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Six basic manifestations of co-intelligence

If we are going to take wholeness, interconnectedness and co-creativity seriously, we are going to have to face some very challenging implications regarding intelligence:

  • First: Intelligence must involve more than logical reason, since rationality constitutes only a tiny piece of our full capacity to learn from and relate to life.
  • Second: Intelligence must involve more than learning how to control and predict things, since that does not engage the powerful co-creativity of life.
  • Third: Intelligence must be far more than personal, since even ants can together generate an intelligence that's greater than they have individually.
  • Fourth: Intelligence needs to reach far beyond the obvious, since whatever is obvious is connected to things that aren't so obvious, and intelligence should engage with the wholeness and relatedness of things, as much as possible.
  • Fifth: Intelligence should be able to arise among us and through us, as a result of our kinship in the interconnected family of life.
  • Sixth: It would seem likely that some form of intelligence would exist beyond us--in and beyond the living world--built into the very wholeness of life.

Starting with these challenges, I developed the concept of co-intelligence on the basis of six revolutionary premises:

  1. There is more to intelligence than brains and logic. There is multi-modal intelligence.
  2. There is more to intelligence than successfully predicting and controlling things. There is collaborative intelligence.
  3. There is more to intelligence than individual intelligence. There is collective intelligence.
  4. There is more to intelligence than solving the problems in front of our faces. There is wisdom.
  5. There is more to intelligence than a solitary capacity exercised within the life of a single entity. There is resonant intelligence.
  6. There is more to intelligence than human intelligence. There is universal intelligence.

These are the six basic manifestations of co-intelligence identified so far. Here's a bit more about each one of them.

1. There is more to intelligence than brains and logic. Many varieties of intelligence are available to us. So co-intelligence can manifest as multi-modal intelligence.

MULTI-MODAL INTELLIGENCE means there are many ways to learn, know and engage with the world. Our bodies, minds, hearts and spirits contain a full palette of intelligences--emotional, analytic, intuitive, kinesthetic, narrative, moral, and so forth. We can use more of these and integrate them better, especially in synergy with other people, since we are all capable in such different ways.

It is of the utmost importance that we recognize and nurture all of the varied human intelligences If we can mobilize the spectrum of human abilities, not only will people feel better about themselves and more competent; it is even possible that they will also feel more engaged and better able to join the rest of the world community in working for the broader good.

Howard Gardner
Multiple Intelligences: The Theory in Practice
(HarperCollins, 1993)

2. There is more to intelligence than successfully predicting and controlling things. We can creatively respond to life and join with its energies. So co-intelligence often manifests as collaborative intelligence.

COLLABORATIVE INTELLIGENCE means finding and working with all the available allies and cooperative forces around us--and there are many. There are always energies, both existing and potential, with which we can fruitfully align--even within the hearts of adversaries and within the problems we face. Working with one another, with nature, and with the natural tendencies in us and the world, we can accomplish more with less, and enjoy it more.

Rather than asking, 'What can I get from this land, or person?' we can ask, 'What does this person, or land, have to give if I cooperate with them?' ... Everything is a positive resource; it is up to us to work out how we may use it as such.

Bill Mollison
Permaculture: A Practical Guide for a
Sustainable Future
(Island Press, 1990)

3. There is more to intelligence than individual intelligence. Co-intelligence often manifests as collective intelligence, the intelligence we generate together through our interactions and our social structures and cultures. Inclusiveness (finding effective ways to include all of the parts of the larger whole) and the creative use of diversity are two key elements for increasing collective intelligence.

COLLECTIVE INTELLIGENCE means that families, groups, organizations, communities and entire societies can act intelligently as whole, living systems. What we believe, what we do, and how we organize our collective affairs can make or break our collective intelligence. We could improve our collective intelligence to a point where humanity not only survives and flourishes into the foreseeable future, but also consciously evolves.

Now more than ever we need to be in active conversation with others. No one can do it alone. We need access to our collective intelligence to address the questions that are critical to our common future [and to] make our collective intelligence visible to ourselves and each other on a larger and larger scale.

The Cafe Collaborative

4. There is more to intelligence than solving the problems in front of our faces. Co-intelligence often manifests as wisdom--seeing the big picture, the long term--an integral intelligence that puts it all together even as it focuses on the essence of the matters at hand.

WISDOM means seeing beyond immediate appearances and acting with greater understanding to affirm the life and development of all involved. It involves balance, mystery and tolerance of ambiguity and change. The expanded perspective that accompanies wisdom fosters wonder, humility, compassion and humor.

Our greatest need at the present time is perhaps for a global ethic--transcending all other systems of allegiance and belief--rooted in a consciousness of the interrelatedness and sanctity of all life. Such an ethic would temper humanity's acquired knowledge and power with wisdom of the kind found at the heart of the most ancient human traditions and cultures--in Taoism and Zen, in the understandings of the Hopi and the Maya Indians, in the Vedas and the Psalms, in the very origins of human culture itself.

Federico Mayor, Director-General of UNESCO
"Crucible for a common ethic"
in Our Planet 8:2, Aug 1996

5. There is more to intelligence than a solitary capacity exercised within the life of one entity. Attuned to life, intelligence evokes a fuller, deeper intelligence in and around it. So co-intelligence often manifests as resonant intelligence.

RESONANT INTELLIGENCE is intelligence that grows stronger or fuller as it resonates with other sources or forms of intelligence, or which deepens in empathic response to life.

Our availability to each other, our ability to dream each other's dreams and experience each other's biographies is part of the interpenetrating wave of the current time... We are being rescaled to planetary proportions, as we become resonant and intimate with our own depths.

Jean Houston's online News,
March 19th, 2001

6. There is more to intelligence than human intelligence. Intelligence is a property of the universe and of all that is in it--and perhaps beyond it. I call this manifestation of co-intelligence universal intelligence.

UNIVERSAL INTELLIGENCE is, in my understanding, the intrinsic tendency for things to self-organize and co-evolve into ever more complex, intricately interwoven and mutually compatible forms. Our human intelligence is but one manifestation of that universal dynamic. The more we are conscious of universal intelligence and connect ourselves to it, the more intelligence (and wisdom) we will have to work with.
     Others might describe Universal Intelligence as the mind or will of God or Spirit. Both perspectives derive from observing a certain intelligent pattern in the way the world is organized and/or sensing an intelligent Presence in and around us, and finding that there is guidance there.

The harmony of natural law...reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection.

Albert Einstein
The World As I See I

I've found that co-intelligence at its best consists of these very special phenomena--multi-modal intelligence, collaborative intelligence, collective intelligence, wisdom, resonant intelligence, and universal intelligence--all mixing and matching in a thousand different ways. Of course, each of these six manifestations of co-intelligence is itself co-intelligence. At the same time, our understanding of co-intelligence deepens and grows richer the more dimensions it has in any given instance.


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