Francis Heylighen: home page


go to the source for contact details and ongoing updates: Francis Heylighen: home page

Francis Heylighen: home page

I am a research professor at the Free University of Brussels (Vrije Universiteit Brussel), where I direct the transdisciplinary research group on “Evolution, Complexity and Cognition, the Global Brain Institute, and soon the Center “Leo Apostel”. I am also affiliated with the Department of History, Art and Philosophy (HARP). I have for long been an editor of the Principia Cybernetica Project, an international organization for the collaborative development of an evolutionary-systemic philosophy, which is now essentially dormant after the death of its founder, Valentin Turchin .

The main focus of my research is the origin and evolution of complex, and in particular intelligent, organization. How do systems emerge, self-organize, adapt and achieve some form of cognition? I approach these problems starting from an ontology of actions or processes: the building blocks of reality are not material particles or “things”, but interactions. Systems are then merely stabilized, self-producing networks of processes. I have worked in particular on the development of collective intelligence or distributed cognition, and its application to the emerging “global brain“. I have also been looking at how individual agents tackle challenges via action, exploration, and learning, and how their interactions become coordinated via connectionist networks and stigmergy.

I use the underlying action ontology as a foundation for the integration of ideas from different disciplines into an evolutionary-cybernetic “world view” , which is to replace the static and reductionist Newtonian worldview. This broad evolutionary view, together with its practical applications on the Internet, has helped me to develop a broad, but concrete vision on the future of the information society. The main idea is that humanity is undergoing a metasystem transition towards a higher level of organization and distributed intelligence that can be conceived as a “Global Brain”.

I teach an introductory course on “Complexity and Evolution” at the VUB. My freely available lecture notes can be used as a textbook on the domain. I have also been teaching a more advanced course on Cognitive Systems . I will start teaching courses on the philosophy of technology, and on mind, brain and body in 2019 (in Dutch).

As a true interdisciplinarian, I have moreover done research and published papers about a wide variety of subjects in a wide variety of disciplines, from mathematical physics, via computer science and life sciences to linguistics, economics, sociology, psychology, philosophy and the meeting of art and science, including:


My list of some 200 publications (almost all downloadable) is available on my Google Scholar page, starting with the most cited. This includes a numerical analysis of my citations (nearly 9000) and my H-index (50: getting better and better…). To check the newest work, here is the same Google Scholar page, starting with the most recent. (Microsoft Academic Search produced a more limited coverage of my publications and citations, as do ResearchGate and Academia.)

A little more about myself

For more about my work, check my biographical sketch, or my more detailed”Notes for an intellectual autobiography“. I have produced some artwork and literary writing. Here is a selection of my best photos and my graphic work. To get an idea of my character, check my personality profile according to the “Big Five” psychological dimensions, and my Myers-Briggs personality type. For an idea of my tastes, here is a Youtube playlist of music I like. I am an enthusiastic adept of the paleolithic lifestyle: maximizing health and happiness by living more like our hunter-gatherer ancestors. The effect on my physical abilities is illustrated by my “athletic selfies”.

If you would like to see me in action, here are some videos:

If you’re curious how others see me, you can find references to my work on other web pages, such as an entry on me in Wikipedia, a satirical interview in “Wired”,the list of “Great Thinkers and Visionaries on the Net“, “Francis Heylighen: pioneer of the global brain” by Ben Goertzel, or a rather sensationalist feature article in New Scientist. On the web, you can also find a couple of interviews with me.


go to the source for contact details and ongoing updates: Francis Heylighen: home page