Collective Intelligence and the Future of Consciousness

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“To solve our current, complex problems involving a large number of people and organizations in varying environments, a new form of collective intelligence is required. It emerges especially via digital media: the Collective Intelligence called “holomidal.” It would function as in small groups, in constant interaction to allow everyone to act taking into account others, but by doing so in large numbers. I make the assumption that such form of intelligence develops thanks to and with another level of consciousness. It is therefore to exchange with people who explore the future of consciousness.” — Pierre Lévy

According to Professor Lévy, holomidal CI comes into being in the Internet age, following such stages of CI as swarm (insects), original (tribes), and pyramidal (armies, corporations).

Thanks to the electronic media of communication, collaboration, and coordination of action, people in large groups can, indeed, act and interact, informed by the recorded knowledge and experience of everyone else. Participating in and witnessing those actions and interactions, we are participating in and witnessing in a shared cognition that can be distributed locally and/or globally. Exercising our distributed mind, we are both creating and being created by an emergent collective consciousness, at the same time.

Let’s take the simple example of a Google search, where you enter the search statement “enclosure of the commons.” Before you even hit the Return key, the page already displays some other key terms related to yours, which people were looking for, thus giving you some hints about how you may refine your search in any direction appealing to you. As you type, you will see words appearing below the search box:

  • enclosure of the commons definition
  • enclosure of the commons in england
  • enclosure of the commons economics
  • enclosure of the commons under capitalism

You may accept one of the suggestions or feeling inspired by it, modify your own search. If you do the latter, it will show up as an option for the next seeker of information about this subject

But that’s not all. After you, hit Return, on the top of the page you get a snippet that includes a summary of the answer to your question and below it, a list of other questions related to yours, which people around the world are addressing (in zillions of websites, forum conversations, encyclopedias, government documents, academic research papers, etc.). For example:

  • What was the Enclosure Act?
  • Why was the Enclosure Act passed in England?
  • What does enclosure have to do with the industrial revolution?
  •  What was the cause of the enclosure movement?
  •  How do you use “enclosure” in a sentence?

If you click on any of the questions, you will see below it another snippet summarizing and programmatically extracted from the webpage the most pertinent to it according to Google’s algorithms.

One can marvel at the genius of software engineers producing them but I’m even more impressed by humanity’s general intellect, another term for collective intelligence seen through the lens of political economy, where it refers to the productive force of the social mind that has been evolving throughout the millennia. All of humankind’s technical and scientific knowledge is part of it.

As I wrote in Collective Intelligence and Collective Leadership, the distinction “general intellect” lets us realize a fuller meaning of “collective intelligence,” seen in the long view, in the broad sweeps of social evolution, past and future included. It may be unbeknownst to us, but when we do the search described above, we interact with (a product of) humankind’s general intellect.

What does all that have to do with the future of consciousness? Let’s see what the Phoenix Generation has to say about it:

“This new model of communication and connection can be said to be rewiring our thinking and behaviour patterns. We are becoming accustomed to dealing with multiple connections rather than single ones, and to becoming immersed in varied and diverse relations and not just one-on-one dialogues. In turn we are being exposed to, and impacted by, a myriad of viewpoints, beliefs, identities and experiences. Within these models of self-expression each person is being called forth to respond and engage with the outside world not in fear or with anxiety but with healthy, creative and positive energies.”

The shift of learning from the sage-on-the stage to learning from each other, where the “other” is frequently the unknown multitudes, is also stimulating the firing of neurons in the global brain.

When our individual and planetary psyche dance together, they co-inspire, and the “emerging energy patterns are likely to have traits of a feminine consciousness, using energies that work through relationships… ; that seek to nurture co-operation; and that are nourished themselves through compassion and loving connections. ” — Kingsley L. Dennis, in Phoenix Generation

Well, that’s one of the possibilities and certainly the one that is more attractive than the alternative, the domination of our attention and choices, by the mega-corporations for the sake of profit and by “big brother” states serving them. Which one will prevail is up to us!

To allow these “big picture” thoughts to make a real difference in your everyday life, try each or any of these questions (and their embedded practice) on for a week:

How would your quality of life be affected if, at the end of  your search journey,  you could get answer to a question that really matters to you and can be asked with 10 words or less?

How would your desire to give back more grow if, from time to time, you could visualize and empathize with not only the long chain of people who put your food on the table, but also with the long chain of those who put food for thought on your screen?

p.s. This mini-essay is an abbreviated summary of my contemplation over the Pierre Lévy interview that has arrived in my inbox, this morning. In it, I signal rather than cover a number of topics. The more of you indicate an interest in any of them, in the comments, the more likely that I will elaborate on it in subsequent pieces.


