** Atlee: “Co-Intelligence, Collective Intelligence, and Conscious Evolution”


Richard Moore


Tom Atlee has outdone himself! A brilliant report on his work, and a very well 
thought out categorization of everything that relates to co-intelligence. He 
gives us a vocabulary that can make talking about these things much clearer.

thanks tom!

To: •••@••.••• (Undisclosed List)

Subject: Co-Intelligence, Collective Intelligence, and Conscious Evolution

From: Tom Atlee <•••@••.•••>
Date: Mon, 10 Dec 2007 15:22:39 -0800

[to be published as a chapter in a new book]


Co-Intelligence, Collective Intelligence, and Conscious Evolution

by Tom Atlee

My work on collective intelligence evolved out of my progressive social change 
activism. On the 1986 cross-country Great Peace March, I had a number of 
profound experiences of leaderful self-organization and group mind solving 
collective problems, e.g., <http://taoofdemocracy.com/prologue.html>. I wanted 
to bring that capacity to progressive groups. My research led me to work with 
corporate consultants -- with whom I would not have otherwise had any contact as
an activist! -- doing leading-edge work on group intelligence and organizational
learning. When I realized that this approach could be used to convene diverse 
perspectives into collectively wise democratic guidance systems for communities 
and nations, my activism shifted from a partisan to a holistic worldview, and I 
coined the term "co-intelligence" to cover all ways to evoke the wisdom of the 
whole on behalf of the whole.

Conceptually, co-intelligence embraces more than collective intelligence, the 
intelligence of groups. It includes at least multi-modal intelligence, 
collaborative intelligence, resonant intelligence, universal intelligence, and 
wisdom. (see <http://tinyurl.com/2l28nh>) By itself -- and especially without 
wisdom (embracing the big picture) -- collective intelligence, like individual 
intelligence, can be used in harmful ways, such as building gas chambers and new
technologies with disastrous "side effects". I coined the term co-intelligence 
to provide a conceptual space for all holistic dimensions and forms of 
intelligence, as collectively they have more intrinsically benign social 
implications. I like to keep this useful distinction clear, and not use the term
"co-intelligence" interchangeably with "collective intelligence".

My book and website explore in more detail all six manifestations of 
co-intelligence mentioned above. Here I will focus on just collective 
intelligence, after setting a few more pieces of narrative context.

My work on societal/systemic co-intelligence led me to develop a new theory of 
holistic or wise democracy, in which leading-edge forms of dialogue, 
deliberation, information systems, etc., would be practiced and 
institutionalized to access the latent wisdom of We the People on an ongoing 
basis -- a theoretical possibility recognized by U.S. founders, but seldom 
realized in practice.

My research on deliberative forms led me to recognize a number of them -- e.g., 
American and British citizens juries, Canadian citizen assemblies, Danish 
consensus conferences, and German planning cells -- as constituting a category I
named "citizen deliberative councils" (CDCs). CDCs are made up of randomly 
selected ordinary citizens (a microcosm of the community, state, or country) 
convened for a limited time to study and reflect on a particular topic or issue 
-- including interviewing experts from across the spectrum of opinion -- and, 
after facilitated deliberation, sharing their collective insights and 
conclusions with the public, press, and relevant public officials. A number of 
academics and politicians have envisioned a wide variety of powerful 
institutionalized roles for CDCs, notably to review ballot initiatives and 
candidates on behalf of the broader public ("citizen initiative review"). Much 
of my book The Tao of Democracy describes CDCs and their role in a larger 
"culture of dialogue."

