This paper quotes from Engelbart.
Here's a teaser:
"Designing for the Emergence
of a Global-scale Collective Intelligence:
Invitation to a Research Collaboration
by George Pór
an updated version of paper presented at the Global Brain Workshop,
Brussels, July 3-5, 2001
The dual aim of this essay is to:
• Identify design qualities and opportunities for optimizing our global
nervous system for the emergence of web-enabled collective intelligence.
That aim implies the possibility to design some indicators for an
evolutionary threshold, beyond which the presence of a global-scale
intelligence can be clearly detected.
• Call for a large-scale research collaboration to explore the potential of
globally distributed intelligence for solving world problems and closing
the gap between the human condition and human potential. That mission is
ambitious but not impossible, given that we’re living in a time of
historical confluence when technological opportunity, economic imperative,
and moral responsibility, all point in that direction.
Our motivation is to present a framework for the "social evolution"
dimension of Global Brain research, coherent enough to attract the peer
attention necessary to refine it and collaboratively develop it into a
source document suitable to guide our work in that dimension. We also hope
that some of the specific research questions suggested for the agenda of a
"GB/Social Evolution" learning expedition will engage the imagination of
those who are fascinated by the epochal challenge of growing a global-scale
symbiotic intelligence for closing the gap between the human condition and
This paper is the final, updated version of my presentation at the GB
workshop, complete with the graphics and references. It's "final" only in
the sense that at some point I had to suspend my listening to the changes
in my thinking on the subject, and focus on those thought patterns that
seem to have most coherence and longevity. Because of that, the paper is
more like the map of a terrain seen from a satellite. It's a temporarily
frozen snapshot of an ongoing dialogue between my mind and the GB
community's mind, between the internal discourse of frameworks and
distinctions I use for making sense, and the unfolding, many-voice
discourse of the GB community. The dialogue between those two discourses
has been moving so rapidly that the current version is the third re-write
in 3 weeks.
It’s comprised of the following sections:
1. Questions in focus
2. An evolutionary opportunity/challenge
3. Time bubbles of emergence
4. Global brain, intelligence and systemic wisdom
5. Designing a collaborative design inquiry
6. The "learning expedition" metaphor and model of design inquiry
7. Co-designing our learning community
1. Questions in focus
The two questions in focus of this essay correspond to its dual aim
outlined in the Abstract.
• What qualities will have to be present in the process of designing for
the emergence of a global-scale Collective Intelligence (CI) as an enabler
of solving world problems and closing the gap between the human condition
and human potential? This question will be directly addressed in section 5
on "Designing a collaborative design inquiry."
• What will it take to learn how to design for the emergence of CI ? It is
a fundamental, non-trivial question that we recommend to be considered by
all those who are involved with "global brain" research and share a
"designing for emergence" perspective. The answers will most likely differ
from one researcher to another, and from one stage of the research to
another. However, asking that question may help all of us get better
equipped for the journey ahead. We will directly address it in section 6 on
"The ‘learning expedition’ metaphor and model."
Asking those two questions-in-focus, we imply that:
a) Design and emergence are not contradictory and exclusive concepts.
Social and techno-social systems can be designed for emergence, if the
design inquiry is focused on generating the attractors and conditions
favorable to emergence.
b) Human choice and prioritization of societal values will remain a key
element of solving global problems, even when more powerful technical
systems will become instrumental to developing those solutions.
c) What is unknown is not only how to design for the emergence of CI, but
also, what it will take to learn to do so. As the late Dr. Aurelio Peccei,
former President of the Club of Rome, wrote, "What we need at this stage of
human evolution is to learn what it takes to learn what we need to learn,
and then learn it."
2. An evolutionary opportunity/challenge
"[S]ocial progress is lagging behind technological progress, and because of
the rapid pace of change, the gap has never been larger between what could
be and what is." (Stock, 1993) We have never had in human history such an
opportunity to optimize the design of social institutions for closing the
gap between the human conditions and human potential. Whilst that
opportunity is very real in the post-industrial world, it is not so in the
developing countries. We will address that difference in the next section
about the "time bubble."
