CI, AI, UI or just I?


The term “Collective Intelligence” is sufficiently vague and positive that it is quite easy to agree that of course we want it. We want to be smarter together. 
But we might imply quite different subtexts when we talk with each other about it, and we might make different assumptions. It is probably a good idea to be aware of those differences.
Some would group CI with AI. That would imply that it is constructed, or that mechanisms are constructed that will evolve into the AI, like neural nets or cellular automata. And at some point the AI will become self-aware and we can talk with it. And further down the line it becomes smarter than us, and it might decide to no longer bother to talk with us.
I personally am skeptical of Artificial Intelligence. I’m even more skeptical of the idea of brains as the seat of consciousness. I think it is a little naive to expect that if one constructs a network with a sufficient number of inter-connected nodes, modeled superficially on the cells we see in brains, then, suddenly – a miracle happens – and it becomes self-aware. Oh, there’s probably plenty of still undiscovered magic in inter-connected networks of nodes and cellular automata, etc., and we don’t really know yet what will be most significant, so we should explore all if it. I’m just saying that it isn’t a good idea to bet everything on that one sketchy theory.
Another possibility is what we’re harnessing something that already is there. The universe is very intelligently constructed, in ways we can’t approximate by many orders of magnitude, even if we can do some clever things of our own. Just think of evolution. Here’s a process that has continued without fail for billions of years, continuously developing better and better life forms. A fantastic variety of life forms, all representing clever solutions to many, many problems. Some life forms, like us, even can think abstractly and creatively, and seem to have to opportunity to continue and expand evolution consciously, at a higher order. All set in motion by autonomous processes started many billions of years ago. Mind-blowing. It is entirely possible that the whole thing, the universe, or multiverse, already is one giant immortal quantum entangled 11 dimensional Universal Intelligence. In which case we’d maybe want to tap into that, instead of trying to re-invent the wheel. 
A more down-to-earth way of looking at it is that CI is simply us. How well we work together, and how coherent the result is. If we work together in ways that maximize synergy, where things fit well together, and we accomplish more together than apart, then CI is high. 
I believe that by its very nature, an increase of CI can only be a good thing. Because it is collective. It is us operating at a higher level. As contrasted with the AI scenario, where something alien wakes up and it might or might not be friendly, might or might not like us. A positive level of CI is by its nature friendly to us. A negative level of CI is destructive and maybe suicidal. But, as it is at all times us, it is never really against us. It couldn’t ever decide to continue without us. 
It might well be a red herring to pursue a personification for CIs or AIs. You know, the Turing test, where we’d expect a new kind of intelligence to be able to have a conversation indistinguishable from one with a human. It is a bit like the logical mistake often made by religious prophets. Like how Christians cast their God in their own image. Some old man with a grey beard. It might be just as ridiculous to expect a higher order intelligence to be a person, with whom you have idle smalltalk. We don’t need another person, we already have plenty of those, we need higher order intelligence.
The kind of higher order intelligence we most need isn’t particularly the self-aware kind. Rather, we need a coherent noosphere to operate in. Simply an environment where the information we need is likely to be easily available to us. Like how you’ve all noticed that Google makes you seem much smarter. You can find information much faster. You seem more intelligent. But we need something several orders of magnitude more flexible and organized. Where it is very easy to know what you need or want to know, very easy to find the people you need or want to work with, and where the decreased resistance and increased efficiency makes bigger things appear to come together effortlessly and “by themselves”. That doesn’t so much require an AI God who stays up all night figuring things out for us, as it requires an instant friction-less access to huge amounts of reliable information. 
We need systems that make us more intelligent. I.e. that increase our collective ability to solve problems, to plan, to learn, to understand complexity. That might have more to do with understanding intelligence than with constructing an intelligence, or waiting for one to appear.
This entry was posted in AI, CI Basics, Collaborative Sense-Making, Intelligence, Singularity. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to CI, AI, UI or just I?

  1. Glisten says:

    Thanks Flemming for this in particular “We don’t need another person, we already have plenty of those, we need higher order intelligence.”
    IMHO a higher order intelligence will most likely emerge as us realising that we are not limited by the identity ‘person’.
    Gratitude for the unfolding shared meaning making that this conversation is making possible.


  2. CoCreatr says:

    Right on, Flemming. Re: AI dilemma, check out Monica Anderson’s summary (there is more before that.)


  3. Bee says:

    I’m wondering if not you’re confusing intelligence with knowledge. Google endows you with more knowledge. It doesn’t make you more intelligent.


  4. Google provides you with information you’re looking for, which makes you seem to know more. It augments your knowledge. Which, incidentally, helps you solve problems faster, or to solve problems you otherwise couldn’t solve. To others who aren’t as fluent as you with Google might think that you simply have fantastic analytic and problem solving abilities. I.e. you seem more intelligent. It is in part because you borrowed some of the pre-packaged intelligence of others, who shared the results of what they had figured out.
    Intelligence and knowledge are of course related to each other, and often intertwined or confused. If you take a standard IQ test, you’ll notice that many of the questions require a particular type of knowledge from a certain cultural context. It is hard to test intelligence separately from knowledge. It is maybe even meaningless to separate intelligence from all context.


  5. matt says:

    IMHO i view intelligence in terms of an innate capacity for understanding and using knowledge of varying complexities. it is true that intelligence and knowledge are related but I’m more comfortable separating them since knowledge that is external such as information accesible on google can be lost. It would be dangerous to assume an increased personal capacity by virtue of a larger body of knowledge being accesible. What do you think Flemming?