After years of promoting CDCs and wise democracy, I was exposed to the idea that
we are a newly-conscious manifestation of the 13.7 billion year evolutionary 
process. In a profound moment of realization, I saw that all the co-intelligent 
processes and factors I had been talking about for 15 years were tools for 
bringing increased consciousness -- intelligence, wisdom, intentionality, 
choice, awareness, etc. -- to our collective efforts to improve our shared 
circumstances. They were, in fact, manifestations of the increasing 
consciousness evident in the evolutionary process. The fact that these 
co-intelligent processes could help us consciously deal with the 21st century's 
extinction-level issues (nuclear war, extreme climate change, rampantly 
destructive technologies, emerging diseases, etc.) made it even more clear that 
we were dealing with conscious evolution. If we survive this century with flying
colors, we will be a very different civilization than we are now -- that is, we 
will have evolved, as a family of cultures, into more co-intelligent forms. The 
realization that our efforts to enhance our co-intelligence were basically us 
being conscious evolution, led me to shift my inquiry into "What evolutionary 
dynamics can inform our efforts to consciously evolve our culture and social 
systems?" This research is underway at the time of this writing, and this 
conscious evolutionary perspective now informs everything I do.

That is the outline of the history of my life's work. Along the way, my natural 
impulse as a philosopher has been to gather together all the ideas, dynamics, 
and tools I can find within this realm, to categorize them, and to create 
overarching theory and vision that show how they can relate and be applied 
together to address social and environmental challenges. As part of that, I did 
a variety of analytic breakdowns of collective intelligence, a few of which I 
offer below. Others can be explored through 

Scales of Collective Intelligence

Human systems in which we can observe and nurture collective intelligence:

* INDIVIDUAL collective intelligence (collective intelligence among our own 
internal subjective parts and voices)

* INTERPERSONAL / RELATIONSHIP collective intelligence
* GROUP collective intelligence
* ACTIVITY collective intelligence
* ORGANIZATIONAL collective intelligence
* NETWORK collective intelligence
* NEIGHBORHOOD collective intelligence
* COMMUNITY collective intelligence
* CITY collective intelligence
* COUNTY/SHIRE collective intelligence
* STATE/PROVINCE collective intelligence
* REGIONAL collective intelligence
* NATIONAL / WHOLE SOCIETY collective intelligence
* GLOBAL HUMANITY collective intelligence

Reflections on Forms of Collective Intelligence (CI)

Although my specialty has been in the realm of democratic and deliberative forms
and approaches to collective intelligence, I have run across many other forms 
and approaches. So several years ago I decided to brainstorm a possible taxonomy
for them. This is, of course, only one way to cut the pie. However, it is the 
first such attempt I know of to embrace the full spectrum of ideas and practices
which the practitioners describe with comparable terms like "collective 
intelligence", "community wisdom", "organizational learning", etc.

Perhaps most importantly, this taxonomy outlines what might be considered a new 
field of study and practice. Given the potentially key role such practices could
have in the future of our planet and civilization, I hope this initial listing 
will help call forth an evolving general theory of collective intelligence -- 
and an inclusive discipline and network of theoreticians, practitioners and 
advocates -- that embraces all existing and future variations of collective 

Note that not all collective capacities are "intelligence." Occasionally 
collective intelligence (CI) overlaps with other capacities like collective 
consciousness or "power-with" -- capacities that can be characterized by 
collective stupidity OR collective intelligence. Furthermore, some dimensions of
collective intelligence, like "flow," have collectively stupid manifestations 
(mobs) as well as collectively intelligent ones (high-functioning teams). I will
try to navigate these distinctions creatively here, but the reader should keep 
them in mind.

Note also that some phenomena that I have not included here could conceivably be
included in this list. For example, are "networks" an intrinsic form of CI, or 
are they a pattern useful in developing CI? I have chosen the latter 
categorization, but people more familiar with networks may be able to make a 
case for them as a distinct form of CI.

Some Forms of Collective Intelligence

REFLECTIVE (dialogic) CI - People think together, using dialogue and 
deliberation. They find and share information, critique logic and assumptions, 
explore implications, create solutions and mental models together. Their 
diversity, used well, helps them overcome blind spots, ignorance, and stuckness.
They see a bigger, more complete picture with more complexity and nuance, and 
develop better outcomes than they could alone. Most of this can be readily 
explained in terms of cognitive synergies among the participants.

