How to improve our collective intelligence

I am sitting in my UCSC office, throwing an occasional  glance at tall redwood trees and grazing deer outside my window, otherwise writing an article about knowledge federation. I use some of my spare time to reach out, aiming to connect what I have been doing, and dreaming, with the works and dreams of others.

Here is, for example, a letter I sent last week to Doug Carmichael:


Thanks for offering to read the first ten pages of my book manuscript. I introduce this book to you with the following story.

While filling in an application for membership in the Global Brain online community the other day, it occurred to me that I already am part of the global brain. Are not we, the academic researchers, that part of our social organism that is trained, trusted and financed by the rest to provide reliable insights and solutions? I, for one, am here in the United States for one year, fully sponsored by my university in Norway, with no further obligation than to contribute to knowledge.

A moment of thought will suffice to see that our academic enterprise is not structured as it best suits its function in the global brain, and that the other parts of the global brain are similar. Our contributions being evaluated according to our publication record in our area of specialization, we tend to focus our efforts accordingly. (Was it Buckminster Fuller that said that the Ph.D. degree was invented by the power structure, to super-specialize the smartest part of the population and keep it out of the way?) The journalists – that part of our global organism that brings the impulses directly to the people – are rather disconnected from us scientists. Their value being measured by their contribution to the economic success of their newspaper or TV station, they tend to focus on sensations that attract attention.

Without doubt, the excellent work that is now being done with the goal to improve our collective ability to act intelligently in the face of contemporary risks (and, may I also say, opportunities) is a most useful step in a most needed direction. I wonder, however, if it is sufficient? Will offering excellent new technical tools and procedures for communication, to the sort of global brain we now have, be all that is needed to make it responsive? Can we complete a well-functioning global brain without addressing its connectivity, its structure, and even the very intentionality of its cells?

As I mentioned in our meeting in San Jose Tech Museum last Thursday, my book manuscript may be understood as a strategic move, from within the global brain, whose purpose is to facilitate self-organization. For maximum effect, I have aimed to make the text academically solid, just enough provocative to have an effect, and sufficiently playful to be read.

If I now tell you that I am seeking help to bring this work into public domain, I would be telling the truth, but still speaking the old language. I prefer to see myself as a global brain cell seeking other cells with similar sensibilities, offering my contribution to our shared task of accelerated structural evolution.

I mention that the knowledge federation work I am currently pursuing with an international group of colleagues is another move in the same strategy. The book addresses the values, the approach and the method. Our knowledge federation project takes up the task of actual reorganization.

Warm regards,


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