Lenses for looking at “co-intelligence”

There are many lenses through which “co-intelligence” can be and are studied. In this blog, I will to introduce you my favorite lenses crafted by people whose work has been inspiring my own passion for the field. They come from:
• Academic research on collective intelligence, Pierre Lévy
• Theoretical framework of co-intelligence combined with, and nourished by grass-roots activism, Tom Atlee
• Implications of the peer-to-peer movement for the emergence of a civilization of collective intelligence, Michel Bauwens
• The movement of communities of practice: communities that learn in business and social life, Etienne Wenger
These four streams are not the only ones but the most influential in co-evolving our co-intelligence. Exploring the ways in which they can enhance each other, has the potential to boost the development of each. It’s the potential that I feel attracted to realize with all interested parties, more than anything else.

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3 Responses to Lenses for looking at “co-intelligence”

  1. Dear friends,
    Here is a copy of a sabbatical report which contains several short book
    reviews that may be of interest, and also of interest
    as an outline of my own intellectual and existential
    priorities for the moment.
    Michel Bauwens
    Dear friends and former colleagues,
    Many thanks for the New Year’s greetings I have received some weeks ago, and my apologies for not replying to all of you, partly because I have been travelling quite a bit.
    To those who subcribed to DRA last year, I promised warning of new projects, and to others, to update them on developments. As I have some time, and though my incoming mailbox is out of order, I take the opportunity to send this message.
    How is the sabbatical year proceeding?
    Those who are tempted to proceed on the same lines should be aware that the very first weeks require some adaptation. Suddenly, one is home full-time, and while that has many advantages, it is also a confrontation with the other, with no escape. In that sense, work is not just a burden, but also a form of escape and change. This was certainly true for me, as in August, I decided to take my mother in my home after she had a Alzheimer crisis. So the first month was a time of adaptation to this situation, and was also spent on moving my mother’s former house, a very elaborate and tiring process. It is amazing how difficult it is to get rid of things, even to simply give them away, as those on the receiving end are actually quite demanding. “I only take comic books” or “we come to your house, but everthing has to be on the ground floor’” “I take only furniture from the nineteen fifties”. So overall, October was not a terribly exciting month.
    But after that, gradually a inner peace settled in, which allowed for much greater concentration and self-reflection. The time of these first months were spent on a mixture of things, some administrative and medical duties, a lot of high quality time with my wife and a new son, some travelling, and reading.
    TRAVELLING
    My original plans for a long worldwide trip were scuttled because of my mother’s condition, but we took her along on monthly city trips which were much appreciated. We visited London, Berlin, and Prague, mostly to show European places to my Thai wife, and also New York and Washington DC. Most of it memory trips dedicated to my wife, since I had been to all places but Prague and Berlin. London was of course fine but rainy, I always enjoy a visit to Forbidden Planet, the infamous bookstore, and a umbrella shop near Piccadilly where Arab sheiks and myself bought an amazing “stormbreaker umbrella” that look like weapons actually.
    in Berlin we had a good time though we found the city somewhat cold and not very comfy, I guess the effect of its destruction in WWII combined with the disaster of modernist architecture and too broad bouleverds (yes, Prince Charles, I am with you on that one!) However, The Pergamom Museum with its Assyrian and Babylonian city gates, is very very impressive. Prague was wonderful though still feeling the effects of the great floods of last year. It was cold but sunny, not too many tourists around, and I could have swore I had seen the Golem lurking about in the many small alleys of this old city. I was fascinated by these ceramic eggs they produce, with religious paintings, or Art Nouveau motifs, and wish I had really bought one.
