It used to be that every now and then, but not more frequently than once in a couple of years, I met a person on the edge of learning who caused me to re-focus and shift my direction of authoring myself.
What triggered that shift in the focus of my attention was, typically, the recognition that they do a better job in delivering value from the same niche that I occupy in the ecosystem of knowledge and knowledge-based services.
When more people started talking about the cutting-edge memes that I pioneered or was early adapter of, with more clarity, coherence, and accessibility than I did, then I realized, my service just got commoditized; it?s time to move on.
In an invitational 3-day research workshop on Global Brain, where I gave a presentation on ?Designing for the Emergence of a Global-scale Collective Intelligence?, I was scheduled to speak the last day. Listening to the presentations of the previous speakers I decided twice to shift the focus of my own as to not repeat what they were saying, and provide unique information value to the attendees.
The frequency by which the commoditization/differentiation wave hits me has shifted from ?by years? to ?by days,? and now, by the minutes thanks to social media. Here?s how.
A friend sent me an email with a quote that said: ?Intelligence has a strong social component; for example, we already provide crude cooperative information-filtering for each other. In time, our interactions through the use of such intimate technologies could dovetail with our use of collaborative knowledge systems (such as Wikipedia), to help us not just to build better data sets, but to filter them with greater precision. As our capacity to provide that filter gets faster and richer, it increasingly becomes something akin to collaborative intuition?in which everyone is effectively augmenting everyone else.?
Image: Anastasia Vasilakis
I didn?t know who wrote it but the resonance was so strong with my own long-held epiphany that I felt compelled to google its source, and found it in an article of Atlantic Monthly, ?Get Smarter? by Jamais Cascio. It starts with these lead-in lines:
?Pandemics. Global warming. Food shortages. No more fossil fuels. What are humans to do? The same thing the species has done before: evolve to meet the challenge. But this time we don?t have to rely on natural evolution to make us smart enough to survive. We can do it ourselves, right now??
Reading it was an ?I couldn?t have said any better? moment. With it came the recognition that somebody has just made the essence of many papers and blog entries I wrote over the years, eloquently summarized and much more accessible than I ever did. It was an intoxicating and sobering experience at the same time. ?Intoxicating? in the best sense: feeling me with more enthusiasm about the times that we are living in. Clearly, there?s a deeper listening in the world for wisdom about collective intelligence than 10 years ago, and for good reasons. In today?s climate, public dialogue about getting wiser together is not only possible but also a vital condition to our survival.
It was also sobering, in the sense, that it shook me out of the false idea of seeing something that others don?t. That kind of realizations tend to spur me onto the next edge of discovery.
Reading Cascio?s article in the Monthly re-focused my attention on the essential line of my work and re-organizing my life so that I can be more fully engaged with it. It has also re-invigorated the question: what is the changing and unique mix of my experiences and talents that I?m stewarding for a higher social and individual benefit?
After posting a link to this blog entry on Twitter, I know that I risk to be sucked into glancing through the latest tweets from people I follow.
The attention magnetizing power of Twitter for me is in the fact that the tweets I read bring the news from the edges of social revolution that makes transparency, authentic relationships, and co-creativity, the new standard.
Not only the neurons that fire together, wire together; Twitterers do, too. I am present to my curiosity as I am watching an intriguing pattern emerging. I follow only 200-something people and re-tweet the messages coming from some more frequently than others. The same goes the other way too; more people tend to re-tweet my messages than others. The circles of my re-tweeters and re-tweetees are overlapping but not the same. (I imagine we could be a poster case for folks working with Social Network Analysis graphs.)
In the circle I frequently re-tweet, I find people who work in the adjacent or same niches of the ecosystem as I do. When I discover that somebody in that circle has developed better models and tools than I did, I start quoting and using them, which contributes to the intelligence of the field. In a sense it is not that different from the citation tradition of the scientific commons. The difference is that that replication by social media is moving at the speed of electrons, not somebody else?s publishing calendar.
Each change in my working habits, each micro-shift in the direction of my professional attention contributes to re-defining who I am. But human nervous systems, the physical layer of our intelligence, were not created with a built-in clock for internet times, not for absorbing the new complexity brought to my life by clicking on the link in some of the most appetizing tweet sweets.
The increasing frequency of changes that I open myself to is leading to a personal singularity, an acceleration of the identity shifts to a point where identities born and die faster than fruit flies in my kitchen. Where do I escape from the stressful consequences of the galloping complexity multiplied by the speed of the tweetstream, without shielding my antenna from the news, views, and interactions that I need for my learning?
Rather than philosophizing about it, I observe the answer in my practice and notice that I take refuge in the community of friends and colleagues, in the shared meaning and practices that emerge from our conversations. I grounds myself in an ?I am because you are? relational identity, in which we are both wave and particle.
It is only through the interaction with the collective intelligence of the social field in which I am active, that I can practice and enjoy sweet surrender to the lusty meeting of my passion with the need in the field that I feel the most uniquely prepared to fill.