Ming the Mechanic
The NewsLog of Flemming Funch

Sunday, June 27, 2010day link 

 Be afraid, be very afraid
picture The old civilization (human civilization in the last few thousand years) is pretty much based on the observation that humans, on the average, work badly together, but they can be controlled. Thus, history is the story of individuals, the lucky few who were in the right position to control others, and who knew how to do so. Alexander the Great couldn't have conquered much all by himself. His genius was in persuading 100s of thousands of soldiers to do what he said, to go and get killed so that he could be the dictator of a huge empire. Most memorable parts of history worked pretty much the same. Some guy used force and persuasion to make lots of people do what we wanted done, and the result became something impressive. Empires. Pyramids. Roman aqueducts. Greek temples.

Our society isn't much different today, other than that the control mechanisms have gotten much more clever and convoluted, and they've been camouflaged as democracy, free markets and free speech. What's different is that it is no longer the very visible kings or presidents who are in charge of very much. They go with the flow almost as much as everybody else. What hasn't changed is that it is the very, very few who control the majority of what's going on. But it is the vast majority that enable this to happen and that provide all the manpower. Despite that what they're getting isn't really working very well.

Western civilization - it would be a good idea, like Gandhi said. Democracy, that would be good idea too. Free markets would be an excellent thing to implement. We don't really have those, even though most people on the street would tell you that we do. They'd also tell you that money represents value, and that everybody has an equal opportunity, and one is free to say whatever one wants. All of which is a cartoonish propaganda reality which doesn't really exist anywhere on this planet.

However, the really good news is that all of it could change very, very quickly.

The thing is that we simply haven't worked out how to work together yet. The groups we're familiar with are simply collections of people who follow one leader, or a few leaders. Corporations. Governments. Religions. The News. We're talking about thousands or millions of people who voluntarily choose to do what a handful of people tell them to do. Usually towards their own ends, for their own gain, or simply based on their particular personal insanity.

Mind-boggling. Why do we do that?

Because collective intelligence hasn't worked for us so far.

You put a group of people together, most of the time, you'll end up with something more stupid than any of the individuals you put together. They'll argue, posture, waste time, and probably end up agreeing on something not very useful. But give them a leader, somebody who'll inspire them, give them a purpose, while making sure they get paid and fed, suddenly they'll all line up and do what they're told.

But imagine that a group of people actually suddenly could become more than the sum of its parts.

Imagine that the natural order of things would be that a group of people would self-organize in order to maximize their common interests. Imagine that together they'd accomplish more than simply the sum of their individual contributions, because of the synergy between then. They'd operate at a bigger order. Surprisingly clever and wonderful stuff would happen that none of them individually could have predicted, and that none of them directly caused.

That's called Collective Intelligence. That's when a group of people becomes smarter than any of them individually, and even smarter than them all together. It's a positive sum. 1 + 1 + 1 = 5.

That's not a wild-eyed fantasy. It is simply that humans haven't been very good at it so far. The result of that has been that 0.01% of the population control the other 99.99%, who do what they're told, and who're rewarded in some mediocre way for doing so.

Imagine that it changed one day. Maybe somebody came up with a tool that allowed people to actually work together. Maybe it just started happening by itself. Evolution. Suddenly we see win-win relationships around us.

Just like Alexander the Great by himself in his underwear wouldn't be worth much, and just like Adolf Hitler was just a little angry Austrian guy, part Jewish, mediocre painter, chronically constipated, most of the great leaders of civilization don't amount to much by themselves. Oh, some of them do. Some leaders would remain leaders even if we had a choice about it, because they're inspiring, because they're empowering and enabling catalysts who know how to make things happen.

But most of those very, very few who call the shots should probably be very afraid.

Because if we actually figured out how to work together, they'd be out of a job from one day to the next.

Elected leaders are only there because they've been elected. One little scandal, the truth coming out, will remove them from office in a couple of days. And nobody might vote for them next time.

Multi-billion dollar multi-national corporations are only in the position they are because people are buying their products, voluntarily, but without really knowing what's behind it, who's doing what, where these products come from, what the money is used for, etc. If they knew, they'd make different choices right away.

While we're scattered, disjoined, dispersed, unconnected, distracted and confused - we're not very effective.

We, the people, are the real power. If a million people agree on what is in our common interest, what's one anti-social asshole gonna do? Go hide? Unfortunately, today, that one guy is the CEO, and you could be laid off any day if you don't do what you're supposed to. But if we actually were talking with each other, he'd be the guy who'd be running for cover. Assuming he's one of those guys who got there by deceit and coercion.

There is one problem to solve. It is THE problem. How can we work together, towards our common interests, in a way that is constructive. In particular, how can we together solve complex problems that we wouldn't be able to solve individually.

It is called collective intelligence.

It isn't just some crazy left-wing idealist dream. It is probably the natural order of things. The universe works perfectly well. Stars are born, stars die. Evolution has gone on for billions of years. Billions of life forms coexist in great diversity and synergy. It is just us humans that for a few thousand years have gotten lost in the dark ages of mental and emotional separation. We found that we could think abstractly, invent stuff, communicate, organize, manipulate. That made us surprisingly productive and simultaneously surprisingly malleable and controllable.

Chances are that we don't remain dispersed for much longer. One way or another we'll figure out how to actually work together. Or we'll go extinct within the next couple of generations. Evolution happens when there's a bit of a crisis. Probably we'll change and we'll make it.

When we change, it will probably happen quickly. Because, really, it is not exactly about what any one of us are up to. Rather, when we find out that we can work together and the sum will be greater than the parts, there will be no way back.

That will be the Singularity.

When suddenly we no longer all are working against each other, allowing the few to manipulate us for their personal gain, when suddenly there is positive gain in all our collaborations. When suddenly humanity starts to feel smart and creative and constructive, rather than homicidal and suicidal. When humanity wakes up.

There are really only a few anti-social fucktards who'd even be against this. Most all of us want humanity to succeed. We want to be free. We want to make a difference. We want to be happy. Duh. Most people are good people.

If the truth is available, and easily communicated, and large groups of people can work together on common goals, big things can happen. It hasn't happened so far. It probably will soon. In part because technology is evolving rapidly. It will probably soon be impractical to keep us all apart.

Doesn't really matter if you're left wing or right wing or religious or scientific. There are a lot of artificial abstract ideas that separate us. But if we actually could talk about what we really care about, and work together on the solutions, nothing much would need to stop us.

Until we get there it is maybe a bit of a pain to try to work with others. Might be easier to either force somebody else to do it our way, or to follow somebody else's program.

But once we learn to actually network... the world will not be the same again. There probably won't be any way back.

So, if you're in the business of deceiving the many, for your own personal gain, be afraid. You'll need a new job soon. Something is emerging that you can't possibly compete with.
[ / | 2010-06-27 02:28 | 106 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

 Doubt
picture
By Oglaf. Yeah, it's a bit subtle that doubt thing.
[ | 2010-06-27 02:28 | 46 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

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