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(289) Pierre Lévy talks about Collective Intelligence at Senac – YouTube

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5 Biomimicry Principles for Collective Intelligence – Integritus Prime

I’ve been reading my esteemed colleague Dr. Tamsin Woolley-Barker’s Teeming: How Superorganisms Work to Build Infinite Wealth in a Finite World for the past few weeks. The book is so ri…

Source: 5 Biomimicry Principles for Collective Intelligence – Integritus Prime

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Design for collective intelligence: pop-up communities in MOOCs | SpringerLink

Many current authors point toward the heightening of networked individualism and how this affects community creation and engagement. This trend poses strong challenges to the potential beneficial effe

Source: Design for collective intelligence: pop-up communities in MOOCs | SpringerLink

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Collective intelligence as humanity’s biggest challenge | Nesta

Can collective intelligence change our world? How drawing on both the brain power of other people and machines could help us thrive.

Source: Collective intelligence as humanity’s biggest challenge | Nesta

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The Next Platform

This seminal essay by Pierre Lévy, a thought leader in the field of collective intelligence states, “the next platform weaves five functions together: curation, creation, communication, transaction and immersion.


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Big Mind: How Collective Intelligence Can Change Our World

“A new field of collective intelligence has emerged in the last few years, prompted by a wave of digital technologies that make it possible for organizations and societies to think at large scale. This “bigger mind”–human and machine capabilities working together–has the potential to solve the great challenges of our time. So why do smart technologies not automatically lead to smart results? Gathering insights from diverse fields, including philosophy, computer science, and biology, Big Mind reveals how collective intelligence can guide corporations, governments, universities, and societies to make the most of human brains and digital technologies. Geoff Mulgan explores how collective intelligence has to be consciously organized and orchestrated in order to harness its powers. He looks at recent experiments mobilizing millions of people to solve problems, and at groundbreaking technology like Google Maps and Dove satellites. He also considers why organizations full of smart people and machines can make foolish mistakes–from investment banks losing billions to intelligence agencies misjudging geopolitical events–and shows how to avoid them. Highlighting differences between environments that stimulate intelligence and those that blunt it, Mulgan shows how human and machine intelligence could solve challenges in business, climate change, democracy, and public health. But for that to happen we’ll need radically new professions, institutions, and ways of thinking. Informed by the latest work on data, web platforms, and artificial intelligence, Big Mind shows how collective intelligence could help us survive and thrive.”


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Jacob Foster. Made to Know: Science as the Social Production of Collective Intelligence | UC Berkeley Sociology Department

Source: Jacob Foster. Made to Know: Science as the Social Production of Collective Intelligence | UC Berkeley Sociology Department

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A Fifteen Days Immersion in Madrid’s European Civic Hall – Open Source Politics – Medium

As part of a two-weeks hackathon on collective intelligence for democracy, Virgile Deville (Open Source Politics / Democracy Earth) went to…

Source: A Fifteen Days Immersion in Madrid’s European Civic Hall – Open Source Politics – Medium

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Mapping as Commons

This blogpost was written and originally published by Silke Helfrich in the CommonsBlog.


Mapping the World through Commoning for the Federated Commons

Maps shape our perception, they direct our transitions and they inform our decisions. Who doubts the power of mapping, might think of google-maps‘ impact on the lives of the many; not all, because there is an alternative: Open Street Map. The difference between the two becomes cristal-clear when asking: Who owns the maps? Who owns the data? And who reaps the benefit?

Open Street Map is based on free software. It is owned and governed by you. It is constantly in the making, and open to all those who wish to contribute to it on the basis of the collective Open-Street-Map-community-criteria. Open Street Map is the topographic sister of Wikipedia.

When TransforMap was initiated, back in 2014, the community was seeking to combine the Open Street Map approach with the ambition of making the plethora of socio-economic alternatives – TAPAS: There Are Plenty of AlternativeS – visible. We wanted to add to the many crowdsourced maps a possibility to see TAPAs unfolding at a glance, all at once, at people’s devices, in a userfriendly way without being patronizing nor concentrating data. That was and still is TransforMap’s ambition: to challenge both: the dictatorship of corporate-owned data and the cultural hegemony of a an economy stuck in a neoliberal or neoclassical Market-State framework through bringing plenty of Alternatives to everybodie’s attention, among them: the Commons.

Countless mapping projects around the world have similar ambitions. Just as TransforMap they are committed to enhance the visibility and impact of all those projects, initiatives and enterprises who contribute to a free, fair and sustainable future. However, most of them receive only small attention in mainstream media and general culture, because they are

# utterly disconnected from each other
# partly enclosed on proprietary platforms – like google maps
# built on different taxonomies and
# (luckily) highly diverse in their mapping approach

In short: not interoperable.

