WIP: Global Collective Intelligence

This is going to turn into a manifesto, but consider it a work-in-progress document for now. For any feedback  (constructive criticism, further reading, counterarguments etc. – which is highly appreciated)  please email tobias@tobiasdeml.com. Multiple sub-articles will follow, and this philosophical document is going to be revised multiple times with additions of current research references.

Building a Tower

The Brain - physical location of our capacity to intelligence.

The Brain – physical location of our capacity to intelligence.

For the past 2.5 Million years, we – the collective of Homo Sapiens – have been building towers. We built millions of towers next to and on top of each other, like the Tower of the Wheel or the Tower of the Automobile. What we seem to never notice because we are so caught up in tower-building is the notion that we never really thought of building a better crane. With a better crane, we could build better towers – but instead, we just choose to keep building decent towers with the same crane.

Companies deliver services or products as a short-term strategy, but work on optimizing their workflow in a long-term strategy as well. They might take out a big loan to buy a better machine: The shot-term loss of lots of capital is soon outweighed by the investment paying off and the new machine outperforming the old machine by a multitude.
Anything in business is based around this dynamic between short-term and long-term investments.  For some reason though, we fail to apply this dynamic to our own brains; to our own capacity to be intelligent.

Challenges of the Future Have to be Anticipated Today

Our world today is faced with certain challenges, and these challenge will most likely grow; they will most likely affect all of humanity. We can all agree on the fact that the world as it is developing today needs solutions to be future-proof.

That solution needs to be transnational, transcontinental – it needs to be a global, long-term solution. How did we come up with solutions in the past? We researched. The brightest and most productive people teamed up and created solutions that were necessary to make their world future-proof: the wheel, the compass, the book press, the steam engine, the factory, the airplane, the radio, the computer. All this research and development was done by people. These people employed two things in order to arrive at these innovations that drive our world as it is today:


No single person produced the steam engine or any of the above necessities: it was always a culmination of people that did. They fed off each other’s findings, competed with each other for speed, profitability and efficiency. They were backed by capital from governments or private sources, which was a result of former productivity and profitability of these funding entities. Productivity is a byproduct of intelligence, but let’s keep them separate for easier dissection.
Simplifying lots of history: Regardless if that collective was collaborating or competing, each innovation was driven by a collective of human productivity,


No single person invented the computer or any of the above milestones of technology: It was always a collective of people that did. They were taught in schools from books that former intelligent people compiled, based on shared findings which reach back thousands of years into the roots of science. They were led and given feedback by mentors who shared their findings and knowledge. All inventors and scientists of the world are being powered by the base of shared knowledge that they can then build their research on: Nobody needs to re-invent the wheel or re-find Pythagoras’ formula.
In essence: Regardless of which point in history we are looking at, each innovation was driven by a collective of human intelligence.

A Collective Beyond the Boundaries of Science

If we look at any demographic in history, there was never a point where everyone in society was actively participating in society reaching new milestones. Most people sustain the system as is; a very small group of people goes the path of being scientists or funding scientists – in essence, creating progress or funding progress. Now, depending on the manpower we have in productivity and intelligence, we have potential for achieving progress. It is necessary to look at that potential on a basis beyond occupation – not only industrialists and full-time inventors are the ones who drive the world – it is every single person, to a certain extent.

Each person develops a certain level of productivity and intelligence throughout their life. Let’s suppose it was possible to give a number to each individual’s productivity and intelligence. Now, if we averaged all the productivity and all the intelligence in the world, we would arrive at a certain number – let’s say “The Intelligence Index” is 1,000 in 2013.

In 1450, when Gutenberg was credited with inventing the printing press (which would revolutionize education and knowledge forever), the Intelligence Index was a lot lower: People could not receive a wide public education so they had very little chance to further the boundaries of human knowledge, and there was very little mechanization and automation, so people could not multiply their manpower.
In essence: The world was less productive and less intelligent – on average – than it is today. Let’s say the number was 200 in 1450.

In 2113, one hundred years from today, our world has to be more productive and more intelligent than it has ever been before. The challenges faced will exceed today’s challenges by a multitude. At the same time, the ability to multiply manpower through robotics, energy innovation and industrialization has to be a multitude of today. The ability to educate society as a whole has to exceed what we can reach today. It “has to be”, not just out of necessity and challenge, but just by means of socioeconomic evolution and growth.
To say it simply, the world has to be more productive and more intelligent than it is today. Let’s say the total will be 1,200  in 2113.