  6. I’d say that maybe awareness could be seen as innate and distinct from any context. You might as well call it consciousness. Something is paying attention. In that sense, I suppose we could use the word intelligence as well.
    But if we’re talking about understanding specific situations, using certain kinds of knowledge, solving certain kinds of problems, I’m a lot more skeptical about the existence of an innate ability. You can’t just plug a knowledge module into an intelligence. The quality of the structuring of the knowledge is largely what determines how intelligent it is.
    Since I do believe in the primordial existence of awareness, there’s nothing terribly important one can lose. You might lose bodies of knowledge, and with them the ability to operate intelligent in certain contexts. But, as long as there’s still somebody there who can at least pay attention, they can be reassembled as necessary.


  7. Mark Roest says:

    We can co-create a global knowledgebase in which information, knowledge and wisdom are sorted by the eco-regions and cultures for which they are useful, as well as the problem categories and higher-order work (a la Doug Engelbart’s Bootstrap program) that they address. It is (to be) built with GIS and digital earth imaging, and all people can input their experience and observations, as well as their needs, values, challenges, opportunities, and anything else that is relevant to their success in their natural and social environments. Because of the filtering level (the map available on the World Wildlife Fund website has 827 eco-regions, and something between 5,000 and 6,000 languages still exist, so we have lots of combinations of those two), people can readily find and sort through the content that is relevant to them (vs millions of hits from a search engine).

    Next step: embed this knowledgebase in a game engine. Not just any old game engine! In a Massively Multiplayer, Immersive (crosses the line between virtual and physical), Persistent (lasts months or years), distributed (thousands of parallel games can be played and tracked simultaneously) platform for Games for Good. We can call it, Reset!!!, since it’s highest purpose is to empower humanity to come together, heal each other from the savage competition, and save life on earth, working at all of the fractal scales of existence.

    Just as by exploring and simulating problems and creating solutions for them in the virtual world we can prepare to solve them in the physical world, by modeling the noosphere we would like to have, we can get familiar with the experience of it — and allow the doors of perception to open for more and more of us, until we have that ‘hundredth monkey’ experience, and they open for all of us, once more.

    I’m excited to be going to the Infinite Games meeting on Tuesday!


    Mark Roest


  8. John Stewart says:

    Excellent blog post, a stimulating logical step away from the idea that we’ll create a super parental A.I. that takes responsibility away from us. Here, here, for a collective responsible intelligence.

    Although I have not delved deeply into this subject I feel you are onto something here, Flemming. There seems to be a little bit of an idealist, utopianistic fantasy that we will create a super intelligent artificial intelligence that takes away the responsibility of us the creators to be intelligent.

    I hope technology both inner and outer will help us dissolve our strict identity with our individuality and allow us to function in a ‘higher’ and ‘deeper’ space of collective intelligence. Such, no doubt will require what is required in any healthy society – trust, understanding, patience, etc


  9. Lauren Kress says:

    Hi there, interesting post, I agree that collective intelligence is a good thing and that it should be embraced to enable us to function at a higher level. Have you read “Cognitive surplus” by Clay Shirsky? I would highly recommend it, very relative to the concepts you have discussed.

    Having said that I do have a bone to pick with you…when you say “I’m even more skeptical of the idea of brains as the seat of consciousness” what exactly are you proposing? Clearly a materialists approach to the whole “mind-body” problem is the most rational and evidence based theory we’ve got. I would argue that there is little to suggest otherwise. Amongst other things, we know that when parts of the brain are damaged in an unfortunate individual, there is often an alteration of their state of consciousness along with their experiences and awareness of the world (I’ve discussed this in more detail, see: and

    I would like to see you give good reason for your implication of self-awareness arising from the brain as a “sketchy theory”. There is enough evidence to support materialism and it is a better theory than anything else that is out there. Where else would consciousness come from? The aether? I am not arguing against what you say about AI, this is an area that I am unfamiliar with and am skeptical about based on my understanding of where neuroscience and other related fields are currently at. However I think you really need to back up what sounds like an approach to consciousness that hints at Cartesian dualism.


    • John Stewart says:

      @Lauren. I share similar feelings with George in regards to skepticism that the brain is the ‘seat of the soul’, so to speak. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of materialism. In and of itself I think it is fine theory/philosophy and has helped many individuals in understanding this-thing-we-call-reality. However, usually it is combined with reductionism, which is also a valid and useful method of understanding reality. But I’m not a fan of reducing consciousness to a material object.

      Yes, there is evidence to support that one could most certainly do such – you provide some in that blog post. This is most definitely interesting stuff! And if we can understand the mechanism of these irregularities then hurrah for humanity, it has contributed more understanding to our collective understanding. However, these are specific incidences of fundamental sensory organs. Important, yes. But not the whole story.

      Unfortunately, the rest of the story, at least an important part, is usually shoved out of conventional discourse with a 10ft pole, probably due to the stigma attached to this subject. I’m talking about spirituality/religious experiences. Individuals who have experienced such report a vastly different story to the conventional one and not to say that the conventional one is wrong, but that it is limited and partial.

      These ‘spiritual/religious’ experiences touch a deeper subjective state than vision, or memory, a ‘more’ generalised subjective state then the particular of vision or memory and, most importantly, they don’t exclude them. This is a reason why I’m skeptical of the combination of materialism and reductionism for it is not comprehensive enough for me.

      Unfortunately, there is not as much conventional evidence for these experiences, there are however smaller institutions dedicated to researching these experiences such as IONS.

      I’m not as well versed in this subject as I would like to be due to many reasons, however I do think it is a complex subject and that truly open debate and unbiased research (if that is possible, there is always a little bias!) will certainly help ups all move forward into a deeper understanding of the subject.

      Here is a short video that is by no means is definitive proof that the brain is not the ‘seat of the soul’, it is, however, an interesting piece of anecdotal evidence pointing to some complex phenomena!


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