A very knowlegeable colleague wrote me “As a believer in the principle of collective intelligence since the 1960s, I do however remain very cautious about how I would sense its manifestation in the [community dialogue] events that you describe. My acid test is how it works in unsympathetic environments… I do not hear such methods bearing frution in the Middle East for example.”
For me, collective intelligence is just that: the intelligence of a collective. There are many kinds of collectives. And intelligence is simply a capacity. Dialogue is only one piece of what can go into supporting the CAPACITY that is collective intelligence.
And yes, there are circumstances that challenge intelligence more than others — situations of intense emotion or overwhelm, lack of data (or the presence of falsehoods, especially when hard to identify, including one’s own assumptions), lack of supportive context, etc., etc. — and these are as much a factor in the exercise of individual intelligence as they are in the exercise of collective intelligence.
There are hot disagreements about climate change and peak oil in [the local communities where dialogues about these topics will take place], so we’ll be trying to deal with that and make something positive out of it in our community dialogues (since most forms of dissonance have valuable information and energy and possibilities buried in them, whether or not we know how to access them).
I admit it isn’t anything like the Middle East, and I know that lots of people are testing their methods there — often with good local success, people hearing each other and coming up with positive visions — AND the local national political contexts and international geopolitical dynamics involved are also making it hard for successes to spread. It isn’t simply a matter of “can this method deal with this conflict.” As you know, the larger situation makes it FAR more complex than that.
I believe we know only a small bit of what it would take to increase collective intelligence. If it were seen as a capacity we could learn about and improve and made it a field of study and practice that included and transcended all the approaches to it, we would start to make real progress.