    READING
    I started my reading diet, one of the chief aims of the sabbatical, with two quite difficult books: Empire, by Toni Negri, which I had mentioned in my newsletters, and Jacques Barzun’s, From Dawn to Decadence, 500 years of western cultural history. I must say that though I have always read in my life, at least one hour a day for 35 years now, the quality of reading after the sabbatical sets in, is very different. The mind after a day’s work is not the same as the mind after a perhaps busy day, but performed in ‘slow time’. So, even though I perhaps only doubled my reading time, the level of concentration and engagement with a book is totally different. It becomes much more of a spiritual and existential engagement in which everything you read can be contrasted with what you already know and your life’s experience, so gradually I came to feel really ‘spiritually aligned’ with that activity. Sometimes it seems to me that the last 15 years in business have past in a slumber, the mind is active of course, but so busy with pragmatic tasks and reactive things that one is in fact barely conscious of true existence, and with critical intelligence only marginally active. Which reminds of my experiences in a Gurdjieff group way back, that argued that we are in fact all asleep, and they proved it to me with a small experiment: 99% of the people can only look at a watch, and knowing that they do it at the same time, for only a maximum of 13 seconds. (it was true in my case)
    Empire is a grand theoretical work, and a key book to understand the current world (a consultant friend told me that the top officials of the Japanese MITI had little else on their mind when he visited them, yet in Europe I have yet to find an official who knows about the work. Apparently the Japanese are totally reviewing their strategy for the next decades, away from the US which they privately consider to have gone totally awry after last year’s legal coup d’Etat), but unfortunately very difficult to read. But the key ideas are easy to grasp: in contrast with the many people who say that we are moving towards global governance, or should move towards it, he says that we have entered this state a long time a go, and that a global system with specific rules has already come about. In other words, the Westfalian system of nation-states, which more or less pacified Europe after the decimating civil wars of the Reformation Era, is now dead and buried. Empire is thus a global system consisting of American military might (the first layer), the worldwide financial networks which have destroyed national sovereignity and impeach any national change with classic political means (the second layer), what remains of the big nation states (G7-G8), the worldwide media apparatus, the combination of international organisations and large NGOs which he says play a comparative corrective role to the large religious orders of the late Middle Ages. Empire cannot be dominated by any single national state, not even the US, and is not imperialist, in the sense of wanting to gain territory for exploitation, but aims at preserving an international order based on certain key values. This is why he sees the current Bush regime as a regressive attempt to return to imperialism, and not as something that can last very long. He mysteriously calls this the Byzantine strategy, I’ll have to find out more about that historical context though …Of course, Negri, who belonged to the extreme left in Italy and wrote this book in prison, opposes Empire, and his book outlines counterstrategies. What is doomed he says is any strategy aimed at gaining power in a nation-state, because a global decentralised and de-territorialised system can only be fought on the same scale, and there is no ‘outside’ anymore. Yet, at the same time, he claims that the era of negative struggles is over (‘resisting can now only be creating’), and that the only viable strategy today is the ones the Christians adopted. They did not fight the decadent Roman Empire, but created a counter-Empire, which survived the collapse, thus his complex notions of ‘Exodus’, ‘lines of flight’, the creation of counter-meshworks etc.. Difficult stuff, often coated in postmodern jargon, but in his defense I must say that once one gets into the book and the many reviews and commentaries on it, one realises that this vocabulary is not the product of an arrogant mind, but one that has been engaged in many philosophical and political debates and has not given up hope for a more humane world, even if one disagrees with his strategies. A shortcut for those interested might be to read ‘Du Retour’, a long interview in the form of an ‘abecedaire’ where Negri conversationally explains many notions in a much simpler manner.
    Jacques Barzun is much more traditional stuff, in fact easy to read, but discourages with its 800 pages and small print. It is western cultural history on a grand scale which starts at the moment when Luther pins his theses on a church door, and ends with scathing remarks about computers and the new economy. Very good as a refresher course in general culture, to remind yourself what happened during the Reformation, Renaissance, Enlighthenment, the Victorian Age etc.. The only problem is with the decadent thesis of the book because Barzun does not describe in convincing terms the transition point between a originally high and thriving European culture which changed the whole world, and the decadence of the modern era, and its headlong race to ecological destruction, making him sound like a cranky old man at the end of the book.
