The I in the Mirror
We speak about human evolution mostly with a technical lense shaped by a materialistic vision of reality. A signature of pyramidal collective intelligence that sees and understands the world through mental dualism. What if we could look through the veil?
Although most prospective analysis look relevant, they leave aside the inner evolution of the being that happens in conjunction with the external evolution of the world. Did humankind invent the fire that changed humankind, or did humankind invent humankind that invented the fire? Same question with the writing, the printing press, flight, computers and the Internet. We cannot separate the inner subjective evolution with the outer objective evolution. Which one starts first? We get into the usual chicken and egg question. The subjective being that initiates and the objective being that creates mutually reinvent themselves in a set of self-reflecting miroirs.
Invisible architectures: where social DNA hides
Nevertheless, pyramidal collective intelligence invests massive amounts of money in technical evolution and everything that can materialize in a product or a service to sell.
By doing so, it leaves aside the inner evolution of the being. This evolution doesn’t necessarily require years of personal development. Sometimes we just have to change a little bit of code in the invisible architectures that shape us individually through the play of the collective. Invisible architectures apply to most of what defines our behavior: the way we see the world, the way we think or we make decisions. Ontology (the way we build reality through language), money, the doxa (beliefs built on obscurantist cultural assumptions), our social construct of time, food, social codes… each of them operate like invisible architectural spaces inside which we swim, like fishes in their bowl. Change one rule in any of these structures, and the whole consciousness can either regress or evolve. It works exactly like changing a gene in a physical body.
Social genetics has become one of my most important discoveries in collective intelligence. I will write, publish and communicate a lot on this theme in the future.
Evolve the We, Evolve the I
In front of 2,800 corporate leaders (Marseille, France, Oct. 2013), I tried to share this idea of evolution through the leverage of invisible architectures, through one example: breathing. I also wrote about this theme in the article United Air Ways. What would happen if, rather than interrupting each other and leaving no space for silence during our conversations, we decide to make a long deep breath before speaking? As you will see, we only change one social code (gene), and from there everything can change radically.
Please activate English subtitles
What impact did this talk have? Quite hard to say. My message has probably reached some people. I received a warm feedback, but it doesn’t say anything about how deeply my words went. I could have shared a softer message, a little less evolutionary. But I made this same choice I make every time: speaking to a large public doesn’t mean I have to dull my talk so it can pass the filters of conventional thinking and receive an applause from everyone. Although a part of my talks can land in everyone’s ear, the core probably hits less than 1% of my audience. I have to live with that 🙂
In Written Words…
Here comes the transcript.
Voice off: “As one leading the Collective Intelligence Research Institute, Jean-François Noubel can sense it, it is yet a weak signal that forecasts more radical transformations, and each of them begin with a deep personal work.”
I have 12 minutes… 12 minutes to share my passion for evolution, for evolution of life, for evolution of consciousness, with the lenses of a new discipline, a new research discipline called collective intelligence. Collective intelligence tries to understand why, how, when we put a certain number of beings together, human beings, plants, animals, ecosystems, something happens, more or less effectively. Sometimes, a whole emerges, like a body, then something magical happens. Magical for the participants of course, magical also because a whole emerges, congruent, with a self-awareness, capable of evolving, moving… Here I mean anything like an enterprise that works well, or this band that we just saw singing, or a large company.
So I have 12 minutes to talk about this passion, at two levels, because on the one hand we have the technology, everything we can see, the objective external side, and on another hand we have a much more difficult aspect, much more invisible, I mean what will change inside of us.
In order to give us an idea about what will shift inside of us, I propose we do a small exercise together. Let me show you first…[deep and long breath]
A long breath.
Why don’t we try together? Ready? Let’s go!
[long collective breath]
[long collective breath]
So, what connection? What connection with the evolution of our species?
I should first come back to collective intelligence, and to a travel back in time. We will speak about different forms of collective intelligence through evolution, and I will begin with this one, here, a school of fish… I could have shown an ant colony, or a flock of birds, or one of these big herds of buffalos. This form of collective intelligence, likely the first one that appeared on Earth, we call it “swarm collective intelligence”. One of its main traits, as you can see: the big numbers. Also at the individual level, the individual, in this configuration, doesn’t have a great margin of freedom. The fish follows the school, same thing in a big herd.