STRUCTURAL (systemic) CI - Social systems are built that support intelligent 
behaviors on the part of the system as a whole and/or all its members. For 
example, the Bill of Rights supports creativity, free flow of information, and 
maintenance of diversity -- all of which support collective intelligence. 
Quality of Life indicators guide national economic activity more intelligently 
than the wholly monetized Gross Domestic Product statistic. Chairs placed in 
circles support equity and sharing in ways impeded by chairs placed in rows.

EVOLUTIONARY (learning-based) CI - Organisms, species, ecosystems, and cultures 
are made of patterns of relationship that have "worked" over long periods. These
co-evolved, built-in success-patterns contain embedded wisdom often used 
automatically, but which are also available for analysis and deeper learning 
(e.g., biomimicry). We can look at them as manifestations of learning -- or 
perhaps of "evolving coherence." Evolving coherence is perhaps most consciously 
pursued in the careful, grounded, ongoing collective inquiries of science, but 
we can also find it in any shared learning effort, an endeavor institutionalized
in academia. Evolving coherence is also characteristic of morphogenic fields -- 
the living habit-fields of life which arise from our collective experience and 
shape our consciousness and behaviors. Any patterns evolved (understandings 
learned) become part of the informational CI, below.

INFORMATIONAL (communication-based) CI - The flow of information through 
communication channels and the widespread gathering and persistent availability 
of information in databases (including libraries, newspapers, etc., as well as 
the Web -- and morphogenic fields) means that knowledge that is created or 
recorded in one place and time is available to others in other places and times.
Universal access to information informs the activities of diverse, dispersed 
people beyond their individual data-gathering capacities. In society, this form 
of collective intelligence has been aided in the last century by 
telecommunications and computer technologies, as it was centuries ago by the 
invention of printing. To a large degree, the informational sea we live in 
empowers the routine collective intelligence of our society or subculture. In 
fact, the complexity of modern society makes most information-gathering 
intrinsically collective (through scientists, statistical enterprises, 
journalism, etc.); any given individual simply cannot find it all out. 
Furthermore, our culture's informational, narrative and morphogenic fields shape
our awareness and behavior without our even knowing it. The dark side of the 
informational mode is the sea of unproven assertions and unexamined assumptions 
we experience as fact that, being unexamined, may be false or go out of date and
-- resisting change (evolutionary CI) -- become the source of collective 

NOETIC (spiritual or consciousness-based) CI - Certain realms of human 
experience and cosmic reality are accessible primarily through altered/higher 
states of consciousness or esoteric practices. Psychic phenomena, the Akashic 
Record, the collective unconscious, group consciousness, the Maharishi effect, 
the Universal Mind, the Authentic Self, etc., all involve noetic realities with 
collective dimensions which offer insight, guidance, energy or power to those 
who can tap them. All these phenomena are grounded in "consciousness," so we 
need to remember that "intelligence" is the capacity to learn new things and 
solve challenging problems. So the term "collective intelligence" may be most 
appropriately applied to the noetic mode when these higher/deeper realms are 
accessed by a group together such that the group's subsequent understanding and 
activity are demonstrably intelligent. The noetic realm tends to be anchored in 
subjective experience, although there is growing objective evidence for various 
noetic phenomena. The noetic experience of CI is one of "accessing" or "attuning
to" a pre-existing higher intelligence or awareness, rather than of co-creating 
a new emergent capacity through group synergy (as is the case in the reflective 

