Evolving Collective Intelligence by Tom Atlee

Exploring how to generate the collective wisdom we need

Exploring how to generate the collective wisdom we need

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September 05, 2004

Polarization and Intelligence

I think this is my final essay in this series on polarization, at least for a while.

The full series is posted at http://co-intelligence.org/polarization.html.


_ _ _ _ _ _



by Tom Atlee - August 2004

Intelligence involves understanding what is real -- matching our mental models with what is really out there. That is what learning from experience is all about: Something happens that we didn't expect, so we change our expectations to include it, becoming more aligned with reality in the process. This is what science is all about: Making hypotheses (mental models) about reality and then testing them to find their validity, including their limitations.

The more fully we apply intelligence to any circumstance, the more we become able to align our efforts with the actual realities of the situation and thereby succeed.

In their efforts to understand reality, intelligent people seek to understand similarities and differences. Of course, those similarities and differences should be real and relevant. Getting hung up on imaginary, irrelevant differences and similarities -- thinking a handsome candidate is better than a conscientious one, for example, or that everyone who looks like an Arab is a potential enemy -- can lead to make stupid mistakes.

Sometimes someone -- perhaps an advertiser raving about an expensive product -- will insist that we pay attention to fine distinctions, when similarities may be far more obvious and important. Other times people will insist that certain things -- such as "all politicians" -- are similar despite glaring differences. At such times, we need to dig deeper into what's going on. Intelligence involves questioning anything that interferes with our ability to seriously consider actual, relevant similarities and differences.

In most cases, polarization undermines intelligence by misleading us in exactly this way. It reduces vast human diversity into categories like Left and Right that are often ambiguous, distracting and even downright irrelevant (see ). Polarized partisans reject any notion that there may be important similarities between people on the Left and Right, or important differences within the ranks of their enemies or allies. Polarization is usually antithetical to intelligence. It is especially antithetical to co-intelligence, the intelligence of the Whole, because it impedes our ability to connect with diverse other people to discover a bigger picture that integrates all our views.

For the full article see http://www.co-intelligence.org/Polarization-Intelligence.html which includes
APPROACHES TO DIALOGUE TO OVERCOME POLARIZATION (which includes descriptions of many processes and activities)


posted by Tom Atlee on Sunday September 5 2004
updated on Saturday September 24 2005

URL of this article:




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Diversity is possibility waiting to be born. So how can we use our differences most creatively?


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