Bottlenecks in Innovation

The Intelligence Index of 1200 might not be enough though. Our ability of solving problems could easily be outgrown by the problems themselves. Energy is not abundantly available today, and natural resources are not replenished as fast as they disappear, so we will have to come up with a solution to produce much larger amounts of energy with much less natural resources. The only way we can solve problems like that is through massive expansion of both our average productivity and intelligence, that goes beyond our “natural evolution” of intelligence and productivity. In the world of the future, the small elite receiving top-level education and creating top-level innovations will not be enough; we need to increase our odds.

Increasing the Odds in Favor of Homo Sapiens

The only true solution to innovating the challenges of the future is to raise intelligence and productivity per capita, on a global level.

In a poker game, each hand of cards has different odds of winning. The combination of individual cards gives you certain odds of beating your opponent. A straight of Ace, King, Queen, Jock and 10 has higher odds of winning than a straight of 10, 9, 8, 7 and 6.
That’s what we have to do: We have to raise the odds of beating the adversities of the future in favor of the Homo Sapiens. We have to raise global intelligence and productivity to a level where our odds of solving problems outweigh the odds of being destroyed by these problems.

A Radical Reform of Education through Psychology and Neuroscience

When we talk about “Education Reform”, we either talk about funding problems of public education, spreading classic school education among illiterate parts of the population, or esoteric new-wave concepts like Waldorf schools that have historically been unable to deliver evidence of outputting more intelligent students and have therefore never been adapted in the mass education systems.

What we need, is an education reform that goes beyond our classic school education, beyond the concept of siting in a class room with a teacher while doing homework and performing on tests. We ought to explore beyond that. It is imperative for the survival of our species to reform our global education level as well as reforming our global ecucation potential, since both will take direct effect on our potential of innovating the future.

These “radical methods” must stem from an enormous increase in Psychology- and Neuroscience-related research. For thousands of years, we have been investing our lives in inventing and creating technological breakthroughs – but all these breakthroughs are based on our own ability to reason, and our own capacity to be intelligent.

Building a Better Crane

Innovation can be pictured as building a tower. We can keep building these towers with the same crane, or we can decide to build a new crane. The way of building this new crane, with which we can build towers like the Tower of the Fusion Reactor, the Tower of the Mars Colony etc. – is through doing research on how this crane works.

Translating this metaphor into the “real world”, we need to concentrate a worldwide research effort on the workings of our brain – as THE top priority of the scientific and political community. We need to have much deeper understanding of how we absorb, memorize and recall information. We need to study what the neurological processes behind ideas and recombination of ideas is. We need to understand our brains better in terms of their biology, and we need to be able to monitor them better through computer science and physics. We need to research what makes us depressed and unproductive, what triggers our subconscious to either gain or lose motivation on our endeavors.
In essence: We need to research what makes us intelligent, and what makes us productive – and how we can increase the potential for both at the very core. We need to concentrate on the root of innovation, in order to We need to invest large amounts of manpower, capital and public support into that research – and then apply it to our own generation and the generation following us.

It is our generation that will find itself at a second, more serious tipping point of complete international annihilation after the Cold War.
It is an imperative for our governments to direct their means and power to the development of better tools, and the the creation of a more potent population.
We have an obligation to our children, family, friends, community, country, continent and species to direct our own current and future productivity and intelligence towards solving the big problems. And it is a necessity for our species that we enable ourselves to exceed our potential by means of expanding our potential to intelligence.
Our global collective intelligence is the key to our future.

10 thoughts on “WIP: Global Collective Intelligence

  1. I protest cyborgism. “It is an imperative for our governments to direct their means and power to the development of better tools, and the the creation of a more potent population.” Humanity as it is, with all its flaws, is beautiful. There are social, economical, political and environmental problems, but they are inherent in all populations, even in your eutopic “potent population” . Your call is a call for a path towards accelerated brainwashing and diversity elimination. Failing that, what could stop the “potent population” minority from dominating the lesser population? Global Collective Intelligence is a horror scenario that will lead to a dystopian future.

    • I neither alluded to brainwashing nor any sort of elimination of diversity. Also, there is no mention of cyborgism, but I appreciate the criticism, because it’s important to keep this concept as distanced as possible from any sort of dystopian vision a la the “Ubermensch” or theories of that sort.

      Each person has a certain potential for greatness. Most people never even come close to their potential because they a) lack education b) lack self-awareness c) lack inspiration.
      In order to solve these and other limiting factors that no individual enjoys (I don’t know anyone who would dislike to be more knowledgeable, more aware and in control of their own positive and negative feelings or more inspired in their life), research needs to be done how to lift these limits.

