collective intelligence interview with Bonnie Roy

Our old friend, Bonnie Roy, has some insights. Men have a tendency to rank each other, women seek to belong. Coherence is local. Her comments on group life resonates with recent conversations we have had. When we are more aware of these dynamics, what happens next?

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I enjoyed this talk. I believe we are doing a lot of what she is talking about, and I appreciated the meta- (including historical, and learned-the-hard-way) perspectives shared, which illuminate our own efforts and also point to potential pitfalls in this and related endeavors.

Collective insight: from circles of presence to circles of creativity, dismantling introjected [oppressive] structures (malware scans), cultivating teamwork—welcoming weird, peripheral perspectives ('strange ideas & irritations), sovereign beings (noticing what we notice—collective sensing and sense-making), locally cohering—“a more powerful we, which can then transform & co-create emergent structures from within the society.”

“It’s kind of like stars being born in a star nursery—”

“We don’t have to help the cosmos along. It’s how to achieve these human-scale goals, and what’s the optimum scale for that is an interesting question.”

I rank Bonnitta highly! And feel we belong in sacred circles, co-creating emergent futures in cosmic locales.

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And human- scale goals…and what’s the optimum scale? Optimum for whom? I am not sure Bonnie attempts to answer this in the interview but it leaves me hanging in an unfinished room, with no pictures or any chairs…an optimal scale?..what is optimal? And with what instruments do we measure our minds???

I believe, even if an uncomfortable psycho-semantic space, this room, without floors or ceilings, is worth contemplating.

And when human-scale and we don’t have to help the cosmos, how do we know that?

And what kind of ‘we’ is that?

And where does that we come from?

A comment I made in a previous thread may be of use. I am less interested in economics ( as Bonnie is ) and more on the imaginal, which Bonnie tends to call a story. It is not where her attention goes…and that is a difference…that perhaps makes a difference in complex unstable systems…

My comment came out of a thread on Second-Order Culture. At the risk of appearing hopelessly self-referential, I quote myself.

" When you have read fifty novels you can start being critical, and aware of what you value in reading novels. It is more like listening to a singer who can sing behind the music rather than in front of it. When we are in symbiotic relationships, we can find a rhythm that is not manufactured in a pregiven way, nor cut off from other structures by an arbitrary, thick line drawn by dominant mental. In symbiotic relationships it is not easy to discern where I begin and end. Self and Other are apart of and apart from. There are many wrong ways of reciting a poem but there is no right way. We can constantly revise from moment to moment and when necessary we can regress in service of the ensemble. We can be aware when we get stuck in the regression. It is not like scanning a barcode and getting a fixed price. It’s messy, there is a sliding scale of intensity."

And here is a story that I share, based upon an actual experience. Yesterday, in a conference room, at a public library in Manhattan, I attended an LGBTQ philosophy group. Twelve humans. Nine males, two females, one transgendered person, face to face, mixed ages from twenty five to seventy five, mixed ethnicities, no flat screens, no smart phones. We spoke English, made gestures.The topic was Susan Sontag’s classic essay Notes on Camp. It was a delightful learning occassion.

Could this learning occassion, which was devoted to reading an author who had died a decade ago, who studied a highly obscure concept Camp, be just a collection of stories? According to Sontag, in 1964 no one had commented on this concept before. She created the conversation out of scratch. And Sontag looks at that idea as it has evolved over a long history, that includes hundreds of cultural artifacts entangled with countless human lives, and could this be something vaguely both human and cosmic?

And when we are coherent and that is local, whereabouts is local?

And can we be coherent locally, without any stories, without any metaphorical constructs?

I am dubious about Bonnie’s human centered approach here as I know she is also an advocate for animals and ecology. How do we determine human-goals at human-scale from other than human scales? This I find missing in the interview. She often refers to the incommesurability between scales in previous conversations. And is my conjecture so incommensurate?

