Gaia versus Servoglobe

The core content of Sigmund Kvaloey's article was originally given as a talk at an international conference on the "Gaia theory", arranged by ECOROPA in Cornwall, England in 1987.

Summary of Main Points

  1. "Servoglobe" is a name given to a supra-nationally run "global supercomputer" - an "artificial intelligence" system coupled to a global network of information gathering and electronic data-processing systems, surveillance satellites, regional expert terminaIs, etc., semi-automatic in operation - created partly by economic globalization forces, and partly to serve mankind's survival in the face of a destructively simplified natural biosphere (Gaia) and the threat of political and social chaos.
  2. There are strong scientific, technological, economic, administrative, and political forces at work on aIl sides of the various global conflict fronts to reach efficiency in repairing and managing the increasingly unmanageable mess created by Western lndustrial Society - or rather: the Advanced Competitive-lndustrial Dominion - ACID (to be defined). There have been various research projects in operation for more than thirty years to co-ordinate this effort through micro-processing networks of increasing sophistication. Various feedback loops are involved in this process, gradually producing a self-propelling impetus of such a force that it is hard to see what would stop it, even if there were any public awareness of what is happening. There is not. Projecting this development into the future, the end point is Servoglobe.
  3. Part of the strength of this self-propelling process has its root in the impossibility of managing a natural dynamic "system" as if it was a system of static machinery (the 'complex' as if it was 'complicated', see below), but these are the only means that science and technology have given us. The result is a build-up of chaos-potential, and at an accelerating rate larger quantities and more refined versions of the mechanistic "medicine" are applied. lnstead of changing the medicine, which is beyond the horizon of ACID, a steadily greater effort is put into widening its application: The thinking is that "there are loopholes in the systems" which must be closed to achieve a completely rational functioning of it. Among other things, human political activity is treated as "sand in the machinery" that must be removed to obtain a smooth running. So are old borders between nations. Servoglobe is the "Endlösung" to these problems.
  4. Finally, nature - the biosphere, Gaia - must also be conceived by this thinking as too messy for rational management. After all, she is seen primarily as a collection of resources for human material needs. So, the impetus is strong toward a replacement of Gaia - i.e. the biosphere's natural self-regulation - by an artificial system of global compass.
  5. Servoglobe, however, is an impossible goal, - a breakdown of the mechanistic control network will happen before that end-point is reached. The reason for this is the later mentioned lack of "interface" between 'the complicated' and 'the complex'. These concepts are defined (this is the central part of the presentation, which everything else hangs on): Gaia is complex, ACID tends inherently towards perfected complication.
  6. ACID may go far in this grandiose attempt and the further it gets, the more devastating will be the resulting chaos (Priogine is counterargued). To create awareness of this development is therefore an extremely vital project.

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Gaia versus Servoglobe
Sigmund Kvaløy Setreng (1989): Særtrykk fra I et filosofisk terrreng - Festskrift Sverre Sløgeda1 Filosofisk institutts publikasjonsserie nr. 43, NTNU