Here, we’re going to give a brief approximation of the opportunity inherent
in the creative tension between the rapidly evolving means of intellectual
and physical production and distribution, on one hand, and the social
relationships of organizing work, that we inherited from the past century,
on the other hand.
As individual and collective knowledge and intelligence became the primary
productive force, the caring for the well-being of all is no longer a
utopian dream but an economic imperative illustrated by the following
circle of increasing returns.
The powerful opportunity expressed by the "virtuous circle" above exists in
tandem with just as dramatic challenges:
• A growing interdependence, uncertainty, and "complexity multiplied
urgency" (Douglas Engelbart) make future-responsive decisions increasingly
difficult. They created a global problematique, in which making sense out
of the fast-changing, kaleidoscopic pictures of our knowledge landscapes,
requires collective intelligence.
• There’s an "exponential breakdown in people's ability to experience being
related to the whole and to each other, as organizations become very large
and distributed in geography. There also occurs a major breakdown in their
members’ ability to relate, communicate, and express themselves in
fulfilling and productive ways." (Michael McMaster, in email communication)
The good news is that the very technologies that brought forth both of
these challenges also have the potential to enable us to meet them. All we
need to do is recognize that the augmentation of human intelligence,
individual and collective, became a survival skill for our organizations
and the species as whole. Then we must act on that insight.
We can do this by growing a symbiotic, human/machine intelligence that
elicits the synergy of the cross-impact of various scientific and
technological breakthroughs combined with the human qualities of
creativity, consciousness and compassion.
The development of such a global-scale, symbiotic intelligence can lead us
out of the prehistory of blind evolution, into the Emerging Planetary
Reality of our conscious evolution that opens unprecedented opportunities
for human freedom, creativity, and well-being.
3.Time bubbles of emergence
3.a Differentiation and integration
Differentiation-and-integration is a foundational pattern in calculus, the
life and social sciences, ancient wisdom traditions, and Western masters of
dialectics. Given its central role in evolutionary theory, it cannot and
shouldn’t be overlooked as we build a framework for addressing our two
The main evolutionary drives of the biological, social and technical
worlds, are differentiation (generating variety) and integration
(generating interdependence) that occurs through the the selection of the fit.
According to the Special Integration Group of the International Society for
the Systems Sciences "the purpose of differentiation is for a further
integration, and a further integration is for an even farther
differentiation," (Tang, 1996). If so, then differentiation--without the
requisite complementary integration--leads to a separation fallacy. On the
other hand, we’ll know that integration is complete when we can observe
that the subsystems are supporting one another’s goals.
When integration is moving so slowly that it allows differentiation to
threaten large bodies of the society with disintegration, then concerted
corrective action is needed. It was Joël de Rosnay who introduced a form of
the "differentiation-and-integration" pattern, particularly pertinent to
the challenge of optimizing our global nervous system for facilitating the
emergence of CI. It’s called the "time bubble" (de Rosnay, 2001).
3.b The "time bubble" distinction
De Rosnay compares the acceleration of time within specific domains of the
technical-social world to the densification of sound waves in front of an
airplane as it’s approaching the sound barrier.
"When the speed of the airplane exceeds the speed of sound, it breaks the
sound barrier, and sound bubbles form behind it. The time bubbles I have
described are like those sound bubbles. They form contemporary sets,
organized hierarchically according to their temporal density. The creation
of new fractal bubbles within those that already exist corresponds to the
phenomenon of emergence [emphasis added - GP]. When their high temporal
density suddenly reveals their presence within the low-density bubbles, a
mutation or explosion occurs. What is called a ‘technological revolution’
(the industrial, biological, or digital revolution), the ‘explosion’ of a
sector, or a ‘decisive mutation’ represents the opening up of a time bubble
within our universe of reference." (de Rosnay, 2000)
The "time bubble" is a rich metaphor, with implications for diverse
possibilities such as re-interpreting theories of evolutionary emergence
and managing how we fight attention overload. Whether this metaphor itself
will become a "time bubble," it may influence how rapidly we can answer the
question-in-focus of this essay.
