Archive for the 'Consciousness' Category

Tweets are sutras; blogs are commentaries

I’m reading a great translation of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, translated by Alistair Shearer, a Sanskrit and Vedic scholar and a genuine yogi. In his illuminating introduction, Alistair notes that a “sutra” as a literary form is an aphorism of extreme brevity. Each short thread is packed with meaning, which is why a tradition of commentary has arisen. “Each new commentator brings the light of his own understanding to bear on the original gnomic texts; his conclusions then become part of the ongoing tradition.”

Here is what the Yoga Sutras would look like if Patanjali had a Twitter account:

(Much to Patanjali’s amusement, someone else already took

Sutras are the opposite of shallow. Tweets, likewise, can be packed with meaning and insight. Hence the need for urls that point to blogs for commentary.

So far only Patanjali’s first four sutras have been converted to tweets. These four sutras form the essence of the entire teaching of 194 sutras. I’m sure that if the tweets get more followers, more sutras will be added.

2/2/2010:  See update in today’s comment below about a new translation by Tom Egenes.  All sutras in since Feb. 2 are from Tom Egene’s translation.

Other posts on this blog that reference the Yoga Sutras:

How Bohmian Dialogue makes use of 2300 Year Old Ideas

Concept: Surrender to the Lord

Morning tweets (thoughts)

This morning, looking across the valley, through the trees and fog, I can make out the faintest distinction between mountain and sky.

In standing meditation, a tweet ripples the stillness. Not the point. But I save it for later.

Later: Sticky notes, like this one, are the perfect size for tweets (when not near the Net).

How reliance on experts gets us into hot water

This article from New Scientist reports a recent study that shows how relying on expert advice actually makes people give up trying to figure out solutions on their own.

This phenomenon has both adaptive and non-adaptive effects.

It is evolutionarily adaptive by being a “conformity-enforcing” phenomenon that can kick in when a large group needs to quickly move in the same direction in order to survive a big threat.   It’s also adaptive when the issues are extremely complex and most members of the population don’t have the knowledge or experience to really evaluate the risks and make a good decision.

It is evolutionarily non-adaptive when there is still a lot of confusion around the issue, when the experts themselves don’t agree, and when many experts are guided by narrow interests that don’t serve the group (like increasing and protecting their own personal prestige and wealth).

In our current global and national situation, our knowledge and systems have now evolved to the point where nearly all of the most critical threats to our survival are caused by our own, human, activities and decisions, and where these same issues are now so complex that it’s almost impossible to expect a relatively small number of experts to understand them well enough  to make the correct decisions (even forgetting personal biases).

Our survival now rests on our ability to engage the knowledge and wisdom of hundreds of thousands and even millions of people in order to make collective decisions.    As we all know this is a huge challenge – given our current tendencies to tear each other apart over disagreements, instead thinking together for the higher good.

There has to be a way!   We need leaders like Obama, who understand that we all have to be involved in solutions to national and global problems.  We also can’t make ridiculous expectations that require these leaders to immediately come up with the right solutions.  Currently many of us are simply sitting on the side-lines second-guessing them, or else looking for ways to ridicule their ideas.

(For example see this piece by David Rothkopf in the Washington Post.  At the end of his piece he seems to agree with the paragraph above.  But at the beginning of the piece he can’t resist ridiculing Obama and his team for not being omniscient.)

We also need some significant advances in understanding “collective intelligence” that also elevates “collective consciousness” rather than being “mined” for the good of the few.

Meta Networks and Global Transformation

In  a great piece written in mid 2007, Paul Hawken reminded us that there is a global meta network (he didn’t use that term) of people and organizations who care deeply about the planet and are working to save it.

He called it the planet’s immune system, now emerging to help us fend off multiple pathologies and terrible threats.

He also said:

  • It’s a decentralized network, not an organization.
  • There is no single hub. (That is, it’s a multi-centered network.)

  • It is not a conventional “movement” where everyone recognizes the same leaders and identical ideologies.

  • “People inside the movement can also underestimate it, basing their judgment on only the organizations they are linked to, even though their networks can only encompass a fraction of the whole. “

This last point is important.  It means that the network already exists, but it’s not yet fully accessible and usable.   Making the network more self-aware and usable is now what is needed, as described more below.

Immune systems are adaptive networks.

Brains are also adaptive networks, which is why many others have also called our interconnected global networks a “global brain.”   Hawken was especially pointing to the part of the global brain that reacts to rigidity, fragmentation, and decay – including abuses of power and environmental threats.

But this same network — people who care about the vitality and prosperity of the whole Earth — is more than just an immune system.  It doesn’t just fight things (disease and injustice, etc.).  It also creates knowledge, tools, and opportunities for growth and fulfillment of individuals, organizations, societies, and (yes) life on earth.

