June 10, 2010

In defense of complexity

Somebody wrote in a group on "Transforming Capitalism" in the Presencing community  :

> all complex civilisations have collapsed at one point or another. Only 'simple' societies have managed to survive.

Cellular Complexity by David Sweatt.gifIn the spirit of helping each other unearthing our assumptions, let me point out that the feudal society that invented the first forms of science was more complex than the slave-based mode of production that, in turn, was more complex than the hunter-gatherer mode of production. The same is true for capitalism that is more complex than the feudal society, and emerging, post-capitalist reality that is moving towards global-scale self-organization and collective intelligence, which will be more (not less) complex than the capitalist world. More complex means capable to differentiate, absorb and integrate more variety.

Just think of nature. Hasn't life been moving towards increasing complexity from the single-cellular to the multi-cellular organism, from worms to mammalians and humans? (To let that really sink in, use the Cellular Complexity painting above, by  David Sweatt, as a meditation object.
Click on the image to enlarge.
) You can find another example of increasing complexity in your own life. Isn't it a story of increasing the variety of phenomena that you were capable to differentiate, absorb and integrate, from kindergarten, to school and adulthood?

The move towards more complexity doesn't stop in adulthood. The development of such subsequent value systems depicted by Spiral Dynamics as TruthForce, StriveDrive, HumanBond, FlexFlow, GlobalView, is also an evolution towards more complexity. (I wrote more about it in Communitas Sapiens that you can find in the files of the London Integral Circle, and in my paper on Collective Intelligence, Collective Leadership .) In fact, 2nd tier stages of development, starting with FlexFlow and GlobalView are the first ones that cease to think of complexity as an enemy to defeat and start appreciating it.

Facing the overwhelming complexity of today's world, the "natural" response is to look back and long for a lost "natural rhythm and pace." That's the best that our individual ego can find when one's world is growing more complex than one can fully comprehend. It is the best that it can do, simply, because it cannot see what is above its head: the next level, at which the assumption that I, me, mine, is the most important in the world is recognized as an increasingly useless assumption.

What if
what we sense as overwhelming complexity was only evolution's trick to seduce us  into the collective identities and shared minds needed to make sense and higher meaning out of our world? What if someday we woke up realizing that we left the fixation with the narrower perspectives behind just as we did with toys that we've outgrown in the kindergarten? What if that day was today?

I know, it's easier said than done. Spreading good practices worth replicating does help. Here is a beautiful example. The good news is there's a growing number of us who recognize that awakening communities are not the death of our individuality, only the death of our ego. In fact, autonomy gains never before experienced depth and richness in the unfolding dynamics and interplay between autonomy and communion. So, what are we waiting for? :-)

May 8, 2005

On vMemes and the yellow leading edge

Here is my second post to the Blog of collective intelligence and my first as a guest author. Thanks for your trust and openess George. In this posting I want to lay ouy some thoughts on the question on how to untap the collective intelligence of the 'whole movement' that George brought up at

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May 24, 2004

When community intelligence becomes market intelligence...

Have you ever wondered what is common in “community intelligence,” "swarm intelligence," "smart mobs" and "tipping points"? According to market intelligence guru, Britton Manasco, they are all about a “drift toward potential innovations that draw on the unspoken and unanticipated knowledge of today's (and tomorrow's) customers.”

Frankly, I would have never thought of them that way. First, I was shocked by the concurrent obviousness and trickiness of his statement. Then, I got fascinated by the fertile questions that his thoughts give access to. I will tell you why, but to give you a fuller context, I suggest that before that, read his short but very insightful entry on “Wise Crowds” in the “Customer Intelligence” blog of Corante.

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May 16, 2004

“The Wisdom of Crowds” and the colors of collective intelligence

This morning received an email from a friend with “Re: something's emerging:” on the subject line. It called my attention to a new book on The Wisdom of Crowds, by James Surowiecki, a columnist at The New Yorker. I googled it and found out that it is not published yet but has already 425 pages carrying its reference, as of today.

The message threw off what I was planning to do today because I’ instantaneously became very curious of what’s happening, went to the Q&A section of the booksite, and found reasons for both some concerns and joyful anticipation of the book. (I will follow this entry about the concerns with one about the joyful anticipation, in the next couple of days.)

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