Thinking, The Internet, Consensus, and Collective Consciousness

July 7, 2015

Recently I read an article that made reference to Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s belief that technology would serve to connect people in a healthy way leading to a higher level of collective consciousness. The article got me thinking about how people tend to use the social media parts of the internet. Do Facebook, blogs and their comments, and Twitter connect people in a way that leads to a higher level of connectedness and consciousness?

Before we can answer that question, we need some sense of what a “higher consciousness” might look like. Here are a few factors to consider:

Higher consciousness gives us the means to recognize our connection with a living system – like with Gaia (the living earth) or even the Universe. This is by definition a spiritual connection that reminds us we are part of something larger than ourselves.

  1. Higher consciousness makes use of a diversity of people and ideas in a collaborative rather than competitive way.
  2. Higher consciousness accepts (perhaps avows) that life is fundamentally ambiguous. i.e. there can be no absolutely correct, one-sided answer to any of life’s questions.
  3. The goal of conversation and communication is to broaden perspective, not to argue about whose answer is correct. It is an additive process.
  4. Higher consciousness is neither monolithic nor totalitarian. Being of one mind does not mean that one set of beliefs is correct, thereby excluding all others.
  5. Higher consciousness allows us to address the purpose of life question in a collective way as well as in an individualistic way.

If we accept these principles and desire to evolve toward higher consciousness (a la Teilhard de Chardin), then how could we make use of our social media?

We would not vilify ideas—or the people who espouse them. Rather we would express respectful curiosity and invite elaboration.

  1. We would learn the difference between opinion and perspective. Much internet chatter takes the form of “My opinion must be correct and all other thoughts must be wrong (and the people who hold them are clearly stupid!) How about if we tried to learn and grow by saying, “This is how I see this issue, and here is the data that informs my perspective and the logic that leads me to my view.”
  2. Our ideas could be contributions to the learning process rather than being imposed on others.
  3. We would go to social media sites because we desire to learn more than to instruct.
  4. We would welcome new perspectives that broaden our views rather than insisting that our minds are already made up. New data and views would not then be seen as threats to our opinions.
  5. We would stop trying to discredit or eliminate those who see things differently, but we would be curious about how their views were formed.
  6. We would value convergence—coming together—to give us all broader perspectives, and we would understand that consensus comes from sharing perspectives, not discrediting competing ideas. Single minded agreement is not useful—sharing perspectives is.
  7. We would stop equating our ideas with our personhood, so conversations would not feel like fighting for our lives.

These thoughts come from my experience with a community consensus process. Our culture has taught me that I should be able to get my way if I am smart or forceful enough. Consensus teaches me that a community is capable of creating much healthier approaches to human problems—including mine. A consensus process can often identify and meet my needs better than if I just pursued my personal desires. Consensus does not merely select the best of the presented ideas or opinions; the process creates something new that no individual could have reached alone.

I would like to see the internet social media tools operate according to principles like these.

This is how I see it. What do you see from your perspective?

Wayne Gustafson
“The Promised Land is within and among us.”
Community of Promise





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