How do we develop coherence with which scale? Human scale, in my view, is always metaphorical and narrative based. Science can’t do away with these complexities, even as it focuses only on it’s own instruments of measurement. And there is always the story about not having a story. That way madness lies. It is called Artificial Life. As we move out of a classical Newtonian world view, what happens next?

I wonder if the we who are about to die, would agree with the we that doesn’t have to worry about death, if there is a relationship between human-scale and cosmic scale?

I imagine, in the not too distant future, we will wake up and discover that a barcode has been embedded in our skin, on the forearm…but that is another story…
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And how do we coordinate our Third Eye(s) the our Third Ear (s)?

And then what happens to Human Scale?

Perhaps, a topic for a future people to discuss…

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There is the reputed wisdom of “letting go and letting God” that I hear in the suggestion to let the Cosmos do its thing. Somehow one of the things that Cosmos is doing is animating, impelling, compelling, and attracting countless perceptual bodies into a revelation of itself as source, destiny, will, idea, and creative extravaganza—inviting our participation and divine influence.

These bodies self-other-organize into what we call systems at various scales. When I think of optimum scale, I recall my philosophy prof in college teaching us about Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perception—he shared this same example:

“The basic idea in Merleau-Ponty, is that we are always moving to get an optimal grip …even in perception, just in perceiving… He says if you get to close, there are to many details, if you get to far away, you lose the details. He talks about how in a museum your body is just led by a picture to move to the optimal distance, where you see the maximum richness, as he put’s it, of the detail, and the maximum clarity of the form. When you perceive ordinary objects you move around them and so forth, and you are led by the object, calling on your body, it’s just outside of what your mind does or could do. The object just calls you to get in the best relation to see it.” – Hubert Dreyfus

So there is some way I feel that—while in human (earth-based) bodies—there will be certain optimal (not static, but shifting w/ context) distances and intimacies between self/other/collective/world and larger systems; this dynamic balance is ecological.

I realize we are extending Bonnitta’s argument here, in ways which may not be granted by the content of that Rebel Wisdom interview. I believe many of us are strongly drawn to the Imaginal but can’t afford to ignore the Economic. The question of scale buzzes somewhere in between the two.

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“let the cosmos do its thing” makes me laugh. How arrogant to consider any alternative.
I understand that we cannot help trying to assist “the cosmos”. Talk about a fools errand?

Sorry to pop in like this. Guess I couldn’t help myself. No disrespect intended. No offense intended. I just couldn’t resist. I can’t seen to turn off the auto-pilot.

Is the Cosmos running on auto-pilot, or is there some intelligence orchestrating the show, perhaps towards some higher ends? Whose intelligence? At what scale? If what we do doesn’t alter the Cosmos, then what is the point of our consciousness? If the adventure of consciousness is a fool’s errand, then who may be regarded as wise?

In the word “coherence” I read “co-here,” as in being here together. But where is ‘here’ in virtual space? William Blake has written that “all deities reside in the human breast,” and also that “eternity is in love with the productions of time.”

At the very least, perhaps, we are requested to put on a good show for the gods—strut & fret our hour upon the stage—or meta-stage, or stage within—leave the rest to the Cosmos to work out in its own time.

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There is no question that each of us are obviously doing things all the time. We think, we move, we plan etc. But to whom or what can we anoint these observable activities? Also, is it important to name the source? Regardless of why and how we “strut and fret” we seem to continue to do so as long as we can breathe. I agree Marco that these endeavors will continue as long as we live. Perhaps it’s fine we do not know the absolute Truth if these questions. Stabbing at answers I think is better more productive than stabbing each other. March on you guys. I love watching you struggle with such lofty ideas. What’s the alternative? Trump seems to be offering us an example.

Also, why is it important to be regarded as wise? And regarded by whom? And why does consciousness need a point? Is it possible that these are human-centric questions in a Cosmos that may not be human-centered? When one of us dies, it’s a tragedy for family and friends, but for putrefying bacteria it’s a picnic. Somebody said once, it’s all relative.

