Thursday, September 17, 2009

Nerd Word of the Week: Noosphere

Linux Kernel Map
Noosphere (n.) - Intellectual term for the sphere of human thought, and/or a medium of exchange for all human ideas and knowledge. Sometimes used as a metaphorical synonym for cyberspace, the Internet. The related terms Noocene and noocracy refer to the era when humans became self-aware and began improving themselves though idea sharing, and a system of government that directly acknowledges and harnesses this awareness, respectively.
The noosphere is a recurring plot device in science fiction, perhaps most notably in The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway, which saw noospheric weapons ravaging human civilization by permantly erasing ideas, and in the anime/manga series Neon Genesis Evangelion, in which several characters sought to make the noosphere a tangible reality.
I bring it up because: Eighteen years ago today, the first version of Linux kernel was released to the Internet. This led to a revolution in software development and the publication of two seminal essays by Eric S. Raymond: "The Cathedral and the Bazaar" and "Homesteading the Noosphere." The former deals with top-down versus grassroots software engineering and commerce. The latter discusses the possibility and preconcpetions of actually owning and profiting from ideas in an era when said ideas can be massively, instantly, and freely exchanged via the Internet. The noosphere is thus an overlap concept between science and science fiction, wherein this collective intelligence of humanity is simultaneously a philosophical construct, a sociological phenomenon, and economic force, and a buzzword-compliant synonym for the Web. Plus, if you know how to spell and pronounce noosphere, you've got instant nerd-cred.

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