It is really a global network of transformation.

Except, it is not quite all wired up yet.

So, what does a globally intelligent Meta Network need to more fully wake up?

It needs at least these things, which are already available in some form or another, yet still developing:

1. Methods and tools for getting knowledge, talent, and capital to the right people and organizations at the right time.

This includes:

a. Communication tools and social media

We are now swimming in these, and constantly inventing more.

b. Tools for intelligently filtering messages and requests.

This includes tools for reputation, due-diligence, and brokering trust.  Baby tools for these functions now exist.  They need to be much more intelligent and pervasive.

c. Social networking platforms for sharing social capital and trusted referrals

The right tool will need to both enable continuously updated, searchable user profiles and searching the “social graph” for trusted referrals.

d. Network Weaving

Network weaving, and training for network weavers, can help make networks ‘smarter.’ Smart networks have shorter and stronger connection paths that are most useful to network members.   This means that searches will result in more relevant results, and it will be easier to find trusted and influential introductions.  In a smarter network the overall trust will also be higher and knowledge and ideas will flow more quickly to those who need them.

2. Collaboration methods, and the training & experience needed to use them.

E.g., methods such as Dialogue, Appreciative Inquiry, TRIZ, ToP (technologies of participation) and forty or so other especially useful ones.   This is crucial because echo chambers (talking to ourselves) and the inability to communicate effectively (creatively rather than destructively) are killing us.

But this is also especially challenging.  How do we get this, the ability to think productively together, to scale, to become truly pervasive?

To get people to think more constructively together requires not only good methods and training, but also a shift in the consciousness of individuals, for example, developing a level of consciousness that is bigger than their own egos.   To be sure, there are techniques and training for that as well.   Above all, we will need ideology-free techniques as well as traditional techniques preferred by different groups.   However, techniques that help people think together with others who have different backgrounds and opinions can also help bring about a shift in consciousness towards greater openness.  Openness is a great antidote to the bad effects of small egos focused on oneself or a single group.  For more on the connection between collaboration and consciousness see David Bohm’s On Dialogue.  His work is brilliant and his methods are solid; but unfortunately he doesn’t tell us how to make the methods scale.

How do we bring this about? Continue reading ‘Meta Networks and Global Transformation’

Warm Winter Day

Warm Winter day. Through leafless trees I can see South Mountain. Warplanes pounding.

This morning I discovered these three things by walking into my living room – from the air, through the window, and from the monitor on my desk open to the Washington Post.

Peaceful morning in Pleasant Valley.   Death in Gaza.

In Gaza, such a convoluted knot of mutual hatreds, vying to see who can be more passionate, and more senseless.

Reduce the heat!  Or we fry in our own butter.   David Bohm:  Reduce the heat.  Suspend assumptions.  Allow awareness of what is in common.

Holistic Thinking: Contains No Preservatives

(Continuation of theme of previous post)

Preservatives by nature stop interactivity and adaptation.   Holistic – whole systems –  thinking doesn’t need or want ‘preservatives’:  attitudes, biases, hidden agendas, etc., whose main function is to protect individual or collective egos.   Does that mean that whole-systems thinking transcends egos?   I guess that’s at least the ideal.  But of course, the input has to filter through many egos.

Collective intelligence can work by collecting inputs from a whole system of egos (perspectives) with or without the awareness or participation of those egos.   When it occurs transparently and with the willing participation of the sources then collective intelligence can lead to collective consciousness.   But the trick, of course, is the “willing participation” part.

When gathering inputs for ‘collective intelligence’ there are a number of tricks for motivating people, when simply collecting without asking isn’t an option.   One is to offer a piece of candy (a reward of some type) in return for participation.   Another is to appeal to affinity, social capital, shared trust, values, or goals.  Hmmm.   Which of these seem most likely to result in collective consciousness?

When is Collective Intelligence also Collective Consciousness?

This seems to be a really important and practical question — not just an interesting philosophical one.

This question occurred to me early this month when I read this NY Times article about Collective Intelligence and Privacy.   I realized that I had been sloppily (or naively) using “collective intelligence” and “collective consciousness” as almost having the same meaning.  The article in contrast – and apparently most tech-type people who use the CI term – are referring to the macro-level knowledge, insights, and power that accrues when intelligence about behaviors and perspectives is gathered from many sources, and analyzed to reveal patterns.   In that usage the sources (e.g., individual people or organizations) may not even be aware that their intelligence and behaviors are being collected, or what the results are, or how the results are being used.   As a result, “collective intelligence” is fraught with challenges to individual privacy, rights, etc.

What is the answer?

At minimum it seems that for collective intelligence to lead to collective consciousness, it has to be transparently accessible to the collective (the sources) as well as to the collectors.

