Basic Collective Intelligence and How It Works
This article is by no means a complete work and analysis as I am sure there may be more other scholars and commentators who would add their own perspectives on this subject, and they are welcome.
One can distinguish between collective stupidity and collective intelligence by the outcomes – one that is self-defeating and one that is self-fulling. That is the primary differentiation and as we will learn outcomes are driven by common vision and values and not by pre-set goals that may benefit a few but not reflect the collective effort of all the parts of the whole.
My observation has been that collective stupidity is alive and well, and active on this planet.
How does collective stupidity work?
I remember as a kid playing a game called, “Follow the leader.” In it, a queue (line for Americans) was formed behind a designated leader and everyone had to mimic whatever the leader did and if they didn’t they would go to the end of the queue/line. The winner of the game was whoever was first in line behind the leader. The ability to blindly follow a leader determined the winner. What a diabolical game.
I didn’t like this game and usually just watched, as I still do. For instance, I was invited to a lunch where there were 3 not yet awake ladies present and 1 awakened lady.
We sat and listened to these women exchanging stories about cooking, fashion, dieting, etc and heard such phrases as “my mother said; I heard on the TV; my priest told me; or I read in the newspapers; etc.” Not a single original thought. We tried turning the conversations but were met with blank stares as if we weren’t there. Follow the leader is alive and well.
We saw it in 2020. Mass psychosis hypnosis.
Hypnosis is very powerful. I once attended a hypnotist show where the hypnotist asked those in the audience who wanted to be hypnotized to put up their hands. Many did and were hypnotized asleep. The hypnotist told them while they were asleep that when he clapped his hands,they would all rush to the stage.
Sure enough after he had awakened them he was talking and began to clap his hands and a dozen or so people madly rushed to the stage where they were asked to sit down and once seated, he commanded, “Sleep”, and they all fell asleep again and under a hypnotic state they did some ridiculously amusing things.
Some people have a penchant for being hypnotized and we saw it in 2020. People doing the most ridiculous and sometimes amusing things, like wearing masks around their homes or while driving alone in a car, spraying themselves with sanitizer upon returning from shopping, and my favourite, locking themselves in their homes and lining up to be injected with a substance for which none knew its ingredients. It was like watching a mass hypnosis show.
That is collective stupidity. When the stupid follow the stupid.
Only those sovereign-minded people capable of critical thinking averted mass psychosis hypnosis but had to stand by and watch the show helplessly, and if they dared protest, they were punished or “cancelled”.
The controllers of this world use mass psychosis hypnosis to control the masses. and those who cannot and will not be controlled are punished or quietened.
It is up to the latter people to learn how to use collective intelligence which is more powerful than collective stupidity to change things. Collective stupidity is widely practised but collective intelligence is not.
Do you know how to use collective intelligence?
Collective intelligence works quite differently from what we are used to and experience daily.
Let me give you an example from when I first experienced it.
In 1979, at the age of 19, I underwent a “born again” experience and decided to dedicate my life to service to Jesus Christ and I was fervently converted from Catholicism to the “born again” movement through a series of synchronism’s that I won’t go into now.
I had been a musician since 14 and played music in an orchestra, rock band, military band, folk singing duo and just crazy about music, and I got a telephone call from a lady, Liz Bartlett, a member of the Anglican (Episcopalian) church. She told me that the reason for her call was that she had heard that I was recently converted and that her church was starting a bible study group and invited me to join it, particularly because I was also a musician and could lead their chorus singing. She invited me to dinner and I went and met her and her husband, Mike, and I liked them both and agreed to join their bible study group.
At the first meeting that was led by a very affable and likeable company executive, John Mast and his equally affable and attractive wife, Liz, and we began to follow a bible study book that was entitled, “How to be a Christian Without being Religious“ by Fritz Ridenour.
I was captivated by the first chapter on Romans 12 that stated “Be not conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind”. This spoke deeply to me and I suppose connected with my rebellious nature at the time. We started each meeting with a prayer followed by chorus singing and then the bible study.
This small group of John, Malcolm Macdonald (an accountant), Kathy Smith (a college student and engaged to Malcolm), Caroline Green ( a librarian), Butch Vorster (a member of a gang but a seeker) and his girlfriend Wendy whose surname escapes me because she didn’t last very long and myself, agreed to meet weekly on a Friday night to do the bible study which we did for a few weeks and not before long, new folks were added to our number. They came and some went but some stuck with us.
After a month or two, John who was a member of the church council suggested that we should perhaps be allowed to participate in the Sunday night’s Even Song service that was agreed to by the church council.
This service was poorly attended and on the first Sunday night there were 6 or 7 attendees but we were allowed to sing our choruses and give our testimonies that we felt were falling on deaf ears, but we persisted and were later allowed to do a monthly “youth” service.
