Collective Intelligence (2)

George Por, in the Blog of Collective Intelligence, asks: How can a group of individual intelligences become truly collective intelligence? How can they escape into a more complex and capable collective intelligence, without sacrificing their autonomy?

“Collective intelligence is a distributed capacity of communities to evolve towards higher order integration and performance through collaboration and innovation."

“These shared values, perceptions, meanings, semantic habits, cultural practices, ethics, and so on, I simply refer to as culture, or the intersubjective patterns in consciousness.” Ken Wilber

What's necessary to foster this collective intelligence (CI)? George suggests it's

  • Shared learning agenda
  • Trusted relationships among members,
  • Frequent opportunities to participate in conversation

Tugging in the other direction are these inhibiters:

Ego and turf-battles
  • Conversations are not connected and facilitated for emergence
  • The community's knowledge ecosystem is week or poorly integrated
  • New technologies are not leveraged to balance the constraints imposed by cultural, geographic, hierarchical and other barriers.

    For this thinking to advance, you've got to share your take on things. Blog it. I'll give that a shot.


    Noosphere Evolution and Value Metabolism, An examination of the nature and behavior of the structures of consciousness and culture, by Steve McIntosh, is 55 pages on the worldview of Ken Wilber and the "value metabollism," which begins:

    This is an exciting time in the history of human knowledge. The last ten years have seen the emergence of a significant new understanding of the relationship between the material world, subjective consciousness, and human culture. The promise of this new view of the world is an integrated understanding of matter, mind, and spirit—a unified theory of all experience. The achievement of such a synthesis is really the greatest challenge of our age. If we can successfully unify the “three cultures” of art, science, and morality within a comprehensive framework, it will mark the beginning of a Second Enlightenment. The essential connections between the distinct realms of matter, mind, and spirit are now being revealed through the application of a new theory of evolution.

    During the 20th century, thinkers and pioneers such as Alfred North Whitehead,
    Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and Jean Gebser, explored and discovered many of the evolutionary properties of consciousness and culture. But in our time, there is emerging a new understanding of the noosphere1 which has been achieved by combining the best of empirical science with the subtle insights of the world’s great wisdom traditions. This synthesis has created a powerful lens—like Galileo’s telescope—with which to view the interior dimensions of reality. This new understanding illuminates the structures of consciousness and culture that until now have only been approached dimly and by different paths without a common terminology or mutual recognition.

    The person most responsible for the emergence of this new view of the world is
    Ken Wilber.

    Sounds great, but not how I plan to spend the first Saturday morning of spring.


    Yesterday I began reading Gerald Edelman's take on consciousness. He's focused on individual consciousness. I'm interested more in group mind than individual consciousness, but I figure they're both complex systems, why not see how one viewpoint cross-fertilizes the other.

      In Berkeley, the Friends of Five Creeks is "daylighting" creeks that had been culverted to make way for residential subdivisions, railroads, and misguided lang use projects. The creeks have been flowing but people had been unable to see and enjoy them.

      What I'm doing today on the blog, a common activity for me, is "daylighting" the flow of thinking that's always happening in my head but, like the creeks, generally out of sight. Culverted thought.


    The material from George Por resonates with constructs I'm already happy with. Admittedly, this one stretches a few concepts:

    I'll admit that I have never read Wilber in the original. (His books are too thick.) However, if Ken can improve the fit of my evolvong worldview with the real world, I'm game.

    Here are some of the pieces floating around in my current inquiries.

    One common denominator among complex systems, and this may be Jay's brain inventing patterns as much as the reality other people see, is the demise of top-down in favor of lateral connections. Teams, not hierarchies. Experiences, not curriculum. Expertiment, not dogma.

    Imagine for a moment that the little guys in the graphic above are files, not people. The organization of my files has long resembled the "Past" organization. Instead of layers of people, I have layers of directories and files. Most files are at the end of a long chain. Over time, files change categories, e.g. prospects become customers, scribbles become articles, notes become printed reports. For years, I've manually moved the files around. This time-wasting activity leaves me with an electroniic filing system that's about as ratty as my paper files, which are located all over my office and downstairs cabinets and basement storage.

    This morning I was experimenting with X1, the new search tool that indexes your hard drive for rapid search. Given that I have three or four hard drives whirring away at any given time, a tool like this makes life much easier.

    I'm swapping the metaphor of file cabinet for that of informal organization. I'm going to give up on assuming I know where an item is going to end up in favor of stuffing enough unique naming or metadata into it that I can always retrieve it when I want. No more "Let me speak to your supervisor" crap when I want something.

    I've been calling the new form of organization "bottom-up," in contrast to "top-down." Bottom-up is actually a poor description of what I have in mind. It's closer to the mark to say horizontal rather than vertical. Or wavy instead of straight. Neural instead of hard-wired. Tacit rather than explicit. Flexible rather than rigid. Impromptu rather than pre-defined. Responsive rather than planned. Dynamic, not static. Ever changing, not tradition-bound. Evolving, not self-satisfied. It's as if...

    Back to collective intelligence

    George Por lit my fuse this morning. Using his blog entry as a starting point, I let whatever come to mind guide my thinking. I enjoy converting word-images into graphic representations. Dorking about in PaintShop and Visio gave me time to reflect on the concepts embodied in the flow of words. Had you asked me in the midst of this flow experience, I would have told you this was all my thinking, my interpretation of reality, and my fresh thoughts.

    As I was cleaning up graphic fragments and electonic Post-It notes from my screen, I noticed some images from a piece by John Seely Brown that I'd read some time in the last few days. (Research on the web can be another timeless flow experience for me.) Damned if he hadn't beat me to the punch on some of these thoughts by eight or nine years!

    Part of this collective intelligence meme is operating below our level of consciousness.


    Posted by Jay Cross at April 3, 2004 01:28 PM | TrackBack
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