    So to understand this notion of decadence, in the sense of a system which no longer responds to systemic crises, I recommend another wonderful book, which can be read with a lot of pleasure: the memoires by Stefan Zweig, called The World of Yesterday. Zweig was one of of the most widely read authors of the interwar period, and an Austrian Jew from Vienna, who describes the period from 1895 onwards to 1942, the date at which he committed suicide in exile in Brazil. At the end of the nineteenth century, Europe was thriving: apart from the small Franco-Prussion war of the seventies, it had known uninterrupted peace for many decades, the bourgeois class was easily making money, and though workers had tough material conditions, their struggles and the overall progress of the economy was making them better all the time. Thus it was a time of optimism and general belief in Progress. The cultural elite freely travelled from capital to capital, without the need for visas and passports and the coming of a united Europe seemed a natural thing to them. Then, as the new century starts to proceed, things start to unravel, and unexpectedly, total war breaks out in 1914, with the masses turning to nationalist hysteria, until the mass killing demoralises the whole population, rich and poor alike. But after the war, an unjust peace that punishes Germany leads to permanent chaos, with nationalist, communist and fascist militias everywhere, severe economic crises such as the great German inflation and 1929 which culminates in a Second World War which destroys everything he loves, destroying his family in the process. This book is thus not dry history but infused with the humanist feelings and tragedy of a human life destroyed by forces beyond the control of an individual. Must reading to understand what once was and had been lost for a long while.
    The other books I will only briefly mention: 1) Wolfgang Giegerich, the Logical Life of the Soul, a difficult post-Jungian book which in my provisional opinion wrongly equates psychology with the mystical quest 2) Spinoza and Politics, by Etienne Balibar (heady stuff but as Spinoza is getting a comeback, it gives some essentials) 3) Jean-Claude Michea, Impasse Adam Smith, a scathing critique of neoliberalism, seen as a pernicious utopia that finally gained world dominance to produce its current dehumanising effects. 4) The Origins and History of Consciousness, by Erik Neumann, masterly overview of the history of myth, seen as echoing the evolution and complexification of human consciousness; 5) Le Pouvoir Constituant, another difficult book by Negri, on an alternative line of modernity going from Machiavelli via Spinoza to Marx, but very useful as a summary of Machiavelli.
    As you see, I am slowly getting to cruising speed, and came back from the US with a whole suitcase full of books bought in The Strand, Manhattan, a second hand bookstore with 8 miles of books (somewhere along 8th and Broadway)! Cheap, but heavy, and reading them will be another matter… Am I reading in any structured fashion?, yes and no. No, because I choose my books based on the feeling of the moment, and I have several dozens of books I have purchased over the last few years, without time to read them, and yes, because at the same time I am working on a new intellectual project which structures my reading.
    Following the four quadrant scheme developed by author Ken Wilber (worldofkenwilber.com), which distinguishes the evolution of the self (Q1) of technology and material things (Q2), of social, political and economic systems (Q3), and finally on collective worldviews, philosophy, religion and culture (Q4), I am busily collating a Lifetime Reading List that should answer the question: what should a cultured person of today, read, in terms of nonfiction, to understand the world we live in and the evolution to the current point with of course pointers to a future transition towards a next civilisational format, now that this one has reached such an impasse?
    You can see a draft version at http://noosphere.cc/intBib.html and get the latest updates by request, specifying the quadrant or the subject you’re interested in. So the works I’m currently buying are obviously inspired by what I learn in compiling this annotated and structured bibliography.
    SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS
    I have had a limited number of speaking engagements. One in the Technical University of Berlin, on the topic of peer to peer, which I see as the template of the next phase of civilisation, see draft at http://noosphere.cc/peerToPeer.html, where I was invited by Oekonux, a group of people that want to extend the principles of free software and Open Sources to the rest of the economy. I was absolutely flabbergasted to meet there a number of engineers from Siemens and Volkswagen, who were adamant that it would easily work, since today, the material production of these products is marginal compared to the intellectual work of research and development, and this work is in almost all ways comparable to producing software.
