Cognitive Authority & Online Influence
Gunther Sonnenfeld

Towards a Generative Action Research for Influencing Intentional Evolution

“We are the product of the process of evolution, and … we have become the process itself, through the emergence and evolution of our consciousness, our awareness, our capacity to imagine and anticipate the future, and to choose from among alternatives.” Jonas Salk

Spontaneous, unguided social evolution can keep developing powerful forces of science and technology, but not a just social system, where all can benefit from their fruits. In fact, the one-sided development of those forces, in the conditions of private expropriations of the fruits of humankind’s general intellect, is raising the risk of systems-wide cataclysms due to the galloping complexity of our intertwining, global messes. That’s the moment in human history, when the useful lifecycle of blind, unguided evolution ends. The global problematic that it has led to is unmanageable at the level of social organization and consciousness that created them.

“To date, evolution on Earth has moved along its trajectory of its own accord. But it will not progress beyond this point unless it is driven forward intentionally. Evolution will continue to advance on this planet only if certain conditions are met: humanity will need to awaken to the fact that we are living in the midst of a meaningful and directional evolutionary process, realize that the continued success of the process depends on us, and commit to intentionally moving the process forward.” John Stewart, in Evolution: the greatest game of all

At this juncture, blind evolution has to yield to conscious, intentional evolution if we are to pass the chasm from humanity’s prehistory, where we have been living with a false sense of separate self, to its real history that starts when (out from a sense of recognized prior unity) we reinvent our ways to organize for maximizing the well-being of the Whole and all of its parts.

That’s the context in which Sonnenfeld’s call “Let’s learn how to influence more responsibly…” was heard and resonated with my own intention. Of course, it also depends what we want to influence for. What and how can the influencers of the shift from an ego-centric to an eco-centric civilization learn from the kind of influence research for which his essay seems to open a new path? To start exploring that question, let’s take Sonnenfeld’s diagram below for a test drive.

I put in the center of the diagram one of Sonnenfeld’s ideas:

“influence would become a contextual basis through which information flows.”

Using 3-rd person perspective-taking, I choose a transpersonal identity for sensing into who am I relation to that idea. That helps the deeper evolutionary meaning of that idea reveal itself: Influence is the means by which the noosphere organicizes itself. I guess, that idea may deserve a little unpacking. I started exploring a facet of that “organicizing” in my blog on “Letting collective intelligence use me for organizing itself.”

So, who are we in relation to gradual innervation of our global brain? Let me respond with the lyrics of the Spiraling into the Center song: “We are the weavers, we are the woven ones. We are the dreamers, we are the dream.”

What can be co-created through this idea/connecion (the “invention” node in the diagram) is a Generative Action Research (GAR) for discovering how influence research can influence the shift to a better world. GAR is a methodology that I developed, which can be applied to online envirionments, then morphed into the offline world. You can find out more about it in the Methodology section of this blog.

The motive for the connection (the “intention” node in the diagram) is the desire to help bridging the gap between the transformational potential of the evolutionary movement and its present, disjoint state.

The values that align through this connection (the “interest” node in the diagram above) are the ones of the various initiatives featured in the recent research report “Connecting for Change: Insights from an Emerging Global Transformation Movement.” See on the left.

What commonality looks like in that context (the “synapse” link between interest and action) is what a well-designed Generative Action Research can unearth.

What would be a hypothesis worth validating or action worth engaging in the “real world,” by the suggested Generative Action Research?

These notes are intentionally left very sketchy. If they generate critique and engagement, then it was worth writing them up.