October 17, 2021

I, Science

The science magazine of Imperial College

World Wide Mind: The coming Integration of Humanity, Machines, and the Internet by Michael Chorost

World Wide Mind is a book out to convince us that the next step for humanity is a collective mind. Michael Chorost has a theory that the Internet will one day be part of our brains. Through it the minds of all humans will be physically connected and we will be able to feel each other’s experiences and emotions as if they were our own. Chorost painstakingly pieces together examples of current brain research to show us that his theory could become reality. It is a book with a clear purpose and it is much nearer to being an argument than a story. At the heart of this book is the science that could make his theory possible and as a consequence it becomes heavily technical in places. Light relief is provided by anecdotes of Chorost’s own experiences of human relationships, but their tone contrasts markedly to the rest of the book and, as a result, they sometimes break the flow of the argument. By the end you do have a renewed respect for the complexities of our brains, but his book is really only half the story. Chorost sees humans joined by the mind as obviously desirable, but he misses out a fundamental question: would we really want our intimate thoughts and feelings to be experienced by other people? Chorost may have succeeded in making the idea of a collective mind seem feasible but he hadn’t answered the most important question, why would we want this in the first place?