Tuesday, October 26, 2010

...but is it probable?

Collective Intelligence left me feeling like a nebulous being floating within a larger cultural specimen being dissected and analyzed by those who fancy such studies. In this particular instance, the bunny men are microscopically drawing diagrams, relationships, interactions (or lack there of), and speculating outcomes of the fourth cultural space as it relates to its predecessors. Levy speaks of this fourth, or knowledge space, as perhaps a terminating space from which those who proceed its final formulation could enjoy the solutions to the thousands of years of strife that have come before. For the first time in my life, I feel like a part of history instead of a part of making history. A hard pill to swallow, especially in angst of my recent birthday.

I do however try to imagine how this whole idea of collective intelligence might play out. In Levy's Utopian scenario it plays out perfectly (of course): democracy by the people, for the people. After all, that's what our founding fathers had in mind, right? It was only when populations exceeded a realistic voice that we had to switch to government by representation. Now that we once again have the possibility of true democracy in the sights of our imagination, will we be able to return to a democracy truly by the people? A better question, will the powers that be allow us to return to such a system?

If collective intelligence is what our founding fathers intended, how will we achieve such collaboration in favor of good for the people? Has the current system divided us beyond repair, or will a system of demodynamics help us to overcome our differences? Given the opportunity, I think the latter would prevail. The majority of people care about equal rights for all. The majority of people are tired of corporations effecting policy. The majority of people want the same opportunities regardless of race, religion, gender, handicap, and so on, and the majority of people want to see these rights acknowledged and enforced.

Will collective intelligence in action affect the status quo? Indeed it will. Potentially greater than anything we have seen before. It will certainly disengage our state representatives as conduits to "what's best for the people". Their services will no longer be needed or desired. That is not to say that a core assembly of administrative officials should be displaced. Quite the opposite is true. Even a democracy based on collective intelligence needs a system of checks and balances.

My question is how this Utopian scenario might be put into practice? Is it possible? Is it feasible? It is certainly imaginable. What would the infrastructure look like and who would build it? How would the input and output be managed or filtered? How would we come to a consensus and how would our consensus' effect change? Case in point:  The war we are currently engaged in. If we as a collective, "vote" against the war, how would that effect the overall state of affairs? Could we simply disengage? As Levy mentioned, these types of decisions are slow moving. Would this cause frustration?

On a larger scale, how would our relationships with other countries be handled? Foreign affairs often (if not always) affect us directly. How would we come to a collective consensus on issues like trade relations, immigration, terrorism? How would we go about correcting the mistakes our predecessors made, both here and abroad, if that's even possible?

I can imagine Levy's land of Utopia. But, it is just that, Utopia. If anything even remotely resembling a transition of this magnitude were to take place, it would (obviously) take years to transpire. Years that most of us probably don't have.


  1. I enjoyed this. I liked Lanier's writing better, but Lévy did predict some of the collectivism happening on the web now. I agree with it being a Utopia, thus my blog for this week is titled, "Wouldn't it be nice?" I think it would take years of implementation, and many are too impatient for that because of the collectivism now. It's ironic.

  2. Very nice response to Levy. So what do we do with a project that will exceed our lifetime? It seems as though committing to the idea of the knowledge space, even if we may not see it become irreversible, is the another way of enacting the humanist ethos behind reciprocal apprenticeship. This is what we have to offer the future. We might even turn to science as a model here - many scientific undertakings are started with the researchers knowing that the timeline to achieve the end goal will likely exceed their career span. But they forge ahead anyway.