07/09/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Collective Intelligence: Is the Future Already Here?

I came across an article in Kosmos Journal on "Becoming Wiser Together" [link to ] by George Por, an old acquaintance of mine, in which he was talking about the idea that "the future is already here" but that we have different sensibilities and awareness of what it is and the possibilities it brings. George has been working for decades on the idea of what some of us might call "collective consciousness" or what he is now calling "collective intelligence." This may be an "idea whose time has come" in that what he is talking about has been a familiar phenomenon for many of us for a long time but we've not always had ways of distinguishing it.

There is a book out by Richard Ogle out called Smart World that attempts to create a "science of ideas" based on the same notion that some kinds of "intelligence" exist beyond the individual--that the mind is not "in the head." Whether we label this phenomenon memes, disclosive space, culture, community of practice or collective intelligence, it partially accounts for where and how we achieve breakthroughs, visionary leadership and "the tipping point."

My oversimplified understanding of this is that human beings (or human consciousness) occur in language and within structures of interpretation (paradigms) that define who we are, our relationships with our self, other people, circumstances and time. These relationships, in turn, determine how our world-reality "occurs" and we base our actions on how the world occurs for us. Our individual and collective actions create our future. In other words, we are used by our worldview. At the end of the day, the only choice we have is which worldview or paradigm will use us.

What interpretation or vision are we willing to "surrender" to? What vision will we choose to have faith in and trust that, in time, will manifest and reveal even more possibility and promise?

In George's view, building practices for communication and coordination across the generational divide is essential if we are to create a common vision of what is possible and begin to co-create the future that we all want. It is not possible to predict what never existed before. And if we try, we will, at best, project the past forward and then continue to act in more or less the same ways as we have in the past. Rather, we must learn to see (and to listen) to how each other sees the world, including the future as possibility, and then align our commitments to having that future be "the way it is."

George Por's and Richard Ogle's visions brilliantly suggest that wisdom is more than a personal point of view and that if we can learn to "tune in" to what it is saying, we can transform ourselves and, in doing so, transform our world. Serene Ambition, my group blog, is about creating a future that works for everyone through Eldering. It's about sharing perspectives and "cleaning up the messes before we die." In this sense, Eldering is about using our collective wisdom and coordinating action to resolve the intractable problems that threaten our future--and the future of those yet unborn.

If this is a game worth playing, then let's begin by paying attention to what is not "inside our heads." Let's begin to ask more profound questions and to dream impossible dreams. Rilke's quote at the end of George's article sums it up pretty well. We must "learn to love the questions and someday we might live our way into the answers."

© 2009 Jim Selman. All rights reserved.