"The densities of time flows are mutually exclusive — it is as if two
people, one on a high-speed train and the other riding a bicycle, are
trying to exchange packages. Yet sharing is essential if we want to avoid
the irreversible process of competitive exclusion between communities,
people, and nations. The cybiont is beginning to develop and evolve in a
hyper-accelerating time bubble, and it is up to human beings to prevent
imbalances that could imperil the future of humanity." (de Rosnay, 2000)
The galloping, unbalanced differentiation which is a source of the global
problematique cannot only be better understood through de Rosnay’s theory,
but additionally, the "time bubble" distinction points to the direction in
which we may find some key ingredients of the answer.
If system A is the environment of system B (and vice versa), and they are
locked into time bubbles that move with different speed, then chances are
that the system with a faster evolutionary trajectory will set a fitness
criteria so that the other cannot meet. That’s a situation that threatens
millions individuals, communities and nations, and not just those on the
loosing side of the digital divide. Consider the price that "winners" would
have to pay for leaving behind the "losers."
3.c The challenge of harmonization across time bubbles
A vital criteria of fitness for any global symbiotic intelligence is
whether it can help humankind pass the evolutionary test of harmonization
across time bubbles. There’s a conceptual path drawn by Francis Heylighen,
that we consider suitable to allow harmonization--escaping into higher
order complexity--across time bubbles of widely different velocities:
"If B's configuration fits its environment A, by definition, their mutual
configuration will be retained, and a constraint will be imposed on their
relative variation. B has ‘snapped into place’, or ‘discovered a niche’.
Thus, a new, higher order system or supersystem, consisting of the
subsystems A and B bound together by their relative constraint, is formed."
This possibility raises more questions than it answers. They are fertile
questions, worth pondering. For example: What could be a scenario which
would bind together some of the richest and poorest countries of the world
into a higher order learning system?
Imagine, if a "learning society" agenda were to evolve in Canada, Norway or
the Netherlands, and part of it was a global forum on the dangers of
digital divides both between and within countries. What if its design was
optimized for learning outcomes valuable to all participants. What if the
organizers of the next G8 meeting and the accompanying Global Social Forum
started collaborating on addressing the toughest issues in the center of
their conflict, with the best possible design for a multi-stakeholder
problem-solving conference held online and off-line? What could the rich
countries get from it? Well, besides their contribution to a better world,
wouldn’t it be highly valuable to them the development and testing of their
competence to mobilize symbiotic intelligence to solve complex and wicked
What is at stake, for all of us is this: Will the emerging symbiotic
intelligence be capable to prevent the balkanization of humankind, by
cultures locked into mutually exclusive time bubbles? Will it enable a
future envisioned by Joel de Rosnay, as follows?
"Just as different times coexist in our bodies, the cybiont will live by
the harmonization of super-imposed times. Sharing, solidarity, temporal
harmonization, and respect for differences will be the new rule, the new
way of life of symbiotic humanity." (de Rosnay, 2000)
4. Global brain, intelligence and systemic wisdom
4.a Global brain and global society
Can a GB help global society to pass the evolutionary test of harmonization
across time bubbles?
The definition of GB that we use as a starting point is the one offered by
Francis Heylighen, according to which it is "the mental, information
processing part of the cybernetic system" that we call the global society.
The potential of GB to usefully inform societal evolution is proportionate
with its capacity to map and improve the "collection of information
gathering, interpretation and decision-making mechanisms" that the global
society uses "to select the actions that seem most likely to achieve these
goals.�" (Heylighen in an email message).
Just like a living brain cannot exist outside a living organism, a global
brain cannot exist abstracted from the global super-organism. The brain’s
and the organism’s evolutionary paths may follow what Karl Popper termed
"Popper differentiates between two distinct parts to an organism: 'roughly
speaking a behavior-controlling part like the central nervous system of the
higher animals, and an executive part like the sense organs and the limbs,
together with their sustaining structures.' These parts are subject to the
possibility of independent mutation." (Shapiro)
I’d rather speak of "interdependent mutation," given the closely coupled
relationships between an organism and its nervous system. A generalized
representation of that relationship can be found in our double helix of
"tool system / human system" evolution, at . See below.