      And that needs to happen on a large scale, because most individuals don’t have any means to lift these limits by their own strength; giving them the tool and support to lift these limitations is what this article calls for. Again, this is on a psychological and neuroscientific basis (i.e. controlling your own brain better), not on a “let’s all hook up our brains to the internet and become cyborgs” fundament.

      Let me know if there’s certain passages in the text that made you believe I was referring to what you wrote in your comment, so I can rewrite them – because I have no intentions of communicating what you criticised, so I was probably not clear enough.

  2. I think the point here is, the new crane is allready there. The problem we are dealing right now with is that the manufacturer of the old crane are scared by it`s possibilitys. They try sell their old crane-model as long as possible, but without think of how to make it better, just sell it. To leave the metaphoric level, I think the Internet with his possibility to connect humans and ideas with each other is the right tool, but right now humanity holds this powerful hammer on the and tries to knock a nail with its shaft into the wall. The old medias are scared to share their market, to stubborn to change their way of working. Remember there was a time when reading was declared as harmful, radio was the downfall of society and don’t get me started on TV. 🙂 Ok looking at most parts, not all but most, those guys with books talking about radio were right when it comes to TV. Since the Internet an mobile devices like tablets and smartphones we have nearly the whole knowledge of humanity on or fingertips, the only thing society to do is to not using it looking at porn and pictures of cats the whole day. For an example looking at some college-pages on youtube the freedom of knowledge and education has already started, the open-source-movement on the other hand is another part of freeing minds. It isn’t just about software any longer it’s about music, written texts in any kind, movies and you can even find sources to build electronic devices (as an example a hybrid-analog Synth I am going to build this year, from scratch). The Tools are already here, all we have to do is using them the right way.

    Remember how we got connected as a very good example 😉

    • Totally agreed Stefan – the internet and especially Wikipedia are the immediate future of knowledge as we know it; academia is constantly discrediting Wikipedia instead of acknowledging its unstoppable relevance and instead finding ways to legitimize it internally so it can become a scholarly source. And forums changed my way of learning or meeting people forever, too.
      But the thesis in this post goes beyond that; the internet changes our ways of learning by means of being able to teach ourselves outside a classroom (like we two did with 3D) – but it’s still the same process of absorbing information by means of reading and watching consciously and storing some of the information, being able to retrieve a fraction of that. What I have more in mind is a more efficient way of acquiring knowledge, i.e. reading at a heightened mental state of awareness (something close to meditation) or processing newly learned knowledge not passively through the subconscious memory mechanisms but actively through certain methods (i.e. lucid dreams or Neuro-Linguistic Programming … examples that need more research done to validate or disvalidate their effectiveness).

      Basically, tools that can be given to every individual that allow them to absorb information quicker and process it more effectively within themselves. 🙂
      One of the reasons that I assume that we do not properly understand our learning apparatus yet are people with extraordinary ability on the memory sector, i.e. Mental Calculators like Ruediger Gamm, Mnemonists and so on.

      • Nah it’s not only the we learn, the revolution also is on how we communitcate (or at least are able to communicate) the way we consume media and so on, It’s a start and surely not the final form of how we use the networks. Googleglasses is one of the next steps to get the networks more integrated.

        But one big thing is missing if you ask me, while we are discussing new ways of how to learn not even the whole world has adapted the old concept, reading and a basic foundation of education. Bringing all up to the same basic level should be a target to use brainresources more efficent. Just by adding up more Cores, as a bruteforce-method if you want to call it that way. 🙂

  3. To me it sounds a bit like you are trying to cure symptoms by spreading the disease!
    Our modern society puts a lot of pressure on the people: they have to work harder, longer, be more productive under more competition to have enough money to pay back their mortgage and not get fired/replaced by someone who is more productive and more intelligent. This makes people depressed, commit suicide or get into burn-out or if they manage to keep their emotions suppressed they die of a heart attack because their body just can’t take the stress, bad nutrition and living habits anymore.

    You say “We need to research what makes us depressed”. We already know: its the above, the disbelieve that everything always has to grow in order to not stagnate. The disbelieve that everything has to become more efficient, more industrialized, more profitable, faster, quicker, higher.

    I think the real revolution our world needs at these times is a global conversion to sustainability. Shouldn’t we first make sure our planet will be able to support human life in hundred years before we consider to evacuate to Mars?

    • Very interesting point!

