Note: In looking this post over before publishing, I realize I have devolved into the old “either/or” consciousness that I was taught in school; whereas in all likelihood everything that can be imagined is taking place all the time and all over the place, in little pockets, right next to each other, and often, blithely unaware of each other’s presence!
Co-Intelligence: Excerpt from the OpenSource Everything Manifesto —
As our technological capacities continue to increase and our environment becomes ever more fragile and endangered, we find that changes to the Earth that used to take ten thousand years now take a fraction of that. We must rediscover and reintegrate indigenous wisdom in order to come back into harmony with larger whole systems, and do so in a
manner that allows for application of appropriate technologies and science, open-source
intelligence gathering, and real-time self-governance.
This means that we cannot afford to address our complex world with industrial-era hierarchies in which information travels laboriously up the chain to the top, some elites
deliberate — lacking much of the information they need, and often lacking ethics
as well — and then micro-management instructions go back down. All this takes
time, and the instructions are invariably wrong. Instead, we harness the intelligence
at the edge of the network — at the point of impact — and the individual who is
face to face with a problem in a microcosm is the tip of the human spear, able both
to reach back to all other humans for assistance, and to act on behalf of all
humans in the moment.
It is in this light that we must recognize that only a restoration of open-source culture, and all that enables across the full spectrum of open-source possibilities, can allow humanity to harness the distributed intelligence of the collective and create the equivalent of
heaven on Earth — in other words, a world that works for all.
“Co-stupidity” describes the collective inability of groups, communities, organizations and societies to see what’s happening in and around them, and to deal effectively with what they find. It is the opposite of collective intelligence.
It is important to understand, however, that to say a group or society is behaving co-stupidly or co-intelligently says nothing about the intelligence of the individuals involved.
Some of the most co-stupid groups are made up of brilliant people who use their brilliance to undermine each other so that together they add up to nothing. Or they may be trapped in a dysfunctional group process or social system that erodes or wastes their brilliance. Worse yet, a social system can transmute individual brilliance into collective catastrophe, perhaps by using it to create devastating weapons of mass destruction or technologies that predictably run amok or investment strategies that collapse entire regional economies.
Co-stupidity can also arise from group or international dynamics. Co-stupidity can arise from both competition and conformity. A clear example of competitive co-stupidity at the global scale was the US/USSR deterrence strategy called “Mutually Assured Destruction” (MAD), in which an arms race of ever-more-powerful weapons sufficient to destroy the world were kept at hair-trigger alert to prevent the other side from launching their own weapons. In contrast, cooperative, conformist groupthink happens when the people in a group keep their views to themselves because they don’t want to be different or rejected. Each person in the group goes along with a leader or with what they think the group wants, without challenging ideas that don’t quite make sense to them or offering creative alternatives.
Furthermore, co-stupidity can arise from neither competition nor conformity but simply from poorly designed systems and feedback loops that reward people for doing — or punish them for not doing — actions that are destructive over the long term or endanger the life around them. When millions of people do actions like that — such as driving internal combustion vehicles, pumping toxics into the environment or letting TV replace community and citizenship — the systems they are part of can end up doing a lot of damage. These acts of collective self-destruction, seen from the outside, may seem quite stupid, suggesting that co-stupidity is at work.
In contrast to all this, it turns out that people of very ordinary or even low intelligence can, if they collaborate creatively within a well-designed system or good group process, generate a level of collective brilliance that far exceeds what they could do under the control of a brilliant leader.
Once we are in a group or society, our collective intelligence or stupidity has little to do with how clever or slow we are individually — and everything to do with how well our system is designed, how good our process is, how wisely we handle information, and how well we all work together, how open we are to diversity, challenge and novelty.
I’ve been a member of such a co-stupid group, all of us individually “brilliant,” but collectively not recognizing the fullness of the actual living context of what we were trying to change! The result? An entire year of mostly wasted time and effort. Luckily we’re all still friends!
However, regarding “well-designed” systems, I do wonder what the authors have in mind — and will leave that research to others!
Note that the first optimistic article was excerpted from a book published in 2012, while many of us still had stars in our eyes regarding some kind of magical transformation expected on December 21, 2012.
Here we are, over two years later, and while we haven’t gone extinct yet, we haven’t transformed either. Meanwhile, the either/or stakes keep rising, along with the ocean, and the temps, and the droughts and floods and generalized geopolitical craziness, as many of us sit, overwhelmed and often despairing, in denial, distracted, or stupified, in the midst of various dire threats — manmade and otherwise — to the planetary ecosystem as a whole.
The greed of the .01% is the least of it! More germane, I feel, is the generalized emotional/spiritual shutdown of human beings. What happened to our native passion? To taking a chance, a risk, to doing what we are meant to do, each of us individually, for the common good? But for that, a larger awareness has to seep in to our deeply conditioned personas.
What HAS happened since the end of 2012, is that our level of collective awareness of just how drastic our predicament is has decidedly ramped up, along with more and more of us awakening, seizing the day, including massive protests of all kinds everywhere (428 cities in 38 countries erupted in March Against Monsanto last Saturday); and including more and more whistleblowers, who push the transparency that MUST happen if we are to dissolve the stuck, secretive, centralized, hierarchical control systems. For example, just recently: