What Just Happened?

Collective Intelligence and the Election

As digitally connected as we now find ourselves, carrying on productive conversations amongst larger communities still seems difficult. This year’s US election stands as a sad example. If I step back from my own political beliefs to look at the broader picture, frustration seems the most accurate characterization of everyone’s general position. Who sees the problems they experience represented the way they actually experience them? Who feels adequately seen? As everyone clamors for media attention, the national conversation gets louder, but do the issues we want addressed improve? We clearly suffer from a breakdown in communication and governance processes. And as long as we lack effective processes for identifying and addressing underlying causes, the issues we feel most urgently about will remain lost amidst the increasing noise.

Neither candidate for president offered us much in terms of a solution to this situation. Our energies become displaced by even engaging in their spectacle. Meaning to say, one cannot measure the effects of one’s actions if most of their focus and effort goes into upholding an image, especially an alternate one. Our leaders need us to demand something more real from them. But at this point, where would we begin to demand this measure of reality in our social processes? Who do we think will listen to our demands? If rhetorical questions don’t go deep enough, what could provide a more effective vantage point for seeing the accurate pictures we need to maintain functional democratic processes?

The internet looks like a simple answer. But why doesn’t it help more already? Measured commentary on the blogosphere aside, the design of the global stack does not share the full extent of its capabilities with all its users. While user preference in the digital age seems to push trends in sharing, in terms of our “private data” the recipients and controllers of our content remain mostly corporations and governments. So what does this have to do with the election other than some irony surrounding Clinton’s emails and Trump’s taxes? For starters, the data and accrued context we waste in the above scenario could do a lot to improve the echo chamber we attempt to conduct the election within. The cynicism and anger surfacing during this campaign season should come as no surprise if you consider the tools for data collection and analysis that some currently possess. It raises flags that we fail to create an accurate picture of pressing policy issues, or an effective media atmosphere within which to vet satisfactory candidates when the capability to predict public unrest using social media platforms exists. We have not done our due diligence in designing an information infrastructure that serves the users who provide content. Democracy suffers.

All that said, I can’t question the intensity during this election, even if it feels inevitably misdirected. We need a way to ground our lives amidst rapidly increasing processes of change. And the people competing for the role of stewarding that collective project don’t have the capacity from their position to work in everyone’s best interests. This leaves us holding the bag, or at least it should, and that feels unsettling without a plan.

Over the course of the industrial and subsequent technological revolutions, like it or not, humanity has become a complex global organism. And in order to function as a complex global organism, or have a plan as a nation amidst one, we need a functional nervous system. Currently, our organism has exceeded the capacity of its nervous system to effectively self-regulate, causing seizures or generally destructive, uncontrollable behavior… like this election. In order to update our nervous system for the 21st century we need to inject ourselves with a peer-2-peer, open source data commons that gives individuals leverage over the type of reality their data story contributes to. We also need a global communications network that supports collective intelligence and complex adaptive problem solving, which means fair access to all network listening capabilities.

In contrast to what we’ve just lived through in this election, the media environment supported by a fully distributed semantic internet, like Ceptr, would foster an entirely different type of conversation. Ceptr rewrites much of the computing stack to address the current deficiencies in human systems intelligence with new capacities for collaboration and resource management. Imagine an election process supported by open source systemic awareness and the possibility of power sharing with mutual trust and you get half the picture. For a world as complex as ours, we need to start embedding our governance and participation processes into the everyday practices we choose to lend our support to. We should begin expecting more from ourselves than the choices and candidates we have managed to come up with, something very different than the current “winner take all” popularity contests. What just happened in the US insults our intelligence. But we can do better. We all deserve it.