Over the months that followed word got around to parents that there was a “safe” place to leave their teenagers on a Friday night and also word got around to other denominations too and soon we grew to about 20 – 30 young people every Friday night.
After about 6 months,our leader, John, was transferred by his company to Cape Town and we were leaderless. We were all a bit nonplussed by this and for no reason we just decided to continue without John and to trust the process we had embarked upon, and to share the leadership among ourselves according to our gifts, talents and abilities. This was the first step in collective intelligence recognizing that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts and the collective parts are essential components of the whole. We were not leaderless and recognized that each of us had unique contributions that we could contribute to the group.
Over the next 6 months, not only teenagers but also young adults from all denominations began to flock to our meetings. Our meetings weren’t just about bible study but also practical like visiting and ministering to the elderly, sick and incarcerated teens in adolescent reform homes. We also did fun things together like organizing progressive dinners and trips to a Christian drive-in theatre.
Every week someone would volunteer their home with the permission of their parents that we administered, and we would start there with prayer, singing of choruses and testimonies, and then proceed from there.
Many renowned teachers and preachers of many Christian denominations assisted us by giving us their wisdom and perspectives. It became a non-denominational movement where the numbers were sometimes too large for the venue and we packed them in like sardines.
Our leadership group expanded too with John Stubbs and his brother Paul, John and Mike Gill (and their sister, Elizabeth – Biffy), Mike Duly ( Talented musician), Bruce Beaton and his sister Janet, Tom and Geoff Meter, and our mascot Bart (a blonde, smiling and lovable autistic boy that broadly smiled every time we did something good), and a host of others (too many to mention but not forgotten like Dianna and Beattie Smuts, Edith Wilson, and Sheila McLean) who all contributed to this movement.
We began to realize that this movement was beginning to take on a life of its own and that everyone was a vital cog in the wheel of what was happening. One night we had about 200 kids clamming to get into our venue.
At this time we had a very good group of musicians and singers and the Sunday youth Even Song services were well-attended and often full. We even composed the Even Song prayers into our music. The musicians were accepted irrespective of their denominations and religions.
Our leadership group met one night and it was suggested by somebody that we ought to have an evangelical campaign at our church. I gulped because it was simply unheard of that an Anglican (Episcopalian) church would have an evangelical crusade in South Africa
The priest at our church was a very gentle and open minded man but he was guarded by two very austere and strict deacons who viewed us suspiciously and seemed to take no pleasure in our activities and we were afraid of approaching them.
We decided to go ahead anyway so we wrote to as many evangelists that we knew about (Even Billy Graham and David Wilkerson and others). After a few weeks we got a reply from an evangelist, Dr Wilf Kent. His profile fitted into our vision and values. He was practical and pragmatic and had a great sense of humour that would be needed in some of the Anglican/Episcopalian churches.
In our letter we stated that we just needed his time for one week and we would pay the cost of his accommodation, transport and support. In his reply he said that we would have to pay for his return air travel from the USA to South Africa that was quite a considerable amount for our fledgling movement.
We discussed this among ourselves and had no idea how we would pay for this. All of us were involved with out own secular responsibilities and finances were a struggle for this young group. We decided that John Stubbs and I would ask the church council to request that they fund airfares and added that we believed that volunteer collections would cover their expenses over the week.
When we approached the church council at their meeting, John and I watched as their jaws seemed to drop unbelievingly. The two gatekeeper deacons were flustered and appeared angry but the priest, Fr Frazer Alexander, agreed before they could protest and agreed to pay for the air fares. We were elated and spread the news. An Anglican (Episcopalian) church was going to have an evangelical crusade for a week! This was astounding at the time.
Pretty soon the news got around and we received telephone calls from other church ministers, priest, pastors, leaders from other denominations like the Baptists, Brethren, Presbyterian, Methodist, and other denominations asking if they could be included and wanting an evangelical crusade at their churches.
We mused on all of this and realized that we had started something we no longer could have any control over. This movement was bigger than us and we felt overwhelmed by it, and we prayed fervently for guidance. Dr Kent agreed to go along with whatever was envisaged.
We decided to just let it go and see where it is going to go.
We were overwhelmed by volunteers from school kids, a Christian printer who offered to print all the materials we needed, like posters, pamphlets and response cards, volunteer councillors and musicians and many others.
We were all volunteers with our own secular jobs and activities, and no one was a paid employee. It just happened before we knew what was happening and it also attracted some interest from other USA volunteers.
From a small visualized stream a torrent grew. What was originally intended as a week long evangelical crusade, grew into a two month long crusade across six cities and many different denominations. From my point of view it was like riding a wild bronco that just went where it willed.
At the end of the crusade our now exhausted leadership group sat and counted the response cards – those who had committed themselves to Christ, and it numbered about 900. Who Knew?
We were all just so exhausted we couldn’t conjure up any elation or enthusiasm about it, and dutifully sent the response cards to the congregations, parishes, assemblies of the various denominations that those who had committed themselves to Christ had stated on their response cards.
