RE: [unrev-II] Re: Collective Intelligence

From: Dennis E. Hamilton (
Date: Tue Feb 06 2001 - 14:00:30 PST

  • Next message: Henry van Eyken: "Re: [unrev-II] Darwin Solves the Frame Problem"


    Thank you for your gracious response.

    First, I want to tell you how delighted I am by your site at It is a model for me (including the little
    alien). I am grateful for the bilingual approach too. I mostly work
    between English and Italian. Your pages afford me a warm experience of
    another language.

    On your points,

    1. Well, I am a child of the 50's. My sister recently reminded me that her
    older brother was digging a bomb shelter in the cellar part of our house,
    until my father discovered I was undermining the footings for the chimney.
    So I went safely back to my teenage chemistry set and photography work. We
    had similar conversations but our models were beatniks, not hippies!

    2. On the global system evolving by itself, I do resonate with that.

    3. With regard to collective action and knowledge, I notice how much I have
    come to appreciate that I am part of many activities that are larger than
    any I can conduct on my own. Our ability to cooperatively produce results
    greater than any of us can individually accomplish and that are somehow
    greater even than the aggregation of individual acts (i.e., there is
    synergy) is something to marvel at. When I take the time to observe my
    surroundings and what I am part of, I am often overcome. And it is all so
    much about people and what we want for ourselves and each other.
            We have no choice but to act in our world, and there are consequences of
    every action. We are always left with the question about "right action."
    It is in the struggle with this that responsibility emerges, it seems to me.

    4. Interesting that it comes down to language and communication. Helen
    Keller, who became deaf and blind in her infancy, did not "get" language
    until she was a youngster. She later could recall exactly when that
    happened, and that an entire world opened up the moment she got her first
    concept. (In "The Miracle Worker," the drama created about it, it is when
    she learns "water.") There was no world, and she had no existence (was not
    situated, as a self, perhaps), until that moment.

    It is perhaps fitting to end this part of our exchange with a quotation from
    Hellen Keller, on reality:

    How reconcile this world of fact with the bright world of my imagining? My
    darkness has been filled with the light of intelligence, and behold, the
    outer day-light world was stumbling and groping in social blindness.

    Encarta® Book of Quotations © & (P) 1999 Microsoft Corporation. All rights
    reserved. Developed for Microsoft by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.

    -- Dennis

    -----Original Message-----
    From: Bernard Vatant []
    Sent: Tuesday, February 06, 2001 02:03
    Subject: [unrev-II] Re: Collective Intelligence

    [n: markers inserted by dh:2001-02-06]


    [1:] Your interesting viewpoint about collective intelligence recalls me of
    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 ...

    [2:] 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.

    [3:] I think we are back to a same kind of debate about collective
    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.

    [4:] 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 :)



    Bernard Vatant
    "Building Knowledge"

    ----- Message d'origine -----
    De : Dennis E. Hamilton <>
    À : <>
    Cc : <>
    Envoyé : lundi 5 février 2001 07:04
    Objet : OT: Collective Intelligence

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