Your interesting viewpoint about collective intelligence recalls me of a
recurrent idea of mine when I was a student, back in the 70's. Remember - I
don't know if you were around - that was the time where we had overnight
conversations on how we'll make a better world, and everyone had his/her
method for that : back to tribal communities, armed communist revolution,
spiritual new age, anything ... Sometimes in that debates I suggested that
anyway, the global system is evolving by itself, following complex and
invisible laws that have nothing to do with our models, that the power is
not where it seems to be, and that it is no use to fight to get to that
place of apparent power, that we have anyway no proper way to evaluate in
the complex global system the very results of our action, and so consider
in our evaluation process only those aspects that are relevant to argument
we are in the good action line and the other are bad etc.
Since the communities I put that sort of argument in were mainly activist,
I was bound to meet strong rebuttals, the main one being that it would be a
too easy argument to give up any form of action - the Unforgivable Sin !
So I buried that weird idea in some corner of my mind, convinced that life
is action, and to perform action you have to be confident, at least that if
your action if not fully efficient, it makes things somehow move in the
direction you'd like them to move.
I think we are back to a same kind of debate about collective intelligence.
I agree with you the complex processes involved in it are, like economic
and social processes, far to be understood and we don't have at this point
the ability to represent and compute in an effective way their evolution.
I'm very reluctant anyway to the idea that the term "collective
intelligence" points to anything else that a shorthand for a class of
processes where synergy of many brains is involved, and yields results that
no single brain would have produced. I don't really believe of the emerging
of it as a"upper" level of being, and give up the comparison with the
neurons in the human brain at that point. It's the same with processes in a
complex ecosystem : the emerging of complex phenomena in a rainforest, not
reductible to individual behaviours of all species in it, does not prove
that there is something like a "Nature" governing it. So much for Gaia
theory and alikes.
I agree with you that I can't set any valuable argument for that, and if
this upper level have some identity - whatever that means - I have no way
to grasp it. But if this *whatever* is out of any attempt to understand or
represent or conceive or make measure on it, that means, on a pragmatic
viewpoint, it is not in our universe. I had a question lately in my mail
about my website : "Can you tell me : what is universe ?" My answer was :
*your* universe is made of whatever *you* can exchange information with.
The rest is silence :)
----- Message d'origine -----
De : Dennis E. Hamilton <email@example.com>
À : <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Cc : <unrev-II@yahoogroups.com>
Envoyé : lundi 5 février 2001 07:04
Objet : OT: Collective Intelligence
> You triggered some observations that I have been mulling over for a
> Today is a rest day while I recuperate from some minor surgery, so I give
> myself the luxury of indulgence ...
> 1. Consider that there is already global collective intelligence.
> [clearly not the one that we are dreaming of, but one that is perhaps
> already in place]. I am not proposing this as a fact, I am proposing it
> something to consider.
> 2. If we were the neurons of a global collective intelligence, would we
> aware of it, and would it matter one way or the other whether we were?
> that matter, would this "collective intelligence" be aware of us, and
> it matter one way or the other whether it (or they) did? [Terminology
> point: differentiation of collective intelligence from collective
> consciousness is worth considering too. And wondering just what the
> conscious attention would be on. Us? Seems unlikely. I don't know
> you, but I don't even know how to contemplate my neurons, and I'm
> not moved to do it. Is it even possible?]
> 3. One of the things that fascinate me about the theory of evolution, and
> the theory of economics, for a system closer to the one that we may be
> looking for in this conversation, seems to be the following. If the real
> world provides a valid interpretation of those (macro-) theories, then it
> irrelevant whether we individuals are aware of those theories or not, and
> is irrelevant whether we believe them or not, cooperate with them or not
> (whatever that could mean), and so on. (Consider that there has been no
> "escape" from evolution. Consider that the theory of evolution applies
> fine. Why do we find that idea objectionable? Consider that it doesn't
> make any difference -- in the framework of evolution -- whether we do or
> 4. Consider the prospects for the neurons of a collective intelligence
> actively controlling the emergence of the collective intelligence through
> their apparent autonomous behavior. I notice that we have this conceit
> the forces of evolution are somehow in our hands (and that the "natural"
> the "artificial" are different, etc.). It would appear that our having a
> theory of economics has led to some kind of economic efficiency in the
> world, yet I am distrustful of that. (I have been noticing
> for example, at the household level and how, in my household, there is
> excessive use of the automobile, lack of commitment around recycling,
> cleaning up ones own mess, and so on, although it is clear what, by
> extension, the inevitable global consequences are. Self-indulgence is
> winning, referenced to my local view of things. Moving externalities to
> others is not merely malignant corporate behavior, by a long shot. The
> practice is internalized far more locally, in my experience.)
> 5. Finally, I notice that the example given seems to be one of finding
> dispersed communities of common interest. I can support this as a
> to finding a basis for coordinated action. It might not be a
> And it certainly doesn't ensure that consequence, or that the consequence
> will be one that is desired by the global community. (Consider the use
> the Internet to bring together so-called hate groups and other people
> activities are not acceptable in their societies.)
> 6. I am not proposing that there is no basis for action, or that there
> cooperative activity that can make a difference at the global level. I
> think it is very important to get a grip on the background assumptions
> agendas that we don't bother to state. And be very careful about
> we give tacit acceptance as a silver bullet.
> 7. I notice that I am moved to speak in this ongoing collective
> conversation. My hand is in the air and I am grabbing for the chalk.
> Consider that, whether we can ever be aware of collective intelligence
> collective consciousness), everything anyone has to offer to the human
> conversation matters, and it matters that we speak up. Consider that
> neuron matters, even when it doesn't mean anything to the existence of
> collective intelligence how the neurons get there. It will have the
> it has.
> 8. Neurons arise and be organized. You have nothing to lose but your
> -- Dennis
> -----Original Message-----
> From: univers immedia [mailto:email@example.com]
> Sent: Saturday, February 03, 2001 01:59
> To: unrev-II@yahoogroups.com
> Subject: Re: [unrev-II] about synergy
> [ ... ]
> So we have to build that global collective intelligence we are
> dreaming of. We have no choice.
> [ ... ]
> Individual cells, sometime very far away in the past, have escaped the
> darwinian laws and built organisms and living brains.
> If human beings can't achieve what their far monocellular ancestors did
> achieve a billion years ago, well, tell me about evolution :)
> [ ... ]
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This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Tue Feb 06 2001 - 03:35:33 PST