Homo contactus has arrived!

New era, new thinking.

Harold Jarche opened a new box for me.

A recent post on his blog ignited a series of thoughts in my mind.

Thinking back on Rodin’s “The thinker” as the old way of thinking : solitary and deep.

Are we so far down the rabbit hole in this new era of social networks that we cannot think deeply anymore?

Is “real” thinking solely the realm of solitary reflection?

Harold does not think so. And I do not either.


I recently used a brain analogy to explain this.

The brain is composed of a hundred billion neurons and even more glial cells, facilitating the connections between neurons. Connections between the neural cells is mostly random, each neuron connecting with as much as ten thousand (10 000) other cells. No neuron contains the whole information. The neural network holds the space for knowledge.

New knowledge is then retained when the signal for it is repeated frequently.

Experiments with fruit flies (Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1974 Mar; 71(3): 708–712.Conditioned Behavior in Drosophila melanogaster,William G. Quinn, William A. Harris, and Seymour Benzer) demonstrated decades ago that even a minuscule fruit fly can learn upon repeated stimulus.

But true memory is only acquired when a second parameter is introduced : rest (Tully T, Preat T, Boynton SC, Del Vecchio M. Genetic dissection of consolidated memory in Drosophila. Cell. 1994;79:35–47). Rest was necessary for protein synthesis to occur. Long term memory was sensitive to cycloheximide, a known protein synthesis inhibitor, whereas short term memory was not.

Ok, ok… enough of my former life as a molecular biologist.


I am now an organizational biologist. So back to Harold’s article. But keep the last paragraph in mind.

How does knowledge occur?

Thinking alone certainly works. Thinking deeply for a long time strengthens the stimulus, induces profound breathing more associated with the resting stage than the typical training environment of a classroom at work… more stressful and not as conductive to learning as one corporate trainer might think.

Thinking alone is a slow and repetitive process. One thinks, tests one’s hypothesis, thinks some more and so forth. All the hallmarks of a neural connection occurring after a stimulus. Not being a fruit fly, one’s has an abundance of neurons to use for such a process.

A slow process.

Evolution and history prove that it works.


But here come computers, social networks and communication satellites.

Homo contactus has arrived!

By looking at the incredible progression of social networks one realizes that evolution has taken a radical turn for man.


First few years of social media progression


May 1

Wikipedia, a free encyclopedia that anyone can edit, launches.


StumbleUpon, a website that recommends web content to its users, begins.2002


March 22

Friendster, considered the granddaddy of social networks, launches.


Technorati, a search engine for blogs, goes live.



LinkedIn begins. LinkedIn strives to be known as a business-related social networking site used by professionals from its inception.

May 23

WordPress, a publishing platform that hosts blogs, is released.



Myspace is launched.

January 4

Google begins Gmail.


Flickr, an image and video hosting website, goes live.

March 1

Facebook, a social networking service which began at Harvard, expands to other universities.


Yelp, a social networking site where users can review local businesses, begins.

December 5

DIGG, a social news website, goes live.

December 30

Facebook reaches one million members.


Knowledge now doubles every 12 months or so. Oh… not knowledge but information. Subtle difference. And here lies the crux of the matter.

As Niels Pflaeging mentions one needs to filter information from data and then assemble this into knowledge. Only with deep and slow thinking can one hope to make sense of it all.

from data to wisdom

Wellllll, not anymore.

There is now so much information that one alone cannot succeed. We need the thinking structure of a brain to do this. A brain of brains. A network of networks… which is exactly how the web is connected.

Ray Kurzweil described the coming Artificial Intelligence not as a Terminator/Skynet power/Knowledge grid or a Matrix type super sentient computer but rather by connecting billions of minicomputers… our mobile devices and the global web.

We therefore already have a semi-sentient highly reactive AI: our numerous networks, all interconnected and responsive.

A single comment or “like” on Facebook might eventually have the same effect as the famous Lorenz’s butterfly.


Learning and thinking can now be social.

And fast!

And deep!

As long as the proper process is understood and put in place.

Harold did just that with his PKM workshop.  I now think of PKM as the most essential tool of the knowledge worker in this digital age.





And I would humbly add… repeat!


Seek, randomly at first, like a neuron connecting to another neuron in the brain.

Seek throughout the numerous sources of information.

Seek colleagues and peers with similar interests or vastly different passions and be prepared to be surprised!


Sense, makes sense of this information. It used to be enough to read the morning paper. What if you could read the morning papers of a thousand cities? Or rather, trust your networked colleagues to extract the relevant information and relay it to you…

Sense, filter and re-extract information in order to transform it, through repeated exposures and multiple interpretations into knowledge.


And finally share with your network. To help. To cooperate to the global thinking process. To reflect some more and to alter your original idea.

To think.


And deep.

Together as one.



Much like a neuron seeking other neurons to connect and share neurotransmitters and solidify the connection over time.





The global brain at work through the internet.

One’s brain is not the sole owner of knowledge. No organization can survive on its own. We are all part of the “symbiote” as Joel De Rosnay now call our ecosystem.

All connected.

And interdependent.

Together as one.

The homo contactus has arrived!




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