But I would really like to know more how others think about this, especially those who are most actively researching, pondering, parsing, categorizing, analyzing, wonkifying and creating collective intelligence.

I’ll also add a few other posts about this, starting with the next one, (which you may have just read).

A Spider Having a Web and no Thoughts

In my bathroom a spider is in a corner, hanging upside down from her web.  It’s an ordinary cob-web spider with a tiny body and huge legs for running quickly, and for quickly spinning its web around when anything hits it.   I haven’t removed her because she’s minding her own business and is the only one in there.   So she just hangs there, day after day, mostly unmoving.

Spider Hanging Upside down and motionless

She’s obviously not having many thoughts – or rather, none at all.   But if something hits the web, or threatens her, she reacts swiftly.    To have a thought, or even need one, she would have to have enough neurons for at least small memories.    If she hangs there long enough with no food inserting itself in her web, then instead of thinking “I’ve been here three weeks with not enough food.  I need to find a better place,” she probably only needs to perceive that’s she’s especially hungry in order to take some new action.

How hard it is for us humans to sit (much less hang upside down) for days, or even seconds, without moving or thinking a single thought.   To still our incessant minds we have to learn special techniques for meditating, or else gaze at especially beautiful sunsets.

Spiders weave physical webs of intentionally invisible threads.   Their tiny nervous systems are hard-wired webs of connections woven over millennia.   That’s all they need.  No thoughts.

We, on the other hand, over our lifetimes each weave complex webs of thought, composed of perceptions, memories, and emotions.   Language constitutes the visible parts of our webs.  It is a web of meaning that can be used to hold worries (cautions), plans and visions.  We are each always suspended in this web, and constantly changing it and adding to it.   We are in fact *defined* (given meaning) by this web, to ourselves and to others.

In between movements, a spider has no thoughts, and yet its nervous system is alert to anything that touches its web.  It does not think, and it does not sleep.  Our webs are webs of thought, and we are constantly listening to and interacting with our own thoughts.   From this our minds become tired, and we need to sleep.

Spiders and webs, and webs of meanings: These are not really *my* thoughts, but echoes of thoughts of our human culture, woven over millennia.  Our common culture is the larger web from which we all hang, derive meaning, and think our thoughts.

Spider whirring its web:

Reflection on Connection

Illusions swim in Reality
making, breaking, and keeping connections.

For example –

Shy person falls in love.

An experience and a story with billions of variations.


Or Deeper Reality?

My consciousness,

My Self.

So self-centered, yet
it extends out and out
to as much of the Universe
as I can be aware of.

When I make a connection
with another
it feels real, and yet
I do not cross over.
I do not become the other.
I am always me, and
me alone.
And yet at times I feel
less alone
and still less alone.

Sometimes it feels as though I actually merge.
For a while.
And then I am again
Still me.

Which is the illusion and which is real?
That I am only me?
Or that the connections are Real?

Consciousness is my
Only Illusion
Only Reality.

We transcend.
We expand our reality.
We honor and accept our separateness
and our Universality.

Those who truly do
Learn to love any person
without distinction
and with distinction.

Love without distinction is Oneness.
Love with distinction, mutually felt,
Is a connection.

Actually, any mutual awareness is a connection.

Love, collaboration, insight, music –
Those are the connections I crave.

But becoming more aware of the little, fleeting connections,
and the feelings that accompany them,
is useful.

Do we then also become aware of, tuned into, the consciousness that is emerging from all of these overlapping, persistent and fleeting connections, from self to self to self, from group to group to group?

Consciousness, Experience, and Innovation

C.K. Prahalad and M.S. Krishnan’s new book on innovation describes key principles as: Personalization of experiences; global collection of resources. (Thank you, Greg, for your nuancedintelligence.)

Experience = consciousness. Consciousness is above all holistic – the whole that is made up of a sum of a myriad of parts and is at the same time greater than the sum of the parts.

Consciousness in humans is brought about by having brains that continually collect new external inputs, analyze and combine the inputs into more sophisticated meaning patterns, combine the fresh, externally derived meaning patterns with memories of previously aggregated patterns to create new patterns, which as a whole form a personal consciousness (a flow of experience) of being alive in the world.

The new business imperative (competition/sustainability/innovation) to assist in improving personalized experiences from globalized inputs is part of an awakening of global consciousness on a whole a new scale. This is made possible by an explosion in connections. (Way more than 100 trillion.)

In business, as described by Prahalad in great detail, this is seen in the shift in strategic focus from products to services to experiences, and in combing products and services with real-time analysis and feedback to enhance the intelligence and experiences of business customers and individual consumers.

So this is a new idea?

Noo. Not new.


Hello world!

Hello world! I’m happy to be here, alive, on this beautiful, tragic, sweet, evolving planet.


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