What really struck me when viewing videos of Douglas Englebart and reading parts of his essay ‘Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework’ so kindly excerpted for us by Gardener Campbell, was when he talked about the idea of a Collective IQ.
As an invertebrate zoologist, when I think of a collective, a bee hive comes to mind. Individual bees are separate animals, but they function in a eusocial arrangement whereby the colony persists and grows as individuals do their different jobs of nursing, foraging and reproducing. E.O. Wilson referred to eusocial insects like bees (and ants and other Hymenopterans) as a “superorganism”. I don’t know if bee colonies offer us much in the way of a model for humans working together, but their abilities to communicate with each other puts humans to shame. I especially loved it when Englebart said “Collectively, we can learn how to work collectively better”. Because he both acknowledges that we don’t work so well collectively now, and that paradoxically, it is going to take a collective of us to figure out how to do it better! And so I think that much of the ‘augmentation’ of our ‘intellect’ is essentially about how we ‘put our heads together’, and how we use our technologies to basically learn how to work together more effectively. But somewhere in those 1962 videos and writings of Engelbart’s, there is also the implication that we need to go beyond connecting our minds together to putting our hearts together as well. These days, I think we need to be very explicit about this. Perhaps Engelbart’s Collective IQ needs to incorporate other IQ’s, like social IQ and emotional IQ. So what does a contemporary collective of intellectual, caring, human beings look like? How do we integrate the power of working and learning in the Open to go about creating this? To me these seem like the important questions. Engelbart says: “The complexity of man’s [sic] problems are growing still faster and the urgency with which solutions must be found becomes steadily greater in response to the increased rate of activity and the increasingly global nature of that activity”. And that was in 1962! The urgency and complexity have only been intensified, and while our technologies are more sophisticated- we have not made any progress towards creating the kind of human compassionate collective that I think we will need to address things like global climate change (and so much more). Indeed things seem to have just gotten a lot worse. I think a place to start is with an authentic practice of intersectionality (not just a recognition of diversity or inclusion). What do you think?