Working towards interoperability of the countless alter-maps is widely perceived as a key element for enhancing their impact. Thus, the need for a convergence and for atlassing maps based on a ‚Mapping as a Commonsas opposed to ‚Mapping the Commons‘. The former is a mapping-philosophy and crucial for destilling the governance principle of emancipatory mapping projects, the latter is just one out of many ‚objects‘ or ‚items“ to be mapped.

The following lines roughly sketch out our understanding of ‚Mapping as a Commons“. Later on, they might turn into a manifesto for ‚Mapping asCommoning for many many maps and through a multitude of mappers.They are written in an inimperative manifesto form, to be used from now on as a guideline or quick analytical tool to evaluate the own mapping practices.

Mapping as a Commons, what does it mean? (0.2)

The following is based on the raw notes from Commons Space atWSF 2016 and an initial summary by @almereyda. The principles are the condensate of globally dispersed, locally found initiatives which collaborate for building and maintaining a shared mapping commons.

1. Stick to the Commons: as a goal and a practice
The challenge is twofold: contribute to the Commons as a shared resource and do it through commoning. Your mapping project is not a deliverable, nor a service-product to compete on the map-market. Hence, it is paramount to systematically separate commons and commerce and to integrate the insigths (patterns?) of successful commoning-practices into your mapping initiative. Strive for coherence at any moment!

2. Create syntony on the goal
Discuss your common goal and your understanding of „mapping as commoning“ again and again. And again! Everybody involved should resonate on the essentials and feel in syntony with mapping for the Commons through commoning at any time.

3. People’s needs first
Maps provide orientation to common people but also visibility of power and policy-driven agendas. Make sure your map doesn’t feed the power-imbalances. People’s needs trump desires of institutions, donors or clients.

4. Keep an eye on interoperability and use web technology
To map as a commoner implies caring for other mappers needs and concerns. You will take them into account through dialogue with partner-mappers and make sure interoperability is a shared goal.

[5.Contribute to the Federated Commons
Mapping the World through Commoning is a double contribution: among commons projects and initiatives toward a Federate Commons and between Commons projects, solutions or initiatives and other socio-economic alternatives.]

6. Provide open access
Always. To everything.

7. Use free software
Work with free software at all levels is critical, as it is not about the freedom of the software, but about your freedom to further develop your mapping projects according to your own needs.

8. Self-host your infrastructure
Only use technology which allows to be replicated quickly as for instance [@almereyda ?]. Eat your own dogfood [@almereyda, what does it mean?], and document transparently, how you do it. Transparent documentation means understandable documentation.

9. Build on open technology standards
Ensure your map(s), its data and associated mapping applications can be reused on a wide diversity of media and devices. Ergo: hands off proprietarian technologies and their standards. Don’t think about them not even as interim solution. If you do, you risk to add one interim to another and get trapped into dependencies.

10. Make sure you really own your data
‚Mapping as a Commons‘ strives for mapping souvereignity at all levels. In the short run, it seems to be a nightmare to refrain from importing data for geolocation or copying & pasting what you are not legally entitled to. In the long run, it is the only way to prevent you being sued or your data being enclosed. Make sure you really own your data. It prevents you from the real nightmare of at some point loosing your data without being able to do something against.

11. Use free open data licenses
To own your data is important, but not enough. Make sure nobody dumps your common data back into the world of marketization and enclosures. What is in the Commons must remain in the Commons. Free licences protect the result of your collective work at any moment. Make use of them. It’s simple.

12. Guarantee the openness of taxonomies
A taxonomy is incomplete as a matter of fact. It is one out of many entry points to complex social worlds. The more you learn about these worlds the better you can adjust your taxonomy. An open taxonomy allows your peer mappers and users to search it for a concept, link them -via tag- to a parent category, to add missing concepts if you allow for or to merge tag structures.

13. Make the Data Commons thrive through your usage
Link to WikiData and OpenStreetMap from the beginning! It’s just nonsense to maintain your single data set. There is so much to benefit from and contribute to the data commons. Explore abundance and contribute loads to our shared data.

14. Care for your Data Commons
Strive for accuracy and remember at the same time, that there is always subjectivity in data.

15. Protect the ‚maps & atlasses commons‘ legally as commons
Remember: each commons needs protection. Innovative legal forms help to prevent cooptation. Make sure the resulting maps and atlasses own themselves instead of being owned by any specific person or organization.

16. Crowdsource your mapping
Do so whenever you can and for whatever is needed: money, time, knowledge, storing space, hardware, monitoring etc.

Last resort

17. Remember always why you are making the map and who you are making it for. Remember that everyone is a mapmaker. Share what you can and if everything looks dark: take a break, keep calm and continue commoning.

18. Archive the map when it doesn’t work anymore for you. Others might want to build on it, somewhen.


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