4.b Global brain, nervous system, and convivial technologies
If the Web, as a globally interconnected hypertext document-linkage system
and network of conversations, is a source of inspiration for the "global
brain" concept, then the concept could be more appropriately termed a
"global nervous system."
Neither a "global brain" nor a "global nervous system" is synonymous with
the intelligence that humankind needs if it is to complete the current
evolutionary leap (or "meta-system transition"), at the lowest cost in
terms of human suffering and wasted resources.
The nervous system of the global super-organism has a potential to enable
the emergence of a collective intelligence, the same way as organic nervous
systems enable the emergence of intelligence in living systems.
What are the nervous system’s functions which may serve that emergence?
• To facilitate the exchange and flow of information among the subsystems
of the organism and with its environment.
• To effectively coordinate the harmonious action of the subsystems and the
• To store, organize, and recall information as needed by the organism.
• To guide and support the development of new competences and effective
behaviors. (Pór, 1995)
Corresponding to those functions, the subsystems of a nervous system--which
play a large role in enabling the emergence of intelligence--are the
subsystems for sensing/learning, communication, coordination, and
memory/knowledge. How well these subsystems are performing and coordinated,
will strongly affect the organism’s chance for survival.
"An ‘electrified’ nervous system is the infrastructure needed for the
self-organization and self-improvement of a community's collective
intelligence." (Pór, 1995) A global CI will most likely come into being as
an ecosystem of globally interconnected intelligent communities growing a
knowledge ecosystem of insights, information, and inspiration, supported by
an ecosystem of technologies.
The interface between community, knowledge and technology ecosystems can
perform its enabling function only if its implemented in convivial
technologies defined as the ones which enlarge "the range of each person's
competence, control and initiative." (Illich, 1973)
4.c Designing for the emergence of collective intelligence
We use the term "design" in this context in a sense defined as follows. "
most basic human activity system: the family " . Design is a creative,
decision-oriented, disciplined inquiry that aims to: formulate expectations,
aspirations and requirements of the system to be designed; clarify ideas
and of alternative representations of the future system; devise criteria by
which to evaluate those alternatives; select and describe or ‘model’ the
most promising alternative; and prepare a plan for the development of the
selected model." (Banathy, 1998)
Banathy’s highest-potential contribution to the "social evolution"
dimension of GB research is the concept of "evolutionary guidance system"
(EGS) that he and his graduate students applied to the development of
various types of organizations (Banathy, 1993). "If guided evolution is
possible, as I suggest it is, we face three critical questions: (1) What
kind of systems can enhance the creative purposeful unfolding of human
evolution from the family on to the global human community, along the
human experience? (2) What are those dimensions that represent the
wholeness of human experience? (3) How do we go about designing those
systems?" (Banathy, 1998)
In the quoted article he proposes possible answer to those questions by
introducing the "generic image an EGS as an arrangement of a set of
interacting dimensions that enables purposeful evolutionary unfolding." In
this stage of the evolution of our own thinking, it would be too early to
try to assess whether the methodological challenges of applying Banathy’s
EGS model to designing for the emergence of CI can be overcome. In any
case, the GB/Social Evolution research will certainly gain some useful
perspectives from a dialogue with Banathy and his theory. In its most
recent and comprehensive expression, he wrote about designing social
systems: " We cannot know the end state, but we can move toward our best
vision of it" (Banathy, 2000).
Another source for building our "designing for emergence" framework is de
Rosnay’s symbionomics, the first rule of which is "Foster the emergence of
collective intelligence: Many agents following simple rules and connected
through communications network can solve complex problems (de Rosnay, 2000)
The more complex the problems are, the more likely that it will be not
simply connected agents who will solve them but communities of connected
agents. It is an important distinction because focusing on learning
communities rather than individuals as the substantive nodes of a global CI
would give us better access to building scalable, fractal-like models of it.
