COLLECTIVE NEEDS – comment to George Por

I accidentally stumbled on this provocative post by George Por, which motivated me to respond – in length, which is my practice.

One more time, periodically over five decades, I drop a sem into a pond. May this pond process my sem (semiotic structure), possibly building to a constructive Tsunami.

George, what you are doing, and have been doing over many decades is essential. I only wish more were doing it and that this type of doing would improve to meet our needs.

I propose a query. Has the movement towards collective intelligence grown/improved since we jointly proposed it, in essence, at a presentation in the late 1980s at a national conference of ENA (Electronic Networkers Association) in Philadelphia? I mean matured so as to truly meet our needs, in addition to what the expanding/improving technology enabled us to do in new ways what we were doing then? Might we humans be doing much the same as we did decades ago, except different because of the technology? Have we humans taken advantage of the technology to improve our basic functionality? Might our technology have made more difficult important processes we had engaged in? Has the glamor of the new technology blinded us to confuse simple adaptation with creative emergence – creating new processes that utilize the new technology for new objectives, instead of simply enhancing old processes?

I am sorry to say I see no evidence of an “organic” process sufficiently strong to seaf humankind in ways you and your responders here envision. I deeply wish I could relax and depend on quality networking-of-relationships being sufficient. IMO we need a new complementarity of bottom-up and top-down, as neither are viable alone.

One measure of success would be exponential growth of viable networking processes. The growth of Facebook, although rapid, doesn’t meet my specifications. All movements and orgs in cyberspace follow the S curve. Rapid growth following a new technology and then plateauing.  Essential collaboration and synergy are lacking, and little effort is made to imagine what is needed, because we essentially believe our progress is OK.

Why is there no coalescing dialog about end games and an assessment of sufficient action? Might it be that the new technology makes such dialog very difficult and that the type/scope of the necessary processes challenges the individual human mind/brain? A need for “collective intelligence”?

Are all essential patterns of potential networking present today, and improving? Are there types of activity, essential to our goals, missing and we are unaware that they are missing? Why does this query fall in the blindspot of almost everyone? We celebrate our creative actions but fail to adequately assess their collective consequences.

Recently a number of studies/books are seriously hinting that we humans actually function quite differently that is generally accepted – by our best minds. A synergy of these views has yet to emerge. One must query the “nature of its emergence” in light of these discoveries.  Are we lacking & resisting new categories for missing, essential activity?

  •     Scarcity: Why Having To Little Means So Much, Sendhil Mullainathan & Elda Shafir
  •     Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect,  Matthew Lieberman
  •     Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril, Margaret Heffernan
  •     The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion,  Jonathan Haidt
  •     Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman
  •     Surfaces and Essences: Analogy as the Fuel and Fire of Thinking, Doug Hofstadter & Emmanuel Sander

Are we all captured in silos/boxes/bubbles/frames? Does scarcity (time & money) lower your functional IQ 15 points and your decision making is impaired as if drunk?  This is my current state. The many silos of others is obvious. We are very defensive of our own silos. Is new, reasoned information (for the “rider”) itself insufficient to change basics defended by our intuitive/emotional “elephant” [Haidt]?

The needs of humankind are beyond enormous. Are our collective efforts commensurate with our needs? Are we attempting to violate Ashby’s Law of Requisite Variety? What if, what we are waiting for requires intentional seafing (supporting, enabling, augmenting, facilitating)?

For persons to be truly effective today might we need quality team interaction for a few hours each day?  And, how much time do teams devote to the improvement of team functioning? We all know of successful projects where teamwork is required. Are there domains of needed action where, as yet, there are no viable teams? How many online activists function in viable teams?  I don’t.

I just turned 79 and am quite dysfunctional, although my system of ideas remains viable.  George’s sems (semiotic structures) have had much more impact than mine. Decades ago George and I cross-pollinated ideas. I am preparing to design one final campaign to share my insights. My writings are often dense and complex, partly due to inadequate feedback- and they are not organized for easy access. For those interested, access to my online sems can be found at.

Comment encouraged.

Author: nuet

01/24/1935. BS-physics RPI 1956; MS-physics UofChicago 1958; PhD-physics Yale 1965; PhD-Edu Psy Uof MInnesota 1970. Auroral Research Byrd Station, Antarctica 11/1960-02/1962. MINNEMAST curriculum dev 1964-68. Woodstock. faculty Pima Community College, Tucson 1974-1997. Transdisciplinary scientist, philosopher, educator, futurist, activist. PC user since 1982. "Wife". daughter, 2 grandsons. 5 dogs & 7 cats. Lacks mental imagery in all sensory domains.


Larry, beautiful that you've been at this for so long! You write: "For persons to be truly effective today might we need quality team interaction for a few hours each day?  And, how much time do teams devote to the improvement of team functioning? We all know of successful projects where teamwork is required. Are there domains of needed action where, as yet, there are no viable teams? How many online activists function in viable teams?  I don’t."

My own experience is that I'm much nurtured by that quality team interaction and would benefit from it daily. For me, it's a form of meditation and just like that is wanted frequently, so is the community context. You could say we're trying to live in a new context, and that context is partly a "we-space." It needs a lot of SEAFing perhaps (a new term for me), but, I would say, in real time. 

Online back and forth, for me anyway, helps refine the recipe . . . but doesn't provide the meal!


@andrewcartermacdonald  Thanks for commenting. In a sense we each are always in our real time. Synchronous interaction spatially (contiguous or online) has its +s &-s, depending on objectives. We have yet to improve RT/DT interaction over time. RT=RealTime, DT=DelayedTime. Body language can be very intimidating. Two persons en-training their minds can be phenomenal. DT permits dialog on issues impossible in RT: but RT must be part of the whole. RT/DT can evolve, with intention.

The conversation mode (alternating short exchanges), standard in online social media, has severe limitations. It may be possible for quality conversation to occur around a common structure that is being mutually manipulated, a scaffolding designed for en-trained, collaborative, co-creation.

We are like very young children, developing/learning in a rapidly changing environment, where many of the changes are the result of collateral damage from our successes. We have no parents or teachers - other than ourselves.

Beyond the "meal" is the temporal pattern of resource intake.


@nuet @andrewcartermacdonald 

Larry, I suspect the reason we haven't done more collectively is that we're deeply entrained to follow the past. Rather like fundamentalists . . . we're all (Ok, most of us) fundamentalists before the unquestionable texts of our culture.

My own preoccupation is with direct experience rather than mere representational once-removed experience, right brain rather than left brain which overwhelmingly our current world prefers. Our direct experience can put us in touch with what's needed. Blessings!