FLOW (mutual attunement-based) CI - When the boundaries between individuals 
vanish, become permeable, or fade into relationship or shared enterprise, a 
collective can think, feel, respond and act as one entity. This "group magic" is
exemplified by -- and experienced in -- intense dialogue groups, 
high-functioning human teams and non-human collectives like flocks of birds. 
Basic forms of flow or flocking behavior are achieved by individuals following 
simple rules about their relationship to those around them, setting aside 
independence in the realms covered by the rules. This (flow, flocking behavior) 
happens even when the individuals are computer-generated agents like "boids" or 
"cellular automata." More complex, creative forms of flow occur when conscious, 
distinct individuals are so attuned to each other that they can innovate and 
express their uniqueness in thoroughly appropriate/embedded ways, as with jazz 
improvisation. Flow may also be associated with mobs, groupthink and other 
dysfunctional collectives in which individuality, itself, is stifled or 
dissolved. But for our purposes the term collective intelligence is reserved for
collective cognitive capacity and behavior that is highly functional. Flow is 
often a dimension of that. Extreme forms of flow manifest as mind-meld and 
collective consciousness (the global version of which de Chardin called The 
Omega Point) that may or may not be collectively intelligent. But core 
individuality is a resource for collective intelligence, providing diversity and
creative energy. So flow can be understood as dissolving the boundaries, 
barriers and embattledness of individualism (ego) in order to better tap the 
powerful essence of individuality (true uniqueness and individual capacity) in 
the context of collective activity.

STATISTICAL (crowd-oriented) CI - In the presence of a goal, intention, inquiry 
or direction -- and no skewing factors (e.g., deceit) -- a high enough number of
individuals will generate a remarkable level of collective problem-solving or 
predictive power, even in the absence of communication among them. This has been
demonstrated in many cases of mass guessing, where the average guessed solution 
has proven superior to over 90% of the individual guesses. This can also be seen
in ants whose almost random foraging is capable of rapidly finding food that can
then be collectively accessed in very focused ways. Computer-generated entities 
also demonstrate this statistical intelligence: When the first-run-through 
maze-paths of about two dozen intelligent agents are superimposed over each 
other, the plot of the majority decision at each turn of the maze will often be 
a direct path through the maze -- one that was not followed by any single agent.
This form of collective intelligence -- combined (often implicitly) with 
structural and other forms -- is what some term "market intelligence," Adam 
Smith's "invisible hand".

RELEVATIONAL (emergence-based) CI - "Relevation" is a term coined by quantum 
physicist and dialogue innovator David Bohm. It names the dynamic through which 
phenomena emerge (elevate) from potentiality (Bohm's "implicate order") into 
actuality (Bohm's "explicate order") by reason of their relevance to existing 
reality. Our inquiries and intentions can attract insights and solutions, often 
seemingly "out of nowhere." As a form of collective intelligence this may be 
most vividly displayed by one person saying something and another person 
mis-hearing it in a way that provides them with some answer or insight. The 
answer, which was never spoken, relevated out of the space between them, drawn 
into existence by the second person's desire to know that answer.

These eight forms of collective intelligence (and probably other forms as well) 
can manifest fairly independently, but in most cases several overlap and combine
in a variety of ways. For example, high quality democratic deliberations 
(reflective CI) can be designed into a political and governmental systems 
(structural CI) -- and those institutionalized deliberations can then do the 
subsequent design work (full merger of reflective and structural CI). Insight in
deliberative groups (reflective CI) can come from higher sources of wisdom 
(noetic CI) or from communication or the Internet (informational CI) -- and 
often through relevational CI, in either case. And, as mentioned, flow and 
statistical CI are governed by intentions and rules that can be shaped by the 
design elements of structural CI (such as Gross Domestic Product). The 
phenomenon called "hive mind" is mostly a combination of flow and statistical 
CI. Dialogue (reflective CI) is a great way to create new knowledge or examine 
assumptions (informational and evolutionary CI). Organizational vision efforts 
use informational and structural CI (the vision or mission of the organization) 
and often dialogue about the vision (reflective CI) to help the organization's 
subsequent reflective, statistical and flow forms of CI manifest more naturally 
and coherently. And so on.