    Though I am not sharing all their views, I am pretty convinced that in the current next few years but hopefully not decades, the dominant system is turning against creativity and innovation. After the destruction of internet innovation by the financial sector, and the stifling Intellectual Property Laws voted by Congress in the US, there is little excitement to expect in ‘official circles’ during the next few years, with industrial leaders playing much the same role as the feudal corporations during the emergence of capitalism: trying to stop the innovation and overturning of the productive forces. I am increasingly interested in the growing conflict between the inherently cooperative nature of the intellectual work that is central to cognitive capitalism, and the inability to harness this. If interested, please request the bibliography I am compiling on precisely these kinds of analyses of cognitive capitalism and its possible transition.
    As a faithful reader of Steve Roach (chief economist of Morgan Stanley, author of the double dip prediction in terms of two consecutive recessions and stresses the fundamental balance of the leading economy, since governments, corporations, and consumers are all over-indebted at the same time that capital is leaving the US), I am not optimistic about the next few years, which will a time of political destabilisation (thanks to our friends over the Atlantic, where are the days of smart and enligthened leadership which allowed this great country to save us twice from totalitarianism, instead of increasing the chaos…), communautarian reflexes almost everywhere, and repeated economic downturns, but of course, it is precisely in these times that the stage is prepared for challenges that bring in new and more dynamic eras to come… and these are the things you should monitor to stay optimistic in the long run. At the very least, as the diminishing but remaining drive of neoliberalism runs its destructive course, we at least have to expect a series of serious crises culminating in the kind of global neo-Keynesian reform advocated by the likes of Soros, but the impasse will have to be more severe for these smart advocates of the system to gain the upperhand. Give it another 10 to 15 years I say. The real adventure will only come after that, when a reformed Empire will face both the regressionists (al qaeda, hindutva and all kinds of tribalist nationalisms), and the emergent worldcentric neo-globalists of the counter-Empire. Those will be the really interesting times!
    Another lecture was at New York University where apparently some people thought I was an expert on everything since I had to speak on the background of the Balkan crisis. Little do I know but apparently the current generation of American students has so little clue about history and geography that they thought it was illuminating … That more than thousand acting students were paying more than $35,000 per annum for pragmatic courses with so little general culture, I personally found galling… but this generation has the great advantage of great sincerity and total cynicism about the corporate media-fed PR, so all hope is not lost.
    After more than 20 enthusiastic trips to the US this was the first one that really dissapointed me. A combination of gentrification has made New York and Washington more livable, yet at the same time there is a pervasive culture of fear now, and a kind of sadness with the current Administration, which mostly paralyses the dynamic elements at this stage, leaving most people confused, and only a few really gungho, though of course a slight majority seems to have believed this strange equation that is ‘let’s invade Iraq to fight terrorism’… But this adherence is very fragile and only strengthened because of the total failure of the Democrats to bring any alternative view, and the movement of civil society, which is already at a much higher and broader level than during the similar stage of the Vietnam War, is simply not reported (Americans almost new nothing about the half million in Barcelona, the million in Florence, the the half million in DC in January, it only gave about a 10 sequence in the news…)
    THE TURN TO THE PAST, TO THE BOOK
    And that was basically it, since in the same period, I am closing my course on the Anthropology of Digital Society, for reasons of departure abroad. As you will have noticed, I am much less drawn to any futurist thinking, and I hardly surf the net. The internet is still fabulous for exchange and learning, but all you get from it is mostly thought capsules. A good old B.O.O.K is still a structured work, by an individual who not only has spent months or years writing it, but also as the end result of a whole life of learning and thinking, and you can engage with it much more deeply. So for me, this sabbatical represents not only a return to the book, but also a return to history, away from the digital and transhuman futures. I have bought books on Byzantium, want to know precisely who were these Barbarians that destroyed the Roman empire, want to know details about the first European revolution which, under instigation of the Church allied with the people against the Carolingian nobles, created feudalism around 980, got about 30% of property transferred to the Church, and pacified Europe and the peasant population through serfdom after that. After this major but mostly unknown event, instead of stagnating for four centuries in a the ‘high barbarian civilisation’ of the Carolingians, which had hardly any cities, the population started to double, creating a new urban civilisation by the 12th-13th centuries, and much more peaceful since the nobles now had the marry to grow their territories. But the peasants lost their liberty and the right to hunt …
    This interest for the past seems so much more difficult to do when one is working, and opposite, when one is reflecting at home on personal and family time, a lot of technological buzz just seems so vacuous. So at this stage, I leave the excitement about the cloning of Rael and the newest MMS developments to others, happy to focus more abstractly at patterns of change over the much longer term. At this stage, I find it hard to read the dailies, and seeing friends who are still working and all tensed up, is sometimes an eerie experience, where you feel ‘out of it’, wondering if you will be able to return to that alien world some day…
    In terms of intellectual synthesis for the future, I am thinking of filling out my peer to peer thesis more, and if I start to dream, it would be this: if Ken Wilber (following giants such as De Chardin, Aurobindo, Jean Gebser and other integral visions of human development) represents for me a high point of synthesis of the broad evolution of mankind, but seen through a filter of nonduality and so has a inherent tendency to gloss over ‘real contradictions’; then Negri represents the high point of another direction of synthesis: those who see mostly the inner contradictions of the system, and the centrality of the strugges that involves and so they are mostly focused on transition points. Both lines are very broad but encompass
    things missing in the other synthesis. Could they somehow be confronted and merged, so that integral theory could merge with critical theory, and form some kind of integral critical theory? Now that Wilber has become a bushie, it seems the task would be of primordial importance. But in fact, I see two more important lines to add. One would be the philosophers of the dark, which would include Sade, Nietzsche, Bataille, Bachelard, with shades of occulture and tantric ‘left hand paths’ and S_M like transgressions, which talk about what most of us do not want to see but is nevertheless equally part of the ‘infrapersonal’ reality; and the fourth line would be the one represented by the great mystic philosophers such as Plotinus and Meister Echhardt and all the true transpersonal realisers. So there we would have 1) integralism 2) critical theory 3) the forces of the infrapersonal 4) the forces of the transpersonal. Does that make sense? It seems the undertaking of a lifetime beyond my modest means, so I’ll just continue working on it in the form of a bibliography. My big weakness is that I always want to read new material, and that as soon as I have somehow primitively synthesised it in my head, I have great difficulty in standing still to work it out in detail… Which is why I am not a great philosopher but just one regular guy who reads books ….
    PLANS FOR THE FUTURE, FOR WHEN THE GREAT DEPARTURE?
    My departure is coming closer and closer. A week in Paris is planned in February still, but the 24th is goodbye time and the plane to Bangkok. We have found a house with a big garden and five rooms for only 300 Euro, but will have to install it in the first month. In April, I come home for a blitz visit and pick-up my mother. I’ll spend two nights at the VUB sleeplab because I’m getting to snore louder and my poor wife is no longer so enthousiastically smiling in the morning
    Some mini-trips in Asia are planned from March to May, ie Hong Kong, Singapore, Bali and perhaps some cruise and spa, if they are not too expensive. Also perhaps a Vipassana retreat, if I am courageous enough, it has been at least fifteen years since I had any strenuous spiritual exercise. As more happiness settled in my life, I have become more lazy in this regard, and I must say the scumbag gurus I met in the past have not helped ….
