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Friday, April 26, 2013

Exploring the Phenomenon of Collective Emergent Intelligence: Part Two: Aggregate vs Emergent Intelligence

It's a challenge not to wander off the topic of simply distinguishing, but I did my best not to wander....Nonetheless I have skirted around the question of the independent will and "existence" of the "it." 

I will have to assume the reader will have read Part 1 already on my blog, otherwise this gets too long.....

Part 2: Collective Intelligence: Aggregate vs Emergent

"Collective Intelligence" is a buzzword these days in several arenas of human thinking and working together. However, there are two different meanings to the term, which are often confused. I'd like to clarify my own understanding of/views of/opinions of the difference which might prove useful to others, because the difference in meanings can cause great problems, in practice.

I hasten to add that both meanings, or both kinds of collective intelligence, are of extraordinary value, but neither can be substituted for the other, and some situations are best served by one or the other.

Aggregate Collective Intelligence

"Two heads are better than one." "Let's put our heads together and....." "All of us are smarter than any of us." 

This kind of collective intelligence involves cooperation, collaboration, group brainstorming, co-creativity. The "intelligence" produced is the sum of the parts. All the causes and effects involved are happening and explainable within the models of physics, psychology, group dynamics, etc.

Even the flocks of birds and school of fish and insect hives which coordinate so well, can be examples of this kind of collective intelligence, to the extent that the "mechanisms" of coordination are explainable in terms science recognizes.

There are ways to foster the most productive use of this kind of collective intelligence, because it can be used well or poorly, for a given purpose. 

Groups of musicians are common examples of this kind of aggregate collective intelligence. They can coordinate so well, so precisely, that they seem to be seamless, a harmonious whole. 

Yet sometimes, for example in a group of musicians, this mode of collective intelligence shifts or morphs into something experienced differently. "I was not playing the music with the others any longer. The music was playing me; it was playing through us all; there was not 'harmony,' there was 'one voice.'"

"It" emerges.

Emergent Collective Intelligence

Sometimes this kind of collective intelligence has been fostered in marriage counseling where two people are encouraged to think of "you and me and us/our relationship" in which "the relationship" is regarded as a third entity, even a third CONSCIOUS entity/identity, which needs to be understood, communicated with, and taken into account. "It" is viewed as having both a will and a purpose of its own, above and beyond the will and purpose of each individual.

This kind of collective intelligence is also fostered in sports performances and in the creation of art, and other situations, when the person experiences being an instrument, or tool, of something expressing ITself THROUGH/AS the individual. This is not multi-person "emergent collective intelligence" but it is an equivalent phenomenon/experience.

This kind of collective intelligence goes beyond the scientific models, because the "it" can be regarded as, and experienced as, a non-physical conscious identity not tied to anyone's brain or mind. "It" is a trans-personal, trans-rational, phenomenon. Yet "it" emerges from individuals, under certain conditions, and is in dynamic relationship with them, functioning through them, as them, and existing partly independently of the particular people involved at any given time.

Unlike aggregate collective intelligence, the primary mode of interaction among the people is not coordination or cooperation; everyone involved is being in "surrender" to receive, embody, transmit, enact, the "it" which is operating. 

One similarity between these two kinds of collective intelligence is that in both cases a group of people are involved in co-creating the Collective Intelligence. The difference is that in Emergent Collective intelligence "AN" intelligence is not just happening, but is PRODUCED (or one might say, it is invited in and starts to operate.) There is a kind of distinguishability of "the collective emergent intelligence"  from the people which is NOT the case for aggregate collective intelligence.

So the primary mode of operating together as an aggregate collective intelligence revolves around "we" -- "What can WE do/think/make/decide?" The primary mode of operating together as an emergent collective intelligence revolves around "we and it" -- "What does it, as us through us, want/choose/think?" This is in the genre of what is called an "I-Thou" relationship, where the "it" is the "Thou" and each "I" is also a "Thou."

An emergent collective intelligence is more than the sum of the parts, and perhaps even more than a "synergy" (defined as effects which are produced as more than the arithmetic sum of the parts.) Synergistic interactions are not usually regarded as producing an "it" which is distinct. There are synergistic interactions, synergistic results, synergistic happenings, but these are not usually viewed as "transcendent" to, and "existing" at least semi-independently of, the particular people involved.

More can be said, especially if we are willing to wander into "woo-woo territory," but this I hope will capture what I see as the crux and essence of the distinction.

And how about you? What is your view about all that? In a comment on the Collective Intelligence and Wisdom Group at Google+, George Por said more about this distinction, keying off my first blog post on the subject. He used the terms additive and pooled to describe what I am calling here aggregate collective intelligence. https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/100666540255152085162/stream/a074176a-c50a-46c7-90e7-67328016a041

Edited in Nov. 28, 2013: 

Let us not underestimate the value and power of aggregate collective intelligence. Here is a mind-blowing, heart-warming, and inspiring example: 
about a game of folding protein molecules! (and one could argue that a "field" was operating in that situation. I think probably not, but maybe.) More examples of the same phenomenon of aggregate human inteligence are mentioned early in 

And if you are not stretched enough by the above, what about a "collective" of intelligence which includes humans and computers ??? 

Edited in March 2, 2014

Here is an exploration of Collective Intelligence which seems to me to be mostly about the aggregate kind, despite the "whole more than sum of parts" focus. What do you think?

(This blog entry has the same references list as Part 1 of this contemplation of The Phenomenon of Collective Intelligence.")

By Rev. Alia Aurami, Head Minister, "Amplifying Divine Light in All" Church

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