Revolution Lullabye

October 3, 2009

Atlee, Theories of Co-Intelligence

Filed under: Uncategorized — by revolutionlullabye @ 8:49 am
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

This post is a summary of some of Thomas Atlee’s key ideas about co-intelligence. The Co-Intelligence Institute (, the foundation he founded and directs, has a website that contains numerous articles and links to resources and scholarship on co-intelligence.

Co-intelligence is an attitude that a person or a group can orient themselves to in order to draw on the diverse experiences, intelligences, and wisdoms of others in order to better solve problems. It requires that those involved in the group embrace and understand diversity as an asset in order to build a more holistic, dynamic intelligence. Those involved in co-intelligent initiatives and projects work consciously and deliberately to build and construct systems that encourage the development of co-intelligence among members, creating sustainable, organized systems that highlight the interconnectedness and relationships between people and ideas. Co-intelligence is intelligence “with”: with others, with systems, with a group, between groups and communities.

Atlee’s theories are used by scholars in design, ecology, philosophy, political science and governance, and organizational theory. Atlee argues that participation in co-intelligence – as opposed to what he terms “alienated individualism” – benefits the individual, the group, and society as a whole. When people work synergistically with others, they keep the big picture in mind, benefiting all.

Atlee presents two aspects of co-intelligence: collective intelligence and collaborative intelligence. Collective intelligence is drawing on the inclusive collective knowledge of a group (as opposed to one person’s individual intelligence) to better, more wisely solve problems. Atlee gives examples of how different levels of groups and communities, from small and large groups to whole states and countries, have used collective intelligence successfully. Collaborative intelligence is the spirit in which a group or person can engage in co-intelligence: working for the benefit of all instead of to dominate or oppress. This can happen through an open economy of sharing information.

Quotable Quotes

“This ability to wisely organize our lives together — all of us being wiser together than any of us could be alone — we call co-intelligence. In its broadest sense, co-intelligence involves accessing the wisdom of the whole on behalf of the whole.”

From “A Compact Vision of Co-intelligence”
“attention to collective intelligence is a key ingredient missing from most civic and political undertakings.” How about our scholarly undertakings?

“A major challenge in all collaboration is the creative use of diversity. One form of diversity is, interestingly enough, different cognitive styles or what some call multiple intelligences. Within and among us, we find analytical intelligence and emotional intelligence, verbal intelligence and musical intelligence, kinesthetic bodily intelligence and transcendental intelligence, and many more. How do analytical, intuitive and kinesthetically-oriented people apply their diverse intelligences collaboratively to generate a more powerful, complete collective intelligence?”

From “Ten Qualities of Co-intelligence”
“Co-intelligence is multi-dimensional, inclusive, wise, responsive, grounded in interconnectedness, synergistic, collaborative, self-aware, holistic and systemic, manifesting at many levels of human activity.”

“We build, invite and utilize partnerships to accomplish our goals. We seek interactivity to generate energy — and dialogue to generate wisdom. We value, above all, conscious, intentional co-operation and co-creativity. We are practicing the co-intelligent art of collaboration.”

“We arrange our lives and relationships, groups and organizations, communities and cultures so as to support these co-intelligent qualities. We know that the design of environments, relationships and processes influences consciousness, and that consciousness influences design. We are being mindful of the systemic nature of co-intelligence that manifests at many levels of human activity and reality.”

Notable Notes

The Tao of Democracy (Atlee 2003)


February 1, 2009

Miller, Expertise and Agency

Miller, Carolyn R. “‘Expertise and Agency’: Transformations of Ethos in Human-Computer Interaction.” In The Ethos of Rhetoric. Ed. Michael J. Hyde, U of South Carolina P, 2004. 197-218.
Miller explores the two complementary modes of human-computer interaction in the post-Cold War era: expert systems and intelligent agents. Using a grounding in twentieth century US history and an understanding in the computer systems and programs developed from the 1950s onward, Miller shows how the ethos in the human-computer interaction changes from an ethos interested in rational reliability (phronesis) to one concerned with interaction with the user (eunoia.) Ethos is not just a normative function; it is descriptive as well and