So here comes a question: in humanity, do we know it? Does this form of collective intelligence exist in humankind?
Well, not inherently but… sometimes. In a street protest or a big event. Here we have an extraordinary view of New York Marathon. But we know it too –maybe you experienced it no later than this morning– lot’s of people experience it everyday, like this. Indeed, when we drive our car, we don’t have a huge degree of freedom, however at the collective level, something incredible happens: a city fills up and empties every day! Imagine if a team had to plan that! Same with the ant colony.
So, this form of collective intelligence, has amazing capacities as a whole, but it also has limitations. Sometimes it can jam, entire herds can fall off the cliff, etc, etc.
Humans come from another place. They come from here: original collective intelligence. Precisely we call it this way, a tiny number of individuals. At some point it works in the opposite way compared to swarm collective intelligence because here we have a small number of individuals, but every individual has a strong individuation. Humans mostly exist in this configuration, the one we just saw on stage before my talk, wonderful! Let’s take a look at this jazz band. I love this picture because it shows how each and every musician lives his individuation. He knows his art, his instrument, and then he fully meets the others through himself.
It happens at two levels: horizontally, he perceives well what every other musician does, and vertically, he has a knowing of the whole, he can feel it, he can update himself because of it.
Indeed, this has a name: holopticism. I won’t say much about it now, only that it has a name.
The strength of this structure, in collective intelligence, we all know it. Super agile, learning, always adapting, it reconfigures, just take a look at a sports team that adapts itself to the unknown all the time.
But it also has its own limitations, two limitations : number, and distance. Of course, players need to play in a sensorial space where they can perceive each other, and see what everyone does.
So for humanity that has known this for a very long time, with villages, tribes, a crisis happened, a major systemic crisis, a global one at this time. Yes, when agriculture appeared, and when cities started to emerge, with the labor specialization, an explosion of complexity happened, and some sort of quantum leap needed to happen. Here humanity invented an incredible technology: the writing, that allowed to escape from oral proximity, from oral tradition, to evolve towards big civilizations. Egyptian civilization, Mesopotamian, Chinese, Mayan, etc. Each time, we see this same structure constituted with casts. A living God at the top, and below the high priesthood and nobility. Below, the artisans, the merchants, and below again we find farmers and herders. And at the very bottom, a mass, open to ruthless exploitation, slaves, villains, Untouchables, etc.
Of course it has evolved. Nowadays we wouldn’t represent it this way: a large company works with a board of directors. So we see small groups of original collective intelligence. Then they organize themselves in pyramid, with departments, services, etc. And who has never experienced the silos effect in large companies?
Speaking of strength and weaknesses, the great strength of pyramidal collective intelligence, comes from its capacity to put together thousands and even millions of people.
In the music realm, we see this great strength in a symphonic orchestra. A couple of days ago, when I prepared my slides, my son told me: “Dad, I can draw what you can’t find on the Net” I wanted to see a chief orchestra, he did this. So thanks to him, thanks to Estéban. He really understood the concept.
The strengths and weaknesses of this pyramidal collective intelligence, we hit them hard today, I think this image shows it well, the one of the Titanic or a big liner. The strength, we can also find it in the image… Here we have an extraordinary technology, that drives and transports people, a great number of people from one corner of the planet to the other. At the same time, an error in the command, or a criminal intent, and it can turn into a catastrophe.
It shows that pyramidal collective intelligence has a very very low resilience. If something does wrong in the head, everything can collapse.
It has a poor adaptability too. It knows very well how to develop processes, repeat them, repeat them in advance, but if later some change occurs, it doesn’t operate well.
We find ourselves confronted to a shift, a necessity, facing a wall of complexity that obliges us to reinvent ourselves. So what happens?
Well, we enter, fully, inside a new form of collective intelligence that we call holomidal. Holomidal, from “holos” — holistic, Here, you see this picture of the Internet that I like very much, a little old already, how servers connect with one another. It emerges. No one organizes it top down. It emerges and it self-organizes. We find this structure in a forest too, under our feet, the rhizome. Same thing, same structure. In our brain too. And now, as you know, we have social networks everywhere.
