Towards a post red/blue Collective Intelligence

Given the scale of the challenges ahead globally and locally, and the immensity of the opportunities that technologies on the rapidly approaching horizon offer, it is necessary to develop a collective intelligence that makes the best decisions.

The red insurgency was the better collective intelligence during the US electoral campaign, beating all other communication infrastructures. It was up against an incumbent lumbered with centralisation and ultimate disconnect.

The red insurgency, while outperforming rivals, is not the best possible CI.

Features of winning collective intelligence

Thomas Malone, founder of the MIT Centre for Collective Intelligence cites three characteristics that make a collective intelligence better able to resolve problems and come up with better solutions. These are “social perceptiveness of the people in the group, equal group member participation, and a higher number of women”.

This runs counter to the assumption that groups with simply smarter people will make better decisions. The greater educational attainment of the Blue Church is no indicator that it should perform better, despite all the surprise expressed by snobbish blues.

Blue Church did not play to its own claimed strengths. Inclusion and empathy elements of social perceptiveness and equal participation, are meant to be part of the “progressive” repertoire and yet, the imperious Blue Church communication infrastructure was neither socially perceptive, nor did it encourage equal group member participation. It did not acknowledge it’s own grass-roots distaste for Hillary nor the groundswell of social support for Bernie. Once Hillary was installed, there was little it could do to glean and reflect information from a network that was withering below it because the messages came from the centre, leaving little room for amplification of messages initiated, honed, and elevated by the swarm.

That is not to say that the insurgent red religion performs well against these criteria.

Synthetic social perceptiveness

Social perceptiveness is the ability to discern what someone is thinking through some means of human observation.

The red insurgency (as described here) replaced social perceptiveness with “no safe space” and “attention rewards”, while dismissing expressions of values with the epithet “virtue signalling”. This served parts of the role of social perceptiveness — the elimination of friction. It reducing everyone’s motivations to the same thing, while eliminating room in which to talk about concerns. Instead of discerning other people’s meaning, it behaved as if it didn’t matter. The only thing that mattered was the contribution made to the whole as measured by the attention their ideas could command. Participants were treated as only a single dimension of their self — leaving little room for acknowledging what they were thinking, feeling. Instead of social perceiving as a means to facilitating collective decision making, there was a denial of the internal life that needs to be perceived.

There are hints that this approach to social perceptiveness of the insurgent reds on twitter is responsible for some rising noise in exchanges. A few scouts have reacted incorrectly to comments, assuming that their interlocutor was a blue challenger when a little investigation revealed them to be someone seeking clarification, or even agreeing with their perspective but with a sarcastic presentation of a blue challenger. This may be an intrinsic limitation of current online platforms and not unique to the red insurgency. In fact the red approach may have been an adaptation to having to operate in such a medium.

True social perceptiveness

Developing true social perceptiveness will be one of the aims of either a resurgent/resistant blue, or a nascent post red/blue CI that has as its goal to find the best solutions to developing and deploying solutions to the challenges of the 21st century.

This will require new ways of organising and deployment of new technologies. Research suggests online communities all struggle with social perceptiveness dimension of collective intelligence and that the MIT definition applies only to face to face, or interaction with more visual cues (Jordan Barlow and Alan Dennis). A combination of more real life meetups — like protest marches, presidential rallies, town halls — and VR that allows virtual face to face could help overcome the current limitations. While still a broadcast rather than live interaction medium, the red insurgency has already made great use of live streaming and videos. It’s scouts are urging followers to start their own video channels — prepare for a proliferation of new insurgency voices.

Could a resurgent/resistant blue meet the social perceptiveness requirement as a means of improving and defeating the insurgent red CI and ultimately to escape the red/blue opposition for good?

This is a difficult task. Social perceptiveness requires an awareness of the many interests and needs of participants while also finding a way to make decisions. It is a challenge to perceive simultaneously every social angle in every conversation and to take account of every nuance in every decision. As the amount of contextual knowledge required for participating in a conversation goes up, the potential for the memetic spread and attention magnetism goes down. What does a socially perceptive CI look like if not taking into account every group’s need for recognition, acknowledgement, voice and power?

What principle can cohere post red/blue collective intelligence? The theory in Jordan Greenhall’s Situational Assessment was that what gave the red insurgency coherence was the information infrastructure rather than any point of principle, value or feeling . I expanded a bit in Collective Intelligence and Swarms in the Red Insurgency where I claimed that attention acted as a coherence mechanism and feel that now there is a new element to the coherence: the sense of winning.

Designing coherence?

The task now is to find the principle, or design the infrastructure from which a collective intelligence can emerge which can best meet the challenges and harness the technological opportunities coming our way.

Whatever the principle or infrastructure design looks like, it needs to facilitate:

Bringing in the widest range of inputs, maybe even weighting finge an unorthodox inputs slightly higher.

Filtering, testing, amplifying ideas while generating the commitment required to drive action.

Any other design principles?