © Stefan Pistorius
2
Our approach 
The central idea of this article is to describe the knowledge evolution of all humans and theircognitive technical equipment by means of a dynamic adaptive network model. With thisapproach to epistemology, we pursue the following objectives:
The algorithmic foundation of the model leads to well-defined epistemic concepts.
The model is a powerful description framework, which embraces both individual andsuper-individual knowledge evolution. Therefore, we see it as a first step towards aunified evolutionary and social epistemology.
Besides its descriptive power, the network view of knowledge reveals new aspectsabout the evolution of knowledge derived from complex network research andobservations about the impacts of the Internet. Thus, we can discuss Teilhard’shypothesis of a ‘convergent’ noosphere.We proceed as follows: the main part of this essay (Sections 1 - 4) is dedicated to a semi-formal step-by-step introduction of the dynamic network model and all necessary concepts.To motivate the central definitions we present a detailed example. In Section 2, we define‘interactive adaptive Turing machines’ (IATM) which is the computational model for adynamic adaptive network of interacting intelligent agents. It is similar to a model firstintroduced by Jan van Leeuwen and Jirii Wiedermann
5
and represents an interactive versionof the classical ‘Universal Turing machine’. From the computational model, we can deriveprecise definitions of important epistemic concepts. First, we introduce our notions of ‘factual’and ‘transformational’ knowledge. In Section 3, we apply these definitions to model thenetwork of knowledge of a single agent, which we call her/his/its 'world view'. In Section 4,we look at networks of interacting agents. A group of interacting agents may constitute aparticular field of knowledge, which we call 'knowledge domain'. The knowledge network ofall agents constitutes the overall noosphere. On each level of granularity, from a singleagent's network of knowledge to super-individual knowledge domains and the globalnoosphere, knowledge evolution follows similar rules.In the second part (Sections 5 - 7) of this article, we indicate how to apply the model anddiscuss some initial results. In Section 5, we discuss how to integrate existing approaches toevolutionary and social epistemology. In Section 6, we discuss epistemic consequencesderived from the evolution in information technology especially the Internet and results ofwhat is known as scale-free network research. In Section 7, we reconsider Teilhard's OmegaPoint theory.
2 Standard Turing machines and interactive adaptive Turing machines 
The English mathematician Alan Turing provided an influential formalisation of the concept ofalgorithm and computation by the so-called Turing machine. In our context an informaldescription will suffice:
Definition 1: Standard Turing Machines (TM)
A Standard Turing machine (see Fig. 1) is a device with a finite control and an unboundedamount of read/write tape-memory. The finite control can assume a finite number of states.For each non-halting state and the actual input symbol (out of a finite alphabet
Σ
) on thetape, there is a rule which tells the read/write head what to do next. It reads its input symbolfrom the tape and then it might move one field to the left or to the right, write a symbol (out of
Σ
) onto the tape and assume a new state. We say the TM accepts an input string (must befinite) if it starts at the beginning of the input string and halts after a finite number of steps ina halting state. The new, rewritten string on the tape is called the output string.
5
 
see VAN LEEUWEN, Jan and WIEDERMANN, Jirii (2001).
 
 
13.02.2010 19:08:04
 © Stefan Pistorius
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On an even more abstract level, every TM is a device that reads a finite input, does some‘computations’, and produces an output. For the abstract (mathematical) concept of the TM itmakes no difference, whether the step-by-step routines (i.e. algorithms) are done by a ticketmachine, a computer or a human. Turing machines are only one of many ways to describethe mathematical class of what are known as
µ
-recursive functions
6
.
Turing machineFig. 1Finite Controlfinite setof statesfinite setof rulesRead/WriteHeadEndlessTapeS
i+1
S
i+2
S
i+3
S
i+4
S
i+6
S
i+7
S
i+8
S
i+9
S
i+j
ε Σ
finite Alphabet
 To avoid a misunderstanding, we have to emphasise that in our epistemological context wedo not intend to model the human brain as in the early theories of Machine StateFunctionalism within the philosophy of mind
7
. The idea is (see Chapter 3) to use a model ofcomputation for the definition of knowledge independent of the know-how carrier. It can thusbe attributed to both humans and their 'intelligent devices'.From the theory of TMs we can derive a result that is important to the subsequent discussionof knowledge and truth:
Theorem 1: 
The following problem concerning Turing machines is unsolvable. Given a Turingmachine M and an input string w, does M halt on w?
8
 So far, we have only talked about algorithms and the notion of a single Turing machine thatstarts with a fixed input. In order to model an evolving network of intelligent, interactingagents four new ingredients need to be added to the model of computation:
interaction of agents,
infinity of operation,
persistent memory and
non-uniformity of programs.A Standard TM does not model
 
interaction 
 
between an agent (e.g. human or computer) andits environment or between agents. In reality, agents do not operate in isolation but may beconnected to dynamic networks of virtually unlimited size, with many agents sending andreceiving messages in unpredictable ways.
Infinity of operation 
means that in principle theinteracting agents may continue to interact without a definite end. Because of that, their inputmay be infinite as well as their output. In contrast to a Standard Turing machine humans andmodern computers have a
persistent 
 
memory 
even if they are turned off (or are asleep) for awhile. If they start again, further computation may depend on the memory content.
Non- uniformity of programs 
 
means that agents in a network may change their algorithms during
6
LEWIS, Harry R. and PAPADIMITRIOU, Christos H. (1981), Section 5 introduces severalalternatives.
7
see for instance PUTNAM, H. (1960)
8
for a formal proof see for instance LEWIS, Harry R. and PAPADIMITRIOU, Christos H. (1981), p.283-284.

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