Monday, February 22, 2010

Ecological Intelligence: Wisdom of the Ants

In his latest book Ecological Intelligence, Daniel Goleman explains, "Ecological intelligence allows us to comprehend systems in all their complexity, as well as the interplay between the natural and man-made worlds. But that understanding demands a vast store of knowledge, one so huge that no single brain can store it all. Each one of us needs the help of others to navigate the complexities of ecological intelligence. We need to collaborate.

Psychologists conventionally view intelligence as residing within an individual. But the ecological abilities we need in order to survive today must be a collective intelligence, one that we learn and master as a species, and that resides in a distributed fashion among far-flung networks of people. The challenges we face are too varied, too subtle, and too complicated to be understood and overcome by a single person; their recognition and solution require intense efforts by a vastly diverse range of experts, businesspeople, activists -- by all of us. As a group we need to learn what dangers we face, what their causes are, and how to render them harmless, on the one hand, and, on the other, to see the new opportunities these solutions offer -- and we need the collective determination to do all this."

"The way insects swarm suggests another sense in which ecological intelligence can be distributed among us. In an ant colony no single ant grasps the big picture or leads the other ants (the queen just lays eggs); instead each ant follows simple rules of thumb that work together in countless ways to achieve self-organizing goals. Ants find the shortest route to a food source with simple hardwired rules such as following the strongest pheromone trail. Swarm intelligence allows a larger goal to be met by having large numbers of actors follow simple principles. None of the actors needs to direct the group's efforts to achieve the overall goal, nor is there any need for a centralized director.

When it comes to our collective ecological goals, the swarm rules might boil down to:

1. Know your impacts.
2. Favor improvements.
3. Share what you learn.

Such a swarm intelligence would result in an ongoing upgrade to our ecological intelligence through mindfulness of the true consequences of what we do and buy, the resolve to change for the better, and the spreading of what we know so others can do the same. If each of us in the human swarm follows those three simple rules, then together we might create a force that improves our human systems. No one of us needs to have a master plan or grasp all the essential knowledge. All of us will be pushing toward a continuous improvement of the human impact on nature."

Give thanks to everyone in this community for sharing your creative and ecological intelligence, so we may all move towards peaceful, healthy, creative and conscious existence within ourselves, with each other, and everything around us.

1 comment:

Berg said...

thanks for the read. needed this