Home | How does the collective mind work in practice?
(District Heating Plant, Vienna, Austria (Friedensreich Hundertwasser))
As most people are aware, empirical knowledge, social knowledge, aesthetic knowledge, ethical knowledge and introspective knowledge each have their own knowledge base, with its own goals and sources of evidence. They even have their own languages.
Traditionally, these types of knowledge, especially when they evolve into interests, are more accustomed to competing with each other than in collaborating. They operate within a tradition that values organisational knowledge above scientific findings, and both of these above community and individual experience. As well as starting from behind, with expectations of conflict of interest, each knowledge base has learnt to reject the others. Individual contributions are considered to be biased, a community’s input as anecdotal, a specialist’s insight as fragmented and an organisation’s perspective as self-serving. All of them tend to see a holistic, integrative perspective as impossible. The grain of truth in each rejection makes it even more challenging to find a way for the set of interests to listen to each other.
Within the collective thinking framework, however, the knowledge generated by their shared understanding can be considered as a:
Nested set (each building on the other)
Distributed network (in which each helps the other)
Level playing field (in which each question and each interest is given equal weight).
Collective thinking means that, in the spirit of valuing difference, each contribution and each type of knowledge could be accepted as equally valid, and the embodied ideas as contributing to each other.
In a further fragmentation, the objectivity the Enlightenment sought has led to the separation of ideals and facts, ideas and action.
As a counterweight to these artificial divisions, human beings are a social species whose actions reflect a synthesis of ideas and facts. Individuals are familiar with answering all the questions at once. Indeed, we implicitly do so every time we make an important decision.