      I think to a large extent that depression and many other forms of unhappiness are merely something we cannot cope with because we don’t know how to properly deal with it. We attempt to ignore it by taking antidepressants etc., but the basic underlying problem – which is rooted in the subconscious – still stays.
      I think you have a point that this kind of text has bad timing with burnout syndrome, workplace inequality and long hours / low wages being an everyday topic. I just believe that a lot of these issues can be solved, just that solutions seem too unattainable, so we just accept them as a bad part of our lives and try to live with it.

      What I’m suggesting is that most of our emotional states are merely that: Emotions. And we have absolutely nothing in our education system that teaches kids to deal with depression and that sort, because we adults ourselves don’t really know how to deal with it. A lot of the above thoughts root in my experience with personality development communities (which I experienced myself and as long as it was not a massive placebo, it worked very well). From that experience, I know that there is “more” than what we have access to in our everyday life.

      An analogy would be that we think about the tools we have to change our bad habits or things we are unhappy about internally as the Romans thought of flying. Flying was reserved for birds, and no human would ever be able to fly or build a machine in order to fly. It was an accepted fact that warfare has to be done on the ground. Now, 2000 years of innovation later, we know that flying is quite possible; not just in the air but into space and to the moon, with the help of technology, “Flying tools”.
      Similar is our current view on “brain tools” – we just accept that there’s not much we can do about our own subconscious, and we accept that we have no control, we cannot cure the root, only fight the symptoms. I think that is a fallacy, and I am completely convinced that there are “brain tools” for our own personal good that we have not explored yet, and we will only be able to discover these if we redirect lots of research into that area.
      With these brain tools, we can then become “better” for ourselves; more sane, more happy – and in turn, more mentally powerful, more intelligent, and more productive.

  4. Good philosophical argument. I agree in the sense that society seems to be stuck in a cycle of production without any time to restructure and improve how we’re producing. There are better, more effective methods to teaching children in schools than how our school systems are taught now as a whole yet the government doesn’t take time to sit back and research other solutions that will set a better foundation for our future society and country. However, a counterargument might be: does greater intelligence create a greater sense of happiness on an individual basis (which should be the greatest concern in wanting to improve societal structure) or does it simply expand productivity and allow us to produce at a higher and more efficient level? Production and intelligence are important aspects in improving societal problems as a whole and in understanding ourselves and the human condition but if they aren’t being used in conjunction with augmenting the level of universal happiness per capita then I don’t see the greater significance. I remember hearing a speaker talk about an older woman (reaching her 100s) who had worked in a small shop in New York her whole life. When the speaker found out he said, “Wow, what a marvel it must be to have seen all of this productivity and advancement happen right before your eyes in your own lifetime.” The woman smiled and looked out the window and responded with, “All I’ve seen is change, not productivity,” meaning that the circumstances of societal lifestyle have changed but not basic life issues, problems or people as a whole – thus, things had changed but not improved as in made the quality of life much better. So there has to be something beyond just simply a reworking of societal advancement but a reworking in communal and human understanding that creates a level of greater happiness. Anyways, I thought it was a really argument but I think universal happiness should be mentioned when bringing up the topic of societal improvement. I know you kind of mentioned this in one of your responses below about how teaching children about depression and how to cope with it will in turn improve their overall happiness from their awareness of it but I think it should be in your main argument as well because although it’s somewhat implicit it should be clearer in the actual text. Particularly, focusing on how heightened intelligence and thus greater productivity would work together at creating greater universal happiness.

    • Great great great 😀

      Awesome David, thanks a lot – it will be in the second draft; have been talking with people here at Berkeley and the tools for deciding over our own emotions and subconscious states / happiness are definitively important in the picture 🙂

  5. Awesome!

    Also,I had another thought too… So throughout history humans learn from our previous human ancestry and we progress so quickly based on the recordings and passings of their previous findings and information (like you mentioned). However, it appears that there is almost always just one individual who takes these findings and discovers a new way of thinking that changes everything (Einstein, Plato then Aristotle, Da Vinci, Edison, Hawking, etc.).

    After using past information, these gifted learned men/women had one (or multiple) creative thought(s) that then advanced the human race as a whole into a new wave of thinking. Thus, I think individual thought (introspection and inner evaluation of the external world) can be useful in advancing human knowledge as a whole. Advancing and progressing our intelligence together as a unified species works well but individual thought and creative thinking is also very important in progressing our species on a mass scale. If we look at the world only as a unified species and only through extrospection, I think we miss that individual creative spark or imaginative thought in someone’s mind that makes us all look at something in a way we couldn’t have thought of as a whole.

    Anyways, great article and look forward to reading the second draft!

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