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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What Does MHRA Stand For??

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Islanda, quando il popolo sconfigge l'economia globale.

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Diary of a Knowledge Broker

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What Is an "Integrated Solution"?

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June 23, 2005

Waking Up to Nature's Evolving Pattern Recognition

On a walk yesterday, my attention was grabbed by some intensely radiating purple flowers. I wondered if part of their intensity was ultraviolet light which, though not fully visible to me, would probably attract bees.

Then I suddenly became aware of many flowers around me, in a wild diversity of shapes and colors. I remembered that specific flowers often have specific pollinators. It dawned on me that specific colors and shapes of blossoms would naturally attract specific insects and birds to pollinate them.

"They're like little flags announcing their collective identity," I thought. But they aren't the only ones. I thought of the various shapes, colors and songs of birds, who thereby recognize each other. And, of course, other animals and plants have sounds, colors, faces, behaviors, and chemicals through which they/we recognize each other, collectively and individually. This pattern-recognition business is going on everywhere.

I realized I was immersed in a multi-billion-year co-evolution of patterns and pattern-recognition -- and therefore of intelligence. Intelligence is largely about pattern recognition, and this co-evolution is part of the evolving intelligence of nature. A pattern (color, shape, behavior) survives because it is recognized by the other organisms that relate to it. As time goes by, new forms of pattern beget new forms of pattern recognition -- and Life's patterns and pattern-recognition capacities grow more diverse, sophisticated, and brilliant (in all definitions of the word).

And so we find ourselves -- "the most intelligent species" -- with very sophisticated pattern recognition systems installed in our heads, our cultures, our sciences, our religions, our search engines. And, once again, we find ourselves challenged by newly emerging patterns -- like climate change, new technologies, and our deeper common humanity. And we find different forms of pattern recognition competing for success in places like the debate over climate change.

Will our pattern-recognition systems recognize significant new patterns in a useful, timely way? Will our creativity, competition and cooperation produce new ways of seeing and thinking to engage these new patterns?

Evolution is happening all around us - in the birds and the bees, the flowers and ourselves. It will proceed, regardless of what we do, and because of what we do. Will we use what we have well -- and evolve what we need -- for the survival of our children and the Life we depend on and are part of?


posted by Tom Atlee on Thursday June 23 2005
updated on Saturday September 24 2005

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Readers' Comments

I don't know if you've hear of Michael Dowd. He teaches a faith based evolution theory that unifies religious theories. I heard him speak this weekend and although his presentation is a little nutty, he's live out of his van for the past three years and stays with people from the towns where he speaks with his wife, he has an interesting thoery that you might want to check out.



Posted by: Tim on March 8, 2006 08:17 PM


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