Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Collective Intelligence

Yikes. The first principle of a really gifted conspiracy theorist is always that there is some type of 'super' intelligence at work in the background -- ruthlessly plotting and scheming to bring about some great master plan. Hmmm. Given the state of our world, my only comeback is "we should be so lucky".

Lucky? Yes, for if you're really objective about our current state of affairs you'll see that it is only by sheer luck that we haven't managed to blow ourselves into space, or crack the planet in half, or some other major species-ending calamity. Mankind, you see, having just recently found its way out of the trees, still acts with a pretty low collective intelligence. Pretty low indeed.

If you've ever seen the TV drama West Wing -- a great show about what it is like to be running the USA from the Whitehouse -- you may well be impressed by the intelligence and understanding shown by the various characters. They come together frequently in various episodes to solve some pretty major problems, usually quite successfully.

Now, consider the fact that those 'characters' had the 'hindsight' of the writers knowing which way their script was going to go. In a sense, there were probably operating 10% to 100% more effectively at their jobs then their real counterparts. Possibly even more. OK, you think "no too bad". Well, if you watch them -- these unreal, yet excellent examples of modern political play -- most often, they're barely hanging on. Yes. Even with 'editorial' hindsight, they still get dragged along and barely managed to come out in one piece at the end.

If the fictional people are so disorderly, and disorderly is not what they are trying to be, then you could only imagine how much of a mess the real people are having. Makes you worried? Given some of the actions of late, we often left wondering if many of the current administrations are even self-aware. It reminds me of those accused on Judge Judy, blankly staring away, wondering how they ended up in this awkward position. Hardly omnipresent, or even present.

On our own we all have some degree of intelligence, but put a horde of us together and collectively we drop like a rock. Several feet, if you can imagine. You look out at the world around us and see all sorts of the crazy things going on, and you keep wanting to think "someone" has to be keeping this place from blowing up, but there is nothing. Sadly, most conspiracies aren't true 'only' because our collective intelligence isn't high enough to pull off even half of what people think might have happened. We just ain't that sophisticated.

Consider the terrorists. Any of them. Usually they are lead by bright rich well-educated guys with lots of time on their hands, but the very best they usually come up is to take something really large and smash it into something else really large. Not exactly rocket science is it? The best of the worst of humanity can't even come up with a decent evil plan. The scary part is imaging how they managed to sell this to their other co-conspirators. "You want us to what?!" they were probably thinking. Crazy.

So if the guys running the show aren't too clever, and the guys trying to bring down the show aren't too clever either, one has to be totally amazed at how we've managed to avoid a serious catastrophe so far. I mean, really, the CIA probably aren't involved because they are too busy with paper-work and getting their computer system's up and running. The great 'masters' of business are always too busy seeking out new and exciting ways to rip off their own shareholders. Politicians by their very nature are just along for the ride, were surviving for them means not getting too attached to people or their issues. They're not much help. In fact, most heads of most organizations of any shape or type are too busy trying to keep their underlings from stealing their crown. That's not leaving too many people left to do smart things is it?

All and all the odds of any type of super-intelligent organization doing something super-intelligent seems distant. Really, the only people who could even afford to join some secret organization are those latter-generation rich kids with too much money and no drive. That just doesn't sound like a great base for any type organization, let alone on that would hope to function on a much level higher than Enron. I'd hate to see the internal squabbling about office decorations in a place like that, it must be ugly.

That's why, mostly when people go on about conspiracies, I keep hoping that one day a really good one comes to light; that it actually turns out to be true or even mostly true. It would be a positive sign for humanity -- even if it was a really evil organization -- because it would show that finally we've reached a point where we are no longer operating at such a low collective level that there might actually be some potential for our species. Until then we just have to hope that we're too stupid to find our selves half-way there, since that's the sort of thing the bad guys tend to use first, long before the good guys get around to figuring it out. Anyways, these days, with us rapidly destroying our own bedrooms, it's hard to even know who's right or wrong anymore, isn't it?

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