What is it that we want to make of the world?

Choice is at the center of making change. We all intuitively know we have to change the way our species lives.  That means making changes to the way we live our own lives. This is getting very personal. And if you are like me – uncomfortable.

I go on and on about collaborative intelligence and one aspect of this form of intelligence is how we coordinate our collective capacity. However there is a deeply personal aspect – the uncomfortable and unpopular decisions we are being called to make.

The ‘Oneness Project’ represents an thoughtful exploration of this important dialogue. Real collaborative intelligence  demands ‘glocal’ decisions – choices that are made at a very local intimate level but that honor what we need to do globally to write a new story for our species.

A book review : Peter Block’s ‘The Answer to How is Yes’

Collaborative Intelligence & Competing Absolutisms

Tripped over this in ‘After God’ by Professor Mark C. Taylor. In terms of collaborative intelligence the value of this small piece is self-evident.

The most pressing dangers we currently face result from the conflict of competing absolutisms that divide the world between oppositions that can never be mediated.

Four governing principles should thus guide us in the emerging network culture:

1)  Embrace Complexity: increasing complexity tends to enrich life but can be overwhelming; “for those who appreciate the value of complexity, subtlety and nuance become important virtues…clarity is not necessarily a virtue, and decisiveness can be destructive in a complex world where things are not always clear”,

2)  Promote Cooperation as Much as Competition: while competition is necessary for any healthy organism or organization, it is fatal if not tempered by cooperation (which becomes all the more important as interdependence increases);

3)  Accept Volatility: since creative emergence occurs in conditions far from equilibrium, the volatility it engenders provides opportunities that need not be threatening (some deconstruction is necessary in every constructive process);

4)  Cultivate Uncertainty: doing so serves as a corrective to every truth that claims to be absolute; uncertainty marks the elusive horizon of life (‘the futuer is threatened less by doubters than by true believers”).

Collaborative Intelligence : The Robotics Connection

Advances in robotics are showing us a future where we can collaborate via technology – experts in one country helping their colleagues in other parts of the world conduct complex surgical procedures. Watch this amazing demonstration. The big question for me is – will they patent this with tight protection or open the knowledge up and provide an open-source version? – I mean the game would be much more interesting if everyone could play wouldn’t it?

Darwinomics Rules – OK?

‘Darwinomics’ is a term apparently invented by the script-writers of the ‘West-Wing’ TV show. Immediately I heard the term I thought of the scramble for money at the expense (pardon the pun) of everything else. It turns out that Darwinomics doesn’t have an official definition but was used in such a way as to suggest fundamentalist economic policy based on ‘survival of the fittest’.

The term brings up the old debate about competition and cooperation, and which is the most useful for our species / communities / businesses etc. , right now.

The recent dramatic rise in food prices forces us to think about grabbing or sharing. Depending upon our world-view we will be reaching out our hands to snatch a scarce commodity or stretching out to share what we already have. With 5% of the worlds population residing in N. America and consuming 30% of the world’s resources we face a stark dilemma.

John Renesch describes this dilemma as a ‘maturity’ issue. Renesch compares the short-term desires and wants of a child with the delayed-gratification and long-term consequences considered by an adult. I can’t agree with him more. The world is shrinking and if we can’t find a way to get along and ‘play nice’ as a global community, then we must expect to have problems.

Here is John Renesch talking very briefly about the need for us to ‘grow up’ as a species:

Collaborative Intelligence: Competition is OverRated

Howard Rheingold agrees with me (well that’s a relief) competition is over-rated. Social Darwinism– the struggle to the top of the pile is not the only thing going on in natural (including human) systems.

You only have to scratch the surface of ecologies in nature to find deep levels of cooperation. If it is not cooperation you find, it will be healthy levels of accommodation. Foxes, coyotes and wolves for example. Although man has often depicted these three creatures as highly competitive studies have shown that each them avoid bloodshed when ever possible. By carefully carving their stomping grounds into appropriate niches each ‘dog’ pretty much keeps to their own turf – avoiding bloody and unnecessary combat.

Howard Rheingold gave a very thoughtful talk on the topic of collaboration at TED. Here it is:

Collaborative Intelligence & Building Bridges

Developing collaborative intelligence (CQ) is about developing our ability to work together. Whether it is a business team or a community or even nations, creating new way to increase our collaborative capacity will make life easier for everyone.