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Searching for a Collective Intellience has proved as illusive as ever. I scan the world out there and find more squabbling and ranking and seeking to belong, without much coherence. Reluctantly, I share the following reports, as I have a felt sense that there is some underrepresented ‘news’ that any visionary wannabe would probably wonder about.

At the risk of turning this thread into another information dump, I will do my best to use technology provided in a way that makes sense to me. That it might make sense to someone else would surprise me, but I am open to that remote possibility.

Donald Hoffman points to the impossible. Spacetime is not fundamental but arises from something deeper. This half hour presentation sums it up. The chances that we see reality as it is, is zero. So what is our perceptual system doing? A metaphor Hoffman uses is the desktop interface.


Add to this Bernardo Kastrup in action as he gently deconstructs the deficient rationality of his baffled interviewer. I concur with Kastrup it may take another two centuries before this a-logical awareness becomes a cultural norm. Here is that interview for those who have the energy to go beyond logic.

And is there a relationship between these two interviews between two physicists and Bonnie’s initiative to focus attention on human scaled goals?

I had another impossible dream. I am walking in a Big City landscape and look up in the clear blue daytime sky and see to my surprise a gigantic full moon with big smiley face. As I notice this incongruity, I become fully lucid, raise my dreaming hands upwards, as if to embrace this cartoon like moon face, and as I soar towards it, at a high speed, the smiley faced moon begins to shrink to the size of a golf ball…and then turns into a puff of smoke…accepting this mild disappointment…I continue to soar into a fathomless expanse and as I look down I realize something very weird is happening…I am not frightened by this but I am shocked that I am going into a warp drive and might not return, so, I struggle to return to the familiar physical spacetime arrangement. My physical eyes fluttering, partially open,and for a few seconds… I am feeling the bedroom my body sleeps in and the hybrid body that is soaring beyond spacetime…

So, with all of that, I plan to turn off my smart phone, do some yoga and then go to a Feldenkrais class at the local gay senior center. Hopefully, I will enjoy some local coherence there.

Have a great day!

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Thanks for morning digest, John! My first job ever was as a paper boy—just like the kids in the movie ET, and around the same time, too. I affixed a basket to the front of my BMX bicycle, and each day after school (+ Saturday and Sunday mornings) assembled and delivered about 35 Newsdays, flinging the rubber-band bound bundles from my bike onto my neighbors’ front stoops—often having to stop, get off, go back and fetch the paper from a garden or driveway when I missed. My aim improved over time.

I am still baffled that so many people didn’t mind getting their news in the late afternoon. Nonetheless, I recruited a few new subscribers and once even won a bonus prize: an alarm-clock radio. It’s good I got out of the business early.

I am concerned that we are still operating within Kantian categories if we are still positing some thing in itself which we cannot know. To whom would the thing be knowable? If no-body, then the concept might as well name the pure void—which, perhaps, it does.

But if all knowing is colored by the knower, and we know this, then illusion (or appearance) and reality need not be opposed. The thing in itself is a priori the product of some knower. Will the real Cosmos please stand up?

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And where are the we you assume are still operating within which Kantian Category?


A few of us are aware of the rip in the fabric of existence. We could be called the Weird Essentialists.

And then what happened to that alarm-clock radio? Did it have a size or a shape?

And when your aim improved, did you find the optimal grip?

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Which I say that Proves there’s a Participatory Demand with the Cosmos,Human & Whatever Else comes with Riding The Wave.

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Alarm clock radios fell on my head every morning for the next 20 years. Shocks jocks, Top 40, College hipster, NPR—I hit the Snooze button many times. Finally I threw the alarm clock out the window, hit some poor chump on the head, some future version of myself out for a stroll. He’s fine. My soul awakes me every morning, before light breaks, with a buzzing in my throat, a flutter in my heart zone. I stretch my limbs, sit, and wait for instructions. I eat my Wheaties. I work and play. Eternity struts one day at a time.

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