A fractal model of fostering the emergence of CI should be scalable across
the nested hierarchies of 1. teams (small groups), 2. organizations (large
communities), 3. inter-organizational webs and alliances (societies), and
4. the global metabeing (cybiont).
The Community Design Architecture™ of Community Intelligence Labs provides
an early version of such a model. It has a 4-fold architecture comprised of
a social, knowledge, technology and business architecture. Sample questions
of which are listed in section 7.a.
What are the key design principles that promote the emergence of CI? If
we’re to foster the emergence of a global CI, that question should be on
top of our high-priority research directions. At this point, all we can do
to is to provide the following pointers that may guide the articulation of
some of those design principles.
• Respecting the need for the balanced cultivation of the four
architectures listed above seems to be a prime candidate for a CI design
• A well-designed CI should maximize the synergy potential of
synchronous/asynchronous or "Real-Time/Delayed Time" (RT/DT) communication,
collaboration and coordination. That’s because combining the best features
of those two primary modes of collective cognition� has more chance to
enable learning breakthroughs.
• The evolutionary fitness of a community of any size depends on the
development of its repertory of evolutionary competences. Investing in the
strengthening of different segments of that repertory will have different
impact on fostering the emergence of CI. An early work-in-progress
articulation of this concept can be found in our Wheel of Evolutionary Fitness.
• To serve as an evolutionary guidance system, CI will have to be able to
accommodate and model multiple intelligences. Various models of multiple
intelligences have been proposed by various authors, that will have to be
4.d Awakening systemic wisdom in the global society
"Any framework of knowledge that doesn’t include wisdom requires us to
operate blind...." (Allee, 1997)
"Wisdom" refers to our effective use of intelligence, as evidenced by our
capacity to alleviate suffering and increase joy in human and
organizational systems. "Wisdom is...a highly creative and connective way
of processing knowledge that distills out essential principles and truths.
Wisdom tells us what to pay attention to. Wisdom is the truth seeker and
pattern finder that penetrates to the core of what really matters." (Allee,
1997). "Systemic wisdom can help with intuiting the long view,
understanding systems in the context of their larger whole, and
anticipating future crises." (Pór & Molloy, 2000)
Systemic wisdom is also described as "the ability to see and to know, in
Gregory Bateson's phrase, the pattern that connects. This wisdom looks for
and understands how to discern the interconnections, interdependencies and
resonances that form the weave of life. We see the need for such systemic
wisdom in dealing with the current crises in ecology, for actions taken
narrowly dealing with a specific environmental symptom may have unexpected
reverberations throughout the entire ecological web. We need to see the
web, the whole system, not just the part in isolation. Systemic wisdom is a
form of perception and insight and a willingness to look beyond the
immediate moment and the surface of things for deeper connections and
patterns. It is being sensitive to consequences that might be apparent
unless we see the deeper patterns that connect." (David Spangler)
How will we know that the systemic wisdom of the global society is awake?
What will be the indicators of its activation? That’s another question that
deserves a collaborative exploration by those who feel concerned by it. In
the next few paragraphs, we will suggest some starting points for such an
"Unless the awareness of interconnectedness can stir compassion, it is of
little use. The real design challenge in cyberspace will be to use it as a
basis for enlivening compassionate action." Mitch Kapor, founder of Lotus
Corporation and the Electronic Frontiers Foundation: Tricycle, Winter 1995
• Can we say that an indicator of the presence of systemic wisdom would be
when CI will be used for mobilizing global resources to address global crises?
• Another candidate for a "wisdom indicator" would be the global brain’s
measurable contribution to happiness described as follows.
"Statistics about life satisfaction in different countries show that people
are most happy when their society provides them with sufficient health,
wealth, security, knowledge, freedom and equality. The GB can directly or
indirectly contribute to each of these fundamental values." (The Global
Various instruments for measuring "Quality of Life Indicators" have been
developed by economists, some of which are well-poised to overshadow GNP as
a measure of a society’s advancement. If the activation of systemic wisdom
in the global super-organism will manifest in increasing life satisfaction
of more and more people of all countries, then it wouldn’t be impossible to
detect its presence by creating and looking at "the ‘planetary indicators’
of balance and evolutionary vitality: Hunger, poverty, violence are
decreasing rapidly, and the rate of decrease is increasing. Integration and
synergy between different areas is observed and increasing.�" (Larry
Victor) That would also include the integration and synergy across the
different time bubbles that we referred to in section 3.c.
The same way that having a nervous system doesn’t make one wise, having a
global brain won’t automatically lead to the activation of systemic wisdom
in the global society. If and when that activation happens, it will be the
result of more than just the enabling technical and knowledge
infrastructures provided by GB. Its other condition is in the evolution of
social innovation practices, for example the ones outlined in "How do we
practice wisdom in cyberspace?" (Johnson-Lenz, 1998)
5. Designing a collaborative design inquiry
The design of a design inquiry in systems science corresponds to what is
known in software engineering as "metamodeling" or "method engineering."
This is the domain on which we clarify the epistemologic foundations of the
research and specify the knowable requirements of its process. When this
phase is overlooked or omitted, the design inquiry risk to be ineffective
or inefficient, or both.
The categories of qualities to pay attention to when we design a design
inquiry, include the qualities of the inquiry and its product, and the
qualities of the design team and its members. The following quotes from
Bela Banathy, Professor Emeritus of Saybrook Graduate School, reflect also
our view of the those qualities of the inquiry which will be the most
influential on the outcome of any design for the emergence of a
global-scale Collective Intelligence.
Design Inquiry Qualities
"Qualities of the design inquiry include: attaining the stated purpose,
bringing about a viable authentic and sustainable system, using everyday
language, applying up-to-date design technology and multiple perspectives,
seeking the ideal, attending to the uniqueness of the design situation and
the uniqueness of the Designing Community, and the seeking of aesthetics."
Qualities of the Designing Community
The community of designers seeks; high ethical qualities, sensitiveness
toward the impact of design on future generations and on those who are
affected by the design, taking responsibility for the design they create,
and diversity in membership. Members of the Community accept and respect
each other, they aspire to become a learning system and aim to develop
their own design culture. They regard having a shared worldview a quality
of the highest order." (Banathy, 1996)
The Banathy paper quoted above has a systemic inventory of specific
qualities that we will review in more depth and consider in the process of
designing our design inquiry into fostering the emergence of CI.
6. The "learning expedition" metaphor and model of design inquiry
We call the design inquiry into the emergence of CI a "learning
expedition," and use that term both as metaphor and a model for a specific
genre of inquiry.
In its broadest sense, the " learning expedition" metaphor refers to the
evolution of human consciousness in individuals and communities. In a more
specific sense, we use it for labeling the collaborative process in which
an "expedition community" increases the learning capacity of itself and the
larger community that it serves.
The main metaphoric function of the "learning expedition" term is to
"render comprehensible a complex set of elements and relationships... It is
the peculiar strength of metaphor that it can convey the essential without
excessive oversimplification, preserving its complexity by perceiving it
through a familiar pattern of equivalent complexity." (Judge, 1987)
While an expedition typically unfolds in physical space, the "learning
expedition" unfolds in conceptual space. They both are a team endeavor, a
joint enterprise of researchers linked by a shared purpose.
The " learning expedition" model refers to an activity system of
collaborative inquiry that includes such subsystems as: seeking shared
meaning and purpose; designing and improving the expedition community’s
communication and knowledge-creating systems and practices.
A successful learning expedition has three types of outcomes:
a) learning outcome - the development of new or enhanced individual and
b) research outcome - contributions to the evolution of knowledge and
better maps of a particular knowledge landscape
c) design outcome - a knowledge product, e.g. educational materials or
newly developed, successful and replicable practices
The "learning expedition" model is supported by a complementary set of
metaphors and processes which includes "scouting parties" (self-organizing,
special-focus discovery teams) and "base camps" (periodic, face-to-face
gatherings of the scouting parties). In the context of the suggested
research, the "scouting parties" will be self-organizing GB research teams
focusing on various aspects of what needs to be discovered or invented. The
"base camps" will be our periodic, in-person meetings to complement our
Read and enjoy.
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