For example the videos of groups of people singing the national anthems of other nations makes a great point about building bridges. How can we build bridges in the workplace? what sort of ‘grand gestures’ can we provide to others to show our intent on cooperation and collaboration?

Pangeaday is a an event that will focus the worlds attention on what people can create together.

Collaborative Intelligence: Conflict and Failures

‘We live in a era of intense conflict and massive institutional failures, a time of painful endings and of hopeful beginnings. It is a time that feels as if something profound is shifting and dying while something else, as the playwright and Czech president, Vaclav Havel, put it, wants to be born: “I think there are good reasons for suggesting that the modern age has ended. Today, many things indicate that we are going through a transitional period, when it seems that something is on the way out and something else is painfully being born. It is as if something were crumbling, decaying, and exhausting itself – while something else, still indistinct, were rising from the rubble.”‘

[From C. Otto Scharmer: ‘Theory U‘]

Daily we can find more and more evidence that our age is becoming less predictable and change continues to accelerate. Yet there are things to be optimistic about -http://www.ted.com/is a wonderful site with a massive collection of videos, articles and audio recordings designed to be of interest to the thoughtful, purposeful mind. I particularly like this posting in the TED Blog about reasons to be optimistic – beats the broadcast news any day.

If you still need a ‘shot in the arm’ maybe Robert Wrights 18 minute talk will do it for you?

Collaborative Intelligence: Why Do We Trust Each Other?

OK the social Darwinists have had their day I think. The bloody struggle to the top of the social pile was based on some assumptions about human nature. These assumptions are proving to be only a small part of the story of human progress.

In an essay entitled ‘The Nueroeconomics of Trust’ Paul Zak demonstrates (check out the video attached) with the use of extensive experimental research that we human are predisposed to cooperate with and trust each other. By carrying out a series of ‘trust games’ Zak revealed a number of quite surprising results. One of the most fascinating conclusions was that when participants of the experiment extended trust to other subjects – the recipients of the trust experienced significant increase in oxytocin levels in their blood stream. Oxytocin is a human hormone that triggers feelings of connection and bonding.

This research has many implications. One is that when we extend trust toward another person we are changing their body chemistry. In the case of oxytocin we are actually increasing the desire in the other person to reciprocate trust and help.

The other is that trust begins with us – by extending it to others we can begin a process within which everyone starts to be capable of greater levels of trust. The reason this experimental research is so interesting to me is that trust is the foundation of collaboration. Without it there will always be significant limitations on the depth of the Collaborative Intelligence within a group.

Collaborative Intelligence: Where’s Our Global Brain?

‘Several researchers testing bacterial adaptivity have tormented colonies with problems so overwhelming that they dwarf any individual bacterium’s solo computational powers. For example, experimenters have taken a community of the intestine-dwelling bacteria Escherichia coli away from the cuisine it normally eats and offered it only salicin – a pain-reliever squeezed from the bark of willow trees which, to the E.coli bacterium, is inedible as pitch.

An individual bacterium can crank nourishment out of this unpalatable medication only if it undergoes a step-by-step sequence of two genetic breakthroughs, one of which entails taking a giant step backward. The odds of pulling this off through random mutations are less than 1 in 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 – or, to put it in English, more than 10 billion trillion against one. Yet E.coli consistently manage it. How? The answer, Ben-Jacob hypothesized, lies in networking. A “creative net” of bacteria, unlike a man-made machine, it can invent a new instruction set with which to beat an unfamiliar challenge.’

Taken from Howard Bloom’s ‘Global Brain‘.

Ecoli reinvents itself in order to adapt to a new set of circumstances. Human beings and businesses for that matter are adept at reinvention. But we could still learn a trick or two from this modest little bacteria and its rags-to-riches story. The secret behind Ecoli’s success is their ability to share information. There are no patent lawyers inside a colony of Ecoli.

Ecoli and it’s bacterial cousins, are presently quite easily winning the war waged against them, by our own pharmaceutical and medical communities. Last year there were estimated to be 20,000 deaths attributed to the ‘super-bug’ in N. America. What is it that these bugs know that we don’t?

They have developed their collaborative intelligence beyond ours which is why they are able to out-fox us. We need to find more efficient ways to convey information through networks of people. That is going to require greater levels of collaboration. It also demands we make personal changes too. This is where CQ comes in.