Emerging and converging fields involving collective intelligence.

The following fields of study and practice have an emergent, leading edge quality to them and, at the same time, seem to be overlapping more and more, and even converging into an increasingly coherent understanding of the intelligence of whole systems, and of Life as a whole. Increasingly, these fields are using methodologies, language, metaphors and narratives from each other to support and describe what seem to be manifestations of the same patterns in different realms and at different levels.
We can further the evolution of our culture(s) towards becoming a global wisdom society by supporting these diverse fields to discover each other, talk together and collaborate.
I suspect this list is not complete. I hope others will add new fields or emergent factors that they see as part of this convergence toward greater collective intelligence. But these are the ones that come to my mind at this point:


• “group magic,” especially through dialogue or attunement (e.g., collective meditation), including all the methodologies of healthy group co-creativity
• self-organization theory and methods — including chaos and complexity theories, living systems theory (including cybernetics, ecology, permaculture and evolutionary biology), network theory, the “invisible hand” of the market, “swarm intelligence” and flocking behavior, etc.
• social/transpersonal applications of the new physics, particularly quantum and field theories, such as morphogenic fields and synchronicity
• transpersonal and Jungian psychology, non-dualistic spirituality, psychic phenomena and other studies of psychospiritual phenomena beyond the individual ego
• the dynamics of collecive behavior studied by social psychology
• “revitalization” of community and democracy, including public participation, deliberative democracy and creative forms of spiritual politics, community organizing and nonviolent activism
• “open source” challenges to the proprietary confinement of knowledge, innovation and co-creativity
• “open source intelligence” challenges to the over-dependence on spying and secrecy which neglects public sources of information and inhibits cross-fertilization of intelligence not only in government but in society at large
• information, communication and knowledge systems (usually computer-based or -enhanced) (most of the “global brain” theories are grounded here)
• theories that expand our understanding of intelligence and cognition — both individual and collective — including some leading-edge educational theories
• the 21st century imperative for transformaton, evolution and wisdom (driven by global crises and often based in spirituality) — and our growing understanding of the dynamics of transformation and evolution. This relates to the human potential movement, especially as it expands into social and collective human potential.
• participatory and collaborative practices in all sectors and for all reasons
• the study and use of “decision markets” (systems for aggregating the independent actions, bets or estimates of hundreds of people) — for prediction, fact-guessing and pattern-clarification (e.g., Amazon.com’s “people who bought this also bought that” function)
• holistic studies of all types, including general exploration of the nature of wholeness and the relationship between parts and wholes
• group and organizational dynamics, particularly studies of “groupthink” as well as the theory and practice of learning organizations, teams, communities of practice and similar approaches to organizational development
• work on the many manifestations of human difference — including conflict, polarization, stakeholders, personality types, cognitive styles, socially charged “diversity” (race, gender, class, etc.), and so on — and the role of diversity, in general, in living systems

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4 Responses to Emerging and converging fields involving collective intelligence.

  1. The 9-11 Commission recommended an Open Source (Intelligence) Agency on page 413. If you Google for you will find his October 2002 testimony which is a superior simpler summary of what he thought needed to be done going into his duties at the 9-11 Commission. Bottom line: Congress is considering, this month of August 2004, the possible funding of such an agency. We are fortunate to have Congressman Rob Simmons (R-CT-02) fully familiar with OSINT, and he has been given “ownership” of this issue for the forthcoming legislation, on the House side. On the Senate side, several Senators, including Warner (Virginia) and Dewine (Ohio) and Roberts (Kansas) have a fine grip on the importance of this topic.
    Why am I making this point? Google for News on and see my recent press releases. We have *one chance* to get funding of as little at $125M for this Agency, as much as $3B if it also provides for $30M Community Analysis Centers in every State. OSINT *is* collective intelligence, and I hope that the influential and activist persons who follow Tom Atlee’s writings, and this blog, will consider familiarizing themselves with the Open Source Agency prospects (there is a portal page at http://www.oss.net that has stuff not easily reached through Google), and will then go on to tell America–spread the word, create the buzz. Power to the people begins with PUBLIC INTELLIGENCE, and the Open Source Agency is where all of our visions can come together.

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  2. armen says:

    Hi – first time exploring concept of CI.
    At the met museum of art in NY, I had the idea to gather the collective reviews of those present, which together are likely to have a more “accurate” analysis of the artist’s work. Have there been any projects to try and do this? e.g. put mikes around the exhibition and people can record their thoughts.

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  3. Tom Atlee says:

    Armen:
    I haven’t heard of such, but it is very like the approach taken by Amazon.com and others, where anyone can submit a review of a book. Other sites have people review software or other products or companies, usually with a mix of written review and aggregatable point system rate voting.
    This “aggregate the opinions of the masses” approach to collective intelligence is fascinatingly described in THE WISDOM OF CROWDS by James Surowiecki.

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  4. John Laing, Social Relations of Knowledge Institute says:

    This is my first visit to the Blog of Collective Intelligence. Please excuse, and correct, any misunderstanding as I may demonstrate.
    What about the sociobiologic impediments to CI?
    For example, we all know – CI – that consuming too many sweets, too much bread, too much beer, too many salted snacks, and too much grease will kill us prematurely. Obesity and diabetes are epidemic. Public health’s admonitions (CI) notwithstanding!
    Yet, at both the level of the individual and at the level of society at large, we persist? Why?
    Sociobiologists answer with the question “Why is sugar sweet?” “Why do we have an almost insatiable appetite for grease, salt, and sugar?”
    Their answer is – evolutionary biology – sugar and grease are rich sources of calories and salt is an essential mineral. Genetic fitness is served by an evolved tongue-brain interface that is excited by these foods with these flavors. Our tongues cause us to choose ripe (sweet and higher in caloric content) fruit over green fruit. Biology affects, even controls, social behavior.
    In our evolutionary past, sugar, salt and grease were difficult to come by and when found they were likely in small quantities as compared to their ubiquitous contemporary presence.
    Now, as compared to the past, these foods are cheap and abundunt.
    CI, in the form of agricultural and food sciences, produced sugar, salt and grease in vast quantities and at low prices. Obesity, heart disease, and diabetes follow. CI produces a benefit that backfires; the history of technology is often a story of the functional evoliving into the dysfunctional.
    So, nature trumps nurture.
    CI can, and does, trump nature; that fact is one of the threads of human history; and, it will in this instance too. Men and women, through CI, will overcome the genetic predilictions of their tongues.
    There are other examples. What about CI and war? Are humans genetically “wired” into an “our team vs their team” mindset that prejudices us toward entry into conflict with anyone different? Wars, for most of human history, it could be argued, serve the genetic fitness of the collective that prosecuted them via rape, pillage, and enslavement. I recall Jane Goodall’s (sp?) distress over the chimpanzes she was obsereving – one day, the males went over the hill and into the neighboring valley – to kill the males and children and to capture and drag home the females, of a competing troop.
    What are the implications for CI, of our apparent genetic propensities: to subordinate personal genetic fitness to tribes and cults? to blindly follow charismatic leaders? to believe in mysticism, religion and rock stars?
    We are creatures of our past. CI, it seems, must maintain awareness that it can be compromised, even mislead, by the propensities imposed upon our choices by sociobiology.

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