Our leadership group was astonished and incredulous that we had witnessed something so materially miraculous that it beggared our beliefs.
Such is the nature of the natural and supernatural, and collective intelligence and I have thought deeply about it and offer it to you to decide.
What was it that drove this movement with its ups and downs and, at the time, none of us understood. I have not forgotten it and have thought deeply about it.
There have been many similar movements across the world that were not all religious movements but in the end restored order and virtue to communities and a wish to carry on, and I have condensed them into a system that I believe is a long sustaining expression of collective intelligence.
From my point of view, these are the principles that would apply though not in any specific order or hierarchy:
Wholeness, holism and holiness
If one considers how the human body intelligently works one can observe that it is made up of billions of cells and different parts, structures, compositions, functions, elixirs, and shapes and forms, yet it forms one body and represents a whole that is a manifest expression of all the parts. Thus, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, and each part serves the whole Each part of the whole body serves the whole. There is no hierarchical structure and each part is necessary to form the whole. If any part of the body would reject the other parts we would have disease.
The physical body is therefore a holiism and can be considered to be holy because that is what holiness means – serving the interests of all the parts to form a whole. When things go wrong certain parts work to repair and restore the whole (the immune system).
The human race and all the various species that occupy and manifest on earth are a holistic whole that are meant to co-operatively, cogently and coherently work together in service to each other.
The universe is likewise a holistic whole, with billions of trillions of parts and it all works together co-operatively, cogently and coherently to form a whole.
All the parts of the physical body are of equal importance to make up the whole. They can be said to be equally important to each other and this system could be described as egalitarian. Egalitarianism is a belief in equality, especially with respect to race, gender, culture, language, religion and beliefs, age, political views, species, or social standing and wealth. All are equal and being equal they have equal rights by virtue of their being. In an egalitarian society and movement egalitarianism respects the sovereignty of all others. as being an expression of another part of the greater whole.
No part of the whole is lesser or greater than the other parts and therefore each part must take personal responsibility for their part in the whole and must take responsibility for self-leadership in service to the whole in recognition that the whole represents the expression of their service and purpose.
Each part of the whole must hold each other accountable for upholding the whole and more importantly must focus on their individuated responsibility to the whole and do their duty with joy, appreciation, faith, courage, confidence and trust in each other, and disavow separation though prejudices and judgement.
Common values, vision and purpose
Any movement of collective intelligence should express firmly and articulately its values, vision and purpose in order to get a “buy in” from others who have similar values, vision and purpose. Another point to remember is that those who have different values, vision and purpose belong to another body and no energy should be expended in opposing or supporting them but an effort should be made to resolve any differences with a dedication to the whole in mutual respect, tolerance and understanding for another.
The values of the group will determine the timeline and “playing field” on which they operate.
Energy, momentum and contributionism
It only takes a small spark to start a forest fire because, once blown by the wind, more fuel is added to the fire, and soon other trees catch alight and a forest fire is almost difficult to control or extinguish. The spark is the energy that contributes to and starts the fire.
In a movement the “energy” or spark is provided by our consciousness expressed in thoughts and emotions; words and action; standards and values; and attitudes. Once that energy begins to spread to others it ignites their own spark, and soon a fire is started.
When we combine conscious energy it recreates and transforms from a spark to a fire, blown by the wind of ethereal life force energy that seeks to combine other like-minded and attuned conscious energy forms and it multiples itself by a factor of 10. The bible says, “One will set 1,000 to flight but two will set 10,000 to flight”. Such is the power of collective intelligence.
It is the collective energy and contribution from each conscious energy soul being that creates a storm and fire that is greater than the sum of its parts.
Service to others as well as service to self
Collective intelligence is about the realisation that a collective is made up of many parts and when all the parts function as a whole as described then participants give of their energy freely without counting the cost because there will be a beneficial outcome that is provided by the whole that benefits all, including the contributor.
When all the parts subscribe to this, then service to others begins to be the order of the day without thought to the cost because there is always a back flow and reward provided by the whole.
We can observe this in nature, like bees providing a service to the common cause, to provide an outcome which benefits the whole hive and other species.
In the example I gave above we witnessed the principles and outcomes of collective intelligence.
There was no one leader. There were no clearly defined outcomes and the outcomes would be determined by the whole rather than the contribution of a single leader. The organisation and methods were not prescriptive or descriptive and were invented and applied as we went along. The buy in from participants created the momentum for the movement and escalated beyond our measure and hopes.
The whole is always greater than the sum of the parts and it takes selfless, intelligent contributions from all as equals to the cause to sustain the group effort.
These principles can be applied to many applications; families, recreation and religious groups, civil and political movements, sports, and in fact any group activity, but the principles should be understood and applied rigorously by all within the movement to create the momentum.