Nous -'knack' in scouse? Nous: Greek 'mind' some use? Nous: we -French- oui? Oooh. Life -don't talk to me about life: me with this pain down the diodes in my left side ... Here's not-nearly-random-enough loggings of what feeds my promiscuous curiosity. Your pay-off is some useful[?] links and provocative thoughts but also more insight than you may care on my thought-processes.

10 December 2012

Collective Intelligence

Hundreds of years ago recognising the intelligence of organisations and the mystery of how they have something of a 'life of their own' which is more than the sum of their parts tended to be done in the language of angels: Dominions, Principalities etc being spoken of as spiritual beings associated with those organisations -or, in fact, quite often as the spiritual 'dimension' of them. Perhaps the analogy was of human beings having physical and spiritual aspects. Now, we tend to look at what I think is broadly the same thing through the science of emergence:
It's important to realize that intelligence is not just something that happens inside individual brains. It also arises with groups of individuals. In fact, I'd define collective intelligence as groups of individuals acting collectively in ways that seem intelligent. By that definition, of course, collective intelligence has been around for a very long time. Families, companies, countries, and armies: those are all examples of groups of people working together in ways that at least sometimes seem intelligent.
This article, Collective Intelligence | Conversation | Edge, explores this, offering examples of collective intellingence which the NT writers might well have applied the language of Principalities and Powers to.

One of the interesting things in this article, for me, is that they've tried to see common 'design patterns' in collective intelligences (though I'm wondering how they've identified them and whether they have thrown the net widely enough). Design patterns named in the article are 'crowd' and 'hierarchy'. I'm wondering how these patterns relate to emergent dynamics like synchrony, feedback, energy etc.

At the end of the article there is this theologically intriguing bit:

It's clearly possible to view groups of humans and their artifacts, their computational and other artifacts, as intelligent collectively as well. That perspective raises not only deep and interesting scientific questions, but also raises what you might think of as even philosophical questions about what we humans are as groups, not just as individuals.
You might well argue that human intelligence has all along been primarily a collective phenomenon rather than an individual one. Most of the things we think of as human intelligence really arise in the context of our interactions with other human beings. We learn languages. We learn to communicate. Most of our intellectual achievements as humans really result not just from a single person working all alone by themselves, but from interactions of an individual with a culture, with a body of knowledge, with a whole community and network of other humans.
I think and I hope that this approach to thinking about collective intelligence can help us to understand not only what it means to be individual humans, but what it means for us as humans to be part of some broader collectively intelligent entity.
This is interesting for several reasons. One is that the corporate humanity thing is resonant for things like 'for as in Adam, we all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive'. If we are 'wired' to be social then the social is likely to 'wire' us individually, including in matters of spiritual identity and dynamics. And the final sentence points us to what I think is one of the salient perspectives that emerges from the NT: we are responsible both to work with our 'collectively intelligent corporisations' and also to refrain from doing so where they become tyrannical or self-serving.


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