A New Layer of the Brain is Evolving: The Metacortex

The human brain is like an archaeological record. Different layers and functional areas have evolved outwards over time. And now a new layer is evolving. I propose we call this new layer of the brain “the metacortex.” (Note: Metacortex also happens to be the company that Neo worked for in the movie, The Matrix)

The metacortex is the Web — our growing global network of information, people, sensors, and computing devices.

The Web is literally a new layer of the human brain that transcends any individual brain. It is a global brain that connects all our brains together. It is intelligent. It is perhaps humanity’s greatest invention.  It collectively senses, reacts, interprets, learns, thinks, and acts in ways that we as individuals can barely comprehend or predict, and this activity comprises an emerging global mind.

Paul Buchheit (creator of Gmail and Friendfeed) calls this “the social brain” — with emphasis on the social networks and collective social interactions that are taking place. I think that while the metacortex includes the social Web, it transcends it — its collective knowledge and cognition include all of the activity taking place on the Internet.

Does the metacortex mirror the structure and process of the neocortex? What can we learn about the neocortex from the metacortex and vice versa? What are the functional areas or lobes of the metacortex? I look forward to your comments.

Social tagging:

20 Responses to A New Layer of the Brain is Evolving: The Metacortex

  1. plevy says:

    I agree. I would say: a new layer of information technologies supporting symbolic cognition…

  2. Pierre Lévy says:

    I agree. I would say: a new layer of information technologies supporting symbolic cognition…
    And I ask always the same question: what kind of symbolic system, even more powerfull than natural languages, can this metacortex manipulate… and to what kind of civilization this would lead us…

  3. micronauta says:

    Ever since I started using Twitter I have had the intuitive sense of us all being part of large neural network. The way we form (or block) pathways to relevant sources looks very similar to the way a brain seems to work. I really hope neurologists are looking into this because the amount of insight we can get out of it might be revolutionary, as will the changes coming from it when the human-computer interface finally evolves into something less like a computer and more like an implant.

  4. micronauta says:

    Ever since I started using Twitter I have had the intuitive sense of us all being part of large neural network. The way we form (or block) pathways to relevant sources looks very similar to the way a brain seems to work. I really hope neurologists are looking into this because the amount of insight we can get out of it might be revolutionary, as will the changes coming from it when the human-computer interface finally evolves into something less like a computer and more like an implant.

  5. Dan Stocker says:

    I think the metacortex may reflect both structure and process, but in different ways. You've probably read @deanpomerleau's article on “Twitter and the Global Brain” http://bit.ly/cc0oNn in which he compares the brain's learning process as neural firing patterns to RTing in Twitter, thus providing a great example to structural similarity. Then, even though the process behind human thinking in general is not fully explored, there might as well be logical models operating on the conceptual level, connecting otherwise meaningless words and audiovisual impulses to create meaning.

    Considering the above, if one sub-network of the web may manifest a metacortex in itself, the web would allow the co-existence of a multitude of global brains, forming an even higher level of complexity.

    How would you call that? 🙂

  6. Dan Stocker says:

    I think the metacortex may reflect both structure and process, but in different ways. You've probably read @deanpomerleau's article on “Twitter and the Global Brain” http://bit.ly/cc0oNn in which he compares the brain's learning process as neural firing patterns to RTing in Twitter, thus providing a great example to structural similarity. Then, even though the process behind human thinking in general is not fully explored, there might as well be logical models operating on the conceptual level, connecting otherwise meaningless words and audiovisual impulses to create meaning.

    Considering the above, if one sub-network of the web may manifest a metacortex in itself, the web would allow the co-existence of a multitude of global brains, forming an even higher level of complexity.

    How would you call that? 🙂

  7. enzooosellers says:

    Hi,

    I come across your blogs and videos and I'm really interested by what I read and saw.

    I've been twitting some of these ideas already.

    The brain is not only composed of neurons, there are many differents kinds of cells involved, especially glial cells http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glial_cell .

    If Meta mimics Neo (on a scale shifted way), every “node” (people/machine) use a very narrow bandwith to his siblings. But these nodes can “compress” data using high efficiency languages level, like metaphors and symbols, or hyperlink for instance.

    The twitter propagation of news could stand for gamma synchronisation.

    I'm afraid of the power of the moron network.

    By the way, Maurice G. Dantec just launch his last book Metacortex
    http://fr-fr.facebook.com/pages/Metacortex-de-M

  8. enzooosellers says:

    Hi,

    I come across your blogs and videos and I'm really interested by what I read and saw.

    I've been twitting some of these ideas already.

    The brain is not only composed of neurons, there are many differents kinds of cells involved, especially glial cells http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glial_cell .