Different CI innovations will tend to focus on one or a few of these forms of CI
-- and there is need to continually explore how they all fit together. Those 
interested in social change will tend to focus on the first four which are most 
amenable to conscious shaping, while those interested in beingness will tend to 
focus on the last four as they are heavily experiential and nonlinear. Again, 
part of our challenge is to bring all these together in more productive ways.

Emerging and converging fields involving collective intelligence.

The following fields of study and practice have an emergent, leading edge 
quality to them and, at the same time, seem to be overlapping more and more, and
even converging into an increasingly coherent understanding of the intelligence 
of whole systems, and of Life as a whole. Increasingly, these fields are using 
methodologies, language, metaphors and narratives from each other to support and
describe what seem to be manifestations of the same patterns in different realms
and at different levels.

We can further the evolution of our culture(s) towards becoming a global wisdom 
society by supporting these diverse fields to discover each other, talk together
and collaborate.

I suspect this list is not complete. I hope others will add new fields or 
emergent factors that they see as part of this convergence toward greater 
collective intelligence. But these are the ones that come to my mind at this 

€ "group magic," especially through dialogue or attunement (e.g., collective 
meditation), including all the methodologies of healthy group co-creativity

€ self-organization theory and methods -- including chaos and complexity 
theories, living systems theory (including cybernetics, ecology, permaculture 
and evolutionary biology), network theory, the "invisible hand" of the market, 
"swarm intelligence" and flocking behavior, etc.

€ social/transpersonal applications of the new physics, particularly quantum and
field theories, such as morphogenic fields and synchronicity

€ transpersonal and Jungian psychology, non-dualistic spirituality, psychic 
phenomena and other studies of psycho-spiritual phenomena beyond the individual 

€ the dynamics of collective behavior studied by social psychology

€ "revitalization" of community and democracy, including public participation, 
deliberative democracy and creative forms of spiritual politics, community 
organizing and nonviolent activism

€ "open source" challenges to the proprietary confinement of knowledge, 
innovation and co-creativity

€ "open source intelligence" challenges to the over-dependence on spying and 
secrecy which neglects public sources of information and inhibits 
cross-fertilization of intelligence not only in government but in society at 

€ information, communication and knowledge systems (usually computer-based or 
-enhanced) (most of the "global brain" theories are grounded here)

€ theories that expand our understanding of intelligence and cognition -- both 
individual and collective -- including some leading-edge educational theories

€ the 21st century imperative for transformation, evolution and wisdom (driven 
by global crises and often based in spirituality) -- and our growing 
understanding of the dynamics of transformation and evolution. This relates to 
the human potential movement, especially as it expands into social and 
collective human potential. It is also central to the conscious evolution and 
"Great Story" movements.

€ participatory and collaborative practices in all sectors and for all reasons

€ the study and use of "decision markets" (systems for aggregating the 
independent actions, bets or estimates of hundreds of people) -- for prediction,
fact-guessing and pattern-clarification (e.g., Amazon.com's "people who bought 
this also bought that" function, a manifestation of "stigmergy", especially 
manifested in ant colonies, where the collective organization is achieved not 
through interpersonal communication so much as through individual communications
with the shared environment)

€ holistic studies of all types, including general exploration of the nature of 
wholeness and the relationship between parts and wholes

€ group and organizational dynamics, particularly studies of "groupthink" as 
well as the theory and practice of learning organizations, teams, communities of
practice and similar approaches to organizational development

€ work on the many manifestations of human difference -- including conflict, 
polarization, stakeholders, personality types, cognitive styles, socially 
charged "diversity" (race, gender, class, etc.), and so on -- and the role of 
diversity, in general, in living systems

May we discover ways to bring all this together in the service of humankind.


Tom Atlee € The Co-Intelligence Institute € PO Box 493 € Eugene, OR 97440

<http://www.co-intelligence.org>http://www.co-intelligence.org € 


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