    (small disgression: that by the way is another pursuit, to monitor theorising a post-guru format of spiritual pursuit, something which also fits the peer to peer format, as explained by Jorge Ferrer in “the participative turn in transpersonal psychology’ and ‘sacred science’ by John Ferrer, pioneers of post-Wilberian integral thinking; I also want to come to terms with my own tendence towards transcendentalism and fascination with the Absolute seen as ‘outside time and space’; and the ‘infinite immanentism as propounded by Spinoza-Marx-Negri,and in fact, most postmodernist thinking is radically immanentist and relativist, and so is mainstream culture something I am not sure to be comfortable with)
    To continue: Cheap Thai traditional massage is definitely on the agenda. In June, I start one year of Thai Cultural Studies at the University of Chiang Mai. So that’s when a more regular normal life starts again,with fixed schedules and the like. I must say that I am somewhat fearful of the Thai tonal language. Yesterday my wife explained to me that Wong, pronounced Wong in her Thai name, was not the same as Wong, used by the Chinese, but my poor ear could not possibly discern the slightest difference between these poor Wongs. But sometimes such two similar sounding syllables can mean the difference between ‘king’ and ‘pig’ in terms of meaning…. HELP!!!! (since writing this, yesterday evening, after reading this paragraph, my wife repeated the exercise, and this time I got it… though, do not ask me to repeat itthere is hope after all!!)
    All the above brings us to September 2004, when some big decisions will have to be made in terms of future career. Will I be willing and able to return to such a stifling and uncreative bureacratic-feudal corporate environment full of ferocious infighting and spurious number games that have only a political function and no longer a real financial one? Will I open a guest house or restaurant? Will I finally write my first book, as failed intellectual that I am? Will the rest and recreation have turned me into a hopelessly unproductive decadent? Will some Vipassana retreat have brought me Enlightenment and a desire to enter the monkhood (but with my wife please, I don’t belong to the 2% able to really carry out a celibate lifestyle, the two percent coming from studies about the number of Catholic priests able to conform to their vows!, and from what I’ve seen from the Buddhist monks in Thailand, the percentage must not be much higher over there, cfr Traveller in Space from June Campbell for the hidden sexual realities of Tibetan Buddhism)
    Well, in all honesty, about this concrete future, I don’t know, and at this stage, do not want to know. If a sabbatical is to fully play its role, it has to renew your being through new and unexpected new impulses, allow for self-confrontation with unexpected results … So this is an adventure, for me and my family. During this phase at least, I feel in true spiritual alignement, doing the right thing at the right time. I am deeply grateful for my wife for allowing this experience to take place. And the gift of deeper intimacy with wife and child is priceless!
    As this is a belated New Year’s greeting I wish the same to you. As I have worked many happy periods in the past, I know that this can happen in the office as well, and that even in the most value-dead neoliberal corporate environments (and aren’t they all like that nowadays?), sparks of humanity can survive, and that, despite the vicious infighting of the leaders, most people retain their common decency in daily work, and sometimes are lucky to have families and friends to sustain them, and if they are unable to show their creativity at work, they’ll happy reserve it for after hours, when it is finally appreciated and useful. But if that is lacking, never believe that the only reality to choose is that of the Organisation Man, it’s just not true. Or at least take a break like me. If the bigger car or house is not your thing, there are always choices to be made that allow for more harmony with deeper values.
    By the way, if you are heading up to Thailand, and particularly in the Chiang Mai area, do not hesitate to come by for a little tour of the beautiful historic city with its 30, 000 monks and absolutely wonderful SongKhran festival (beats the hypercommercial Brazilian carnivals by many miles) in April, or as a start for some trekking with the mountain peoples north of the city, do not hesitate. If I know you, I’ll have a spare room.

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  2. “Using Co-Intelligence to Create a World That Works for All”

    In February, I wrote about Tom Atlee, pioneer of “co-intelligence”, whom I have the honor to call a friend. Tom…

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  3. Hello from Belgium!
    I am lookin for collegues to prepare the project of including the Vipassana Meditation in psychotherapy work with depressed and anxious people.
    Please, contact me if you are interested in the project.
    Brygida Walczak
    psychologist and psychotherapist

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