The emergence of Collective Intelligence…




an organised whole that is perceived as more than the sum of its parts

In 1856, the German physicist Rudolf Clausius outlined his second fundamental theorem in his mechanical theory of heat where later that year he succinctly summarised to the Philosophical Society of Zurich:

“The entropy of the universe tends to a maximum”

This became the second law of thermodynamics and it essentially stated that the entropy (disorder or uncertainty) of a closed system such as the universe is always increasing.

As the universe increases, the array of combinations of small scale particles that have the same large scale properties (systems) increases.

Complexity essentially being the difficulty in describing these large scale systems with simple systems easy to describe and complex systems requiring far more information.

The dawn of Information Theory, the Theory of Knowledge and the evolution of Technology

By the mid 1940s, US Mathematician, Electrical Engineer and Cryptographer Claude Shannon released his landmark paper A Mathematical Theory of Communication which outlined his Theory of Information.

From Shannon’s perspective, Information is a change in Entropy (uncertainty) or Entropy is Information we don’t know.

By the late 1990s, UK Quantum Physicist – David Deutsch had built on this work with his books The Fabric of Reality released in 1997 and The Beginning of Infinity in 2011, essentially shaping his Theory of Knowledge.

He eloquently describes Knowledge as information that has causal powers and he goes on to say that Knowledge has become the most powerful force in the universe (even more powerful than biological evolution).

Around the same time, US Technologist Kevin Kelly took these principles and outlined the ongoing interplay and evolutionary dance between Technology & Humanity in his book What Technology Wants.

Technology essentially being the application of Knowledge to problem solving such as a beaver building a dam or Steve Jobs & the Apple team designing the iPhone.

Our Prevailing Reality

Given the work of numerous Philosophers such as the Greek Agnostics & Skeptics, David Hume, Heidegger, Karl Popper, etc…, Scientists such as Clausisus, Heisenberg (Uncertainty Principle of Quantum Mechanics) and Information Theorists such as Claude Shannon: -

“the only thing that is certain is uncertainty”.

The prevailing state of Human reality is Uncertainty (Entropy) and System Complexity.

At the same time, given the limitations of our human perception (cognition, senses etc…) the navigational challenges becomes more and more apparent.

We are increasingly living in a world of uncertainty, complexity and an increasing recognition of the inherent nature of the human condition.

How do we as a society mitigate this Complexity and Uncertainty?

As David Deutsch outlined, “Knowledge is information that has causal power” or as Claude Shannon outlined, “More information reduces entropy (uncertainty)”.

To make sense — sensemaking — of the information and world around us we have embraced abstraction, reasoning and contextualisation to seek new Knowledge.

The rise of Science and Computational Information Systems

Since the Age of Reason (Renaissance), logic, science and the scientific method have been universally embraced.

An approach anchored in reductionism, cause-effect and determinism.

It disrupted our knowledge, it questioned our truths and challenged our beliefs.

It mitigated uncertainty and unbundled complexity.

More recently, the advent of powerful computational information machines such as neural networks and machine learning have increasingly provided an alternative perception of reality.

One based off higher dimensionality – geometry, patterns, statistics, correlations, graphs and interdependencies.

We are now increasingly:

- balancing causation with patterns & relationships;

– low dimensionality with high dimensionality;

- reductionism with emergence;

- discrete logic with stochastic processes; and

- binary outcomes with probabilities.

By doing so, we are moving from a world of Aristotelean logic to Hegelian synthesis as our increasingly multifocal lenses provide different perspectives of reality.

Human Sensemaking

Despite the promise of these abstract frameworks and technologies in decision making, without overlaying Human Sensemaking and recognising our human condition we risk embracing a dystopian future.

A world of Increasing human and computational machine algorithmic abstraction.

A world where information is controlled, and surveillance reigns.

A world where data, information and, knowledge equates to power.

A world of polarised absolute truths, beliefs and ideologies.

A world where technology and machines increasingly shape decision making, our future and humanity.

To counter this, we all have an important role to play in re-imagining and reshaping this future.

One where we harness our collective intelligence and unleash human potential.

What if Cognitive Diversity and harnessing our Collective Intelligence beyond our Organisations reduced Entropy (uncertainty) and Complexity?

What if the exchange of ideas and the sharing of divergent perspectives improved the functioning of our Society?

What if Humility in Leadership improved decision making and encouraged creativity, ideas, curiosity, innovation and better questions?

What if innovation, collaboration and harnessing human potential lead to better flows of information and outcomes ?

What if customer & community problem solving, innovation and entrepreneurship were the pathways to our future economic prosperity?

What if we viewed these emerging technologies as simply tools to support humanity?

What if our pursuit of knowledge was not a search for truth but a search for wisdom and meaning?





Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Richard Schutte

Richard Schutte

Innovation, Intrapreneurship, Entrepreneurship, Complexity, Leadership & Community Twitter: @complexityvoid