All the social fabric self-organizes itself and we find again the advantages of pyramidal collective intelligence –involving many people– however coming with the resilience and self-organizing capacity of original collective intelligence. It adapts itself, it learns fairly well, it reconfigures all the time, it organizes itself into semantic tribes, etc, etc.
So, knowing that, we can easily get, hence our coming together to look at it, that a dramatic transition has begun. From now on I could talk about what will happen, 3D printers for instance. A great deal of industrial production, centralized, pyramidal, will become completely distributed. I could also talk about the end of money and the rise of post-monetary society, because if we want to transition from an competition-based economy to a mutualistic economy, then we can’t use anymore this old technology called money. We will have much more powerful tools!
But for now, I would like to talk about the inner aspect of the self. The most difficult thing that I feel passionate about, that makes me wonder almost 24/7… How will a human being experience existence inside himself in the coming years?
To address this question, let’s take an example: social codes. More precisely, I will put my focus on social codes we use for conversation. When we speak, when we have, a conversation around the table, or a political debate, what happens? First thing we notice, people speak right after another, very very quick. No space for silence, and no space for breathing time. Furthermore, we interrupt one another. Believe it or not, I see it in most cultures. Not all of them, but globally people interrupt one another. It means, if I interrupt someone, that what I want to say has more importance than what the person in front of me has to say.
Now let’s imagine, let’s place ourselves in a new situation, we change the following social code: we don’t take the floor anymore unless we have done a long breath before. Imagine inside yourself, if you began to do that, the consequences that it would have for the collective, if a collective starts doing that, at your work, in your family, and if you begin to do this as a practice. Imagine the consequences that this sole change of social code can have, a long breath before speaking.
When I give seminars, and I ask the participants what benefits we would have if we breath? Everyone knows! It allows an inner connection with ourself, it brings peace, if gives perspective, it opens to the feeling of our emotions, our body, it offers an inner reconnection. It allows to feel the other, to sense the group, and the emotions that want to rise. It also invites inspiration. Breathing means expiring and therefore ‘inspiring’.
However we don’t do it. Why don’t we do it? Why? Because of a signature behind all this speed during the flow of words we have in conversations. The mental comes into the play. Pyramidal collective intelligence, the world of pyramidal collective intelligence invented, developed, over-developed the mental, the conceptual view. The mental operates very fast. It runs very very fast. It speaks very fast, and it knows very well how to maintain its own paradigm. Escaping a paradigm requires we deactivate the mental. This breathing can become a full meditation.
I have trained lot’s of people to breathing techniques, not just individuals, but collectives too, including companies. Everyone of them, without exception, told me: “it changed our vision of the world“, “it changed my relationship with myself, my relationship with others“, “we don’t make the same decisions together“, “we don’t see the world the same way“, “our whole company, our whole strategy have changed“.
Notice I don’t speak about millions of $ to invest in R&D. I just talk about breathing.
This breathing brings us to this question of personal change, and how we perceive ourselves from the inside, how it will evolve, with, now, an essential question, indeed, about the perception of ourselves.
So let’s imagine ourselves in the dark, inside a forest, and I will finish on that. I turn my flashlight on, And now I begin to scan my environment with it, Here I see a tree, there I see a rock… By directing the beam in different directions I can now decide where to make my next steps. Doing so, I build a kind of reality of proximity.
The mental operates exactly like this. A beam that sees parts and connects them with one another, and thanks to this, I can walk. It works not so bad… Now if I turn my flashlight off, and I decide allow the night light to infuse me, light from the stars, from the moon, then something else happens. First I accustom myself. I lose the precise details of my immediate environment while a much vaster reality begins to open itself to me.
All the people who open themselves this way will have their own words to express this. I like to use the word “transrational”. Transrational happens when we go beyond the rational. Indeed, we still have the rational at our disposal, I can still turn my flashlight on again, always. And at any time I can turn if off too, and open myself to a vaster reality.
This vaster reality can also come from changing some social codes. Back to social codes, and back to the breathing we did together at the start. So, as I said, evolution will not occur only by means of 3D printers or the Internet… yes, quite interesting, go and see, you will learn tons of things, at the same time I invite you to think about what will change inside you, through social codes, ontology, language structure, through our postures, our relationship to our body…
In the end, who knows if the next humanity doesn’t stand just one breath away.