15 Feb 2011
Marvin Minky coined the term the society of mind. The metaphor of the mind as a society of interacting and debating agents is indeed a natural one, since the mind consists of billions of neurons which interact and “debate” with each other intensively.
But what happens when agents become aware of something? Can they develop somehow a collective consciousness? If the population of agents in such a society of mind is large and complex enough, can it represent and recognize itself? Can they become aware of themselves and develop some kind of self-awareness?
Difficult and interesting questions. What we call conscious and self aware certainly exists in some form in a society, too. If the whole society is conscious of something, then it has developed some form of collective consciousness. If this something is the society itself – for instance when a complex self-similar society contains elements which are similar to the whole – it has started to develop some form of collective self-awareness.
a) Collective consciousness is simply what the majority of agents is thinking or doing right now. Traditionally, this is shaped and formed by the mass media in normal society. Today, this is captured perfectly by Google Zeitgiest, Twitter and Facebook.
b) Collective self-awareness happens when the majority of agents is thinking or discussing about themselves, which is possible during revolutions or revolutionary changes in a society, when the society is debating and changing itself. A society of agents which becomes aware of itself is a revolutionary society which is debating itself.
more about about the topic in our wiki page about collective consciousness