Review: How People Harness Their Collective Wisdom and Power to Construct the Future

5 Star, Best Practices in Management, Change & Innovation, Communications, Complexity & Resilience, Democracy, Education (Universities), Environment (Solutions), Information Operations, Intelligence (Public), Leadership, Nature, Diet, Memetics, Design, Science & Politics of Science, True Cost & Toxicity, Truth & Reconciliation, Values, Ethics, Sustainable Evolution, Voices Lost (Indigenous, Gender, Poor, Marginalized), Water, Energy, Oil, Scarcity
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Alexander Christakis, Kenneth Bausch

5.0 out of 5 stars 5 for Original, 4 For Density, October 25, 2011

The primary author of this book was closely associated with Dr. Jan Warfield, one of the giants of reflexive practice and cybernetic coherence, along with Dr. Russell Ackoff, and that alone makes this book a special read for me.

Warfield never got the recognition he merited, and George Mason University blew a decade long lead in this area, and today they are still failing to create the integrative and pro-active inter-disciplinary programs that reflect the the wisdom of Buckminster Fuller, Jan Warfield, and Russell Ackoff, among others. I know from personal experience that GMU refused to consider the World Brain Institute and EarthGame, both of which would have made them unique in the world, so I can appreciate to a personal degree how lonely Jan Warfield must have felt there.


I had to push back on my inclination to be impatient with this book because while it is the first of its kind, and a huge step forward toward creating the science of dialog, it is also in direct contradiction to the world of collective intelligence that I have been helping to advance along with Tom Atlee, George Por, Mark Tovey, Pierre Levy, and a handful of others. The bottom line is clear: this book is a first, and sets the stage for advance, but it is not as aware of the collective (human) intelligence field as I would have liked.

As the book self-describes, it is focused on “participatory interactive human-centered democracy.” It is a handbook for structured design process and the science of dialogic design.

After reading it, I have a note to myself, a major advance on art toward science of dialogue — attitude, philosophy, call for actions, methodology.

The work is to be admired in part because it specifically strives toward panarchy, beyond participatory democracy in a hierarchical context.

The authors itemize ten major assumptions and twenty methods, positing that in the aggregate, they can create a foundation foundation for a science of human settlements that is rooted in dialogue and design.

The core point, certainly one that the National Council on Dialog and Deliberation (NCDD) would agree with, is that true dialog (as opposed to ideological jousting characteristic of “debates”) creates meaning jointly–the Yin and the Yang, the DNA spiral of co-evolution that Stewart Brand and Howard Rheingold and Tom Atlee have helped describe.

The places major emphasis on the absence of a shared language between and among disciplines (fields of study), to which I would add also an absence of shared data. As Dick Klavans and the Maps of Science folks have shown so well, what passes for academic study today is nothing more than a massive archipelago of isolated disciplines and sub-disciplines, all lacking any connection to an over-arching world systems framework or even a common ethical posture on what comprises intelligence with integrity.

I am encouraged by the book’s clear focus on trusting people over science, but the book is equally deep on recognizing the limits of (individual) human cognition, group pathologies, and unequal power relationships (where “rankism” buries intelligence).

I learn for the first time about the differences between first phase science (e.g. astronomy), second phase science (e.g. cybernetics), and third phases science (everything always). The tone of the book is strongly in favor of people to the point of stating that science cannot be “objectified” independently from people. I observe that this book and its thrust coincide with my own realization from reading others that changes to the earth that used to take 10,000 years now take three, hence we need real time science, and the only way to get to real time science is to mobilize billions of citizen-observers linked with cell phones, call centers, and back office processing power.

I see the book clearly distinguishing between design science and people science. It’s focus is on the former – with a tip of the hat to the vitality of the people in the equation – not the latter.

I learn for the first time of the 50 Continuous Problems first established by the Club of Rome, and will look into that. It is with sadness that I observe how we have wasted the 40 years since the Club of Rome and its fledging efforts, since the efforts of President Carter to get a grip on the future. Corruption across the board has incapacitated all governments and corporations, while the people sleft.

The book describes transformational leadership as that which facilitates dialog, which is a far cry from chain of command top down dictat that we still have today in most organizations.

The books ends with four things we can do.

There are appendices on strategic management, root cause mapping software, constructing a global village, and a case study on chronic kidney disease.

This is a book that must be read, but it is also a difficult book to assimilate. Certainly I take the book at face value to the point of seeing the need to be very attentive to this line of thinking and the people who pursue this line of thinking.

Within my ten link allowance, here are some other books I strongly recommend:
Reflexive Practice: Professional Thinking for a Turbulent World
A Democratic Approach to Sustainable Futures: A Workbook for Addressing the Global Problematique
Designing a World That Works for All: How the Youth of the World are Creating Real-World Solutions for the UN Millenium Development Goals and Beyond (Volume 1)
Collective Intelligence: Creating a Prosperous World at Peace
The Tao of Democracy: Using co-intelligence to create a world that works for all
Ideas and Integrities: A Spontaneous Autobiographical Disclosure
Redesigning Society (Stanford Business Books)
The exemplar: The exemplary performer in the age of productivity
Organizational Intelligence
The Leadership of Civilization Building: Administrative and civilization theory, Symbolic Dialogue, and Citizen Skills for the 21st Century

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