    If Meta mimics Neo (on a scale shifted way), every “node” (people/machine) use a very narrow bandwith to his siblings. But these nodes can “compress” data using high efficiency languages level, like metaphors and symbols, or hyperlink for instance.

    The twitter propagation of news could stand for gamma synchronisation.

    I'm afraid of the power of the moron network.

    By the way, Maurice G. Dantec just launch his last book Metacortex
    http://fr-fr.facebook.com/pages/Metacortex-de-M

  9. Bryce Ewing says:

    Thinking of the Web as a new layer of the human brain gives me a thought about how different parts of it can be seen in relation to brain parts. I would say that a lot of social media could be seen as the short term memory.

    Tweets, Facebook status updates, even blog posts fall into this. They are units of memory that are acted upon by the individual human components of the brain in real time.

    Sites such as Wikipedia are then analogous to long term memory. Information can be written from the short term memory into the long term memory.

  10. Bryce Ewing says:

    Thinking of the Web as a new layer of the human brain gives me a thought about how different parts of it can be seen in relation to brain parts. I would say that a lot of social media could be seen as the short term memory.

    Tweets, Facebook status updates, even blog posts fall into this. They are units of memory that are acted upon by the individual human components of the brain in real time.

    Sites such as Wikipedia are then analogous to long term memory. Information can be written from the short term memory into the long term memory.

  11. larsludwig says:

    Metacortex, social brain, global brain: there are many names for this. What's important is that – so far – it is far from a super mind. Why? Because the Web is rather limited: most thoughts will never enter it. We won't get there until we have 'artificial memories' – that is external minds meaning more complete expressions of our thoughts' world.

  12. larsludwig says:

    Metacortex, social brain, global brain: there are many names for this. What's important is that – so far – it is far from a super mind. Why? Because the Web is rather limited: most thoughts will never enter it. We won't get there until we have 'artificial memories' – that is external minds meaning more complete expressions of our thoughts' world.

  13. marianasoffer says:

    If you use a highly simplified brain model you can divided in two 3 parts, ranging from the most basic and indispensable towards the more complex and not so essential for surviving, they are:
    1. ANS (reptile brain)
    2. Emotional Layer
    3. Cognitive (thinking, abstraction capabilities)
    They have several rules how they relate among each other, for example you need the first layer to allow the second to work and the second to allow the third one to work properly. The lower layers have a very strong influence in the functioning of the upper ones, while the upper ones do not have such a strongly influence in the lower ones.
    So I was thinking if by adding the metacortext as the 4th layer, the rules of the 3 layer model would still apply in this case.
    This approach might be erroneous due to considering that the meta-cortex alone is the 4th layer, maybe it should be considered as a part of the it.
    What do you think about this idea, I would like to know about it?

  14. marianasoffer says:

    If you use a highly simplified brain model you can divided in two 3 parts, ranging from the most basic and indispensable towards the more complex and not so essential for surviving, they are:
    1. ANS (reptile brain)
    2. Emotional Layer
    3. Cognitive (thinking, abstraction capabilities)
    They have several rules how they relate among each other, for example you need the first layer to allow the second to work and the second to allow the third one to work properly. The lower layers have a very strong influence in the functioning of the upper ones, while the upper ones do not have such a strongly influence in the lower ones.
    So I was thinking if by adding the metacortext as the 4th layer, the rules of the 3 layer model would still apply in this case.
    This approach might be erroneous due to considering that the meta-cortex alone is the 4th layer, maybe it should be considered as a part of the it.
    What do you think about this idea, I would like to know about it?

  15. tonyv414 says:

    The Borg Collective….

  16. titi says:

    yes, but in this case the system is not “closed” as is our brain . new parts come and go, you can not value that like a closed system . its more likely Very Crazy .

  17. titi says:

    yes, but in this case the system is not “closed” as is our brain . new parts come and go, you can not value that like a closed system . its more likely kind ofCrazy . or…because its open, its healthier. but what is the role of each part ? interesting phenomenon
    the good thing is that memory doesnt fail like human
    and another absolute value is freedom f expression

    rumours, which easily have wings or wrong info f.e in wikipedia is quickly corrected

    how will the human body change in metacortex..

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. fritz freiheit.com blog » Link dump
  2. Nathan Hwang » [Review] Accelerando
  3. Anticipating Transcendence (the movie) | Econosystemics
  4. ¿Bailamos? De las neuronas al metacórtex digital | Filölearning
(function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i['GoogleAnalyticsObject']=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){ (i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o), m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m) })(window,document,'script','https://www.google-analytics.com/analytics.js','ga'); ga('create', 'UA-80619811-1', 'auto'); ga('send', 'pageview');