On-going GBI research projects

The following is an overview of the main topics currently being investigated in GBI, including the names of the most directly involved researchers and some representative references.  For more details, check our publications or Working Papers.

▼ Self-Organization of Distributed Intelligence

This is the most fundamental topic of our research: how can a complex system consisting of interconnected people and artefacts develop some form of intelligent organization, characterized by knowledge, intelligence, and goal-directedness? Our working hypothesis is that coordination between distributed agents self-organizes, making their collective actions increasingly synergetic, coherent, and directed. The mechanisms for that spontaneous coordination can be found in the concept of stigmergy, the theory of "chemical organizations" (which is a generalization of the theory of autopoiesis), and the reinforcement of successfully used links in networks.

Researchers:  HeylighenWeinbaum, Veitas, Lenartowicz 

Selected publications:

▼ Mathematical and Computational Modelling

Here we try to formalize the insights developed in the previous project, first mathematically, then via a computer simulation. We use two different formalisms, one very simple and general based on the reaction networks of Chemical Organization Theory (COT), one more complex and sophisticated based on the propagation of challenges between interlinked agents. The first computer simulation investigates how spontaneous organizations emerging from abstract, reactive networks can be 
 adaptive. The second, more complex one, called ChallProp, attempts to provide a relatively realistic model of the self-organization of distributed intelligence in the Global Brain. The Global Brain is here modelled as a social network linking agents along which challenge vectors propagate until they have extracted most of the potential benefit.

Researchers: Veitas, Busseniers, Heylighen, Weinbaum, Veloz

Selected publications:

▼ Distributed Governance and Digital Democracy

In this project, we apply our theoretical insights in order to envisage more decentralized, bottom-up methods of governance, in order to replace the rigid and inefficient hierarchical structures that are traditionally found in governments and corporations. For this, we draw inspiration from various techniques and applications of collective intelligence, web communities, and the "collaborative commons". We also apply general principles of self-organization in complex adaptive systems. The intention is to design radically new forms of democracy and sharing, in which individual freedom and diversity form the fuel for collective action.

Researchers: Last, 
BusseniersHeylighen, Helbing, Rodriguez, Lenartowicz 

Selected publications:

▼ Technologies for Social Mobilization 

While our Distributed Governance project explores new forms of social organization, we here investigate technological systems and material infrastructures that support such social innovation. We define a mobilization system as a technology that motivates and coordinates human action. Mobilization systems use external media, such as wiki websites, "fab labs" or city infrastructures, to stigmergically "nudge" people to perform the right actions at the right moment. They apply challenges and high-bandwidth feedback to sustain engagement, create a sense of "flow", and incite exploration and innovation. This reduces confusion and procrastination, while promoting efficient collaboration and synergy.

Researchers: KiemenHeylighenBeigi

Selected publications: 

▼ Future Scenarios

Here we extrapolate the dynamics exhibited by the processes of self-organization, distributed governance, and newly emerging information technologies to get a clearer view of the medium-term future, i.e. the next 20-50 years. We propose plausible scenarios for the emergence of a Global Brain and its effects on individuals and society. We focus both on the great opportunities for progress offered by these developments, and on the obstacles and dangers likely to be encountered.

Researchers: LastHeylighenWeinbaumVeitas, Glenn, Goertzel, Vidal

Selected publications:

▼ Sustainability and Resilience of Complex Networks

One of the greatest dangers confronting our society is its unsustainable use of natural resources and its fragility in the face of systemic shocks (such as the 2008 financial collapse). Using the same theoretical framework with which we investigate the self-organization of coordination in complex networks, we try to pinpoint the factors that distinguish sustainable from unsustainable networks of interactions, and fragile networks from robust, resilient or "antifragile" ones. This should allow us to formulate general recommendations for developing more sustainable and resilient systems.

Researchers: Beigi, HeylighenBusseniersHelbing
Selected publications:

▼ Coping with Uncertainty and Complexity 

Another problem confronting our present society is "hyperconnectivity": via the omnipresent network, everyone is potentially interacting with everyone and everything. The resulting information overload, constant interruptions, and seemingly unlimited range of options from which to choose create great stress on individuals and organizations. One of the effects is a growing epidemic of "burnouts" and depressions. At the global level, the ever-increasing range of interactions creates a difficult to control situation that has been described as "Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous" (VUCA). In this project, we investigate technologies and methods that help people to cope, individually, socially and organizationally, with the corresponding avalanche of stimuli, challenges and interactions.

Researchers: EchanoveBeigiHeylighen

Selected publications: 
  • Heylighen, F., & Vidal, C. (2008). Getting Things Done: The Science behind Stress-Free Productivity. Long Range Planning, 41(6), 585–605. 
  • Beigi, S. (2014). Mindfulness Engineering: A Unifying Theory of Resilience for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA) World (PhD thesis). University of Bristol, Bristol, UK.

▼ Dissemination and Education

The aim of this project is to inform the public, the academic community and various decision-makers about the most important results of our research, in order to make them become better aware and develop a deeper understanding of the deep societal changes resulting from the on-going ICT developments. We do this via publications, organization of seminars and conferences, preparation of a course on the future of the information society, and an integrated media strategy for disseminating our results, including this website, our mailing lists, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. We are also investigating new educational technologies that harness the powers of self-organization and the Intermet to make collective learning much more efficient.

Researchers: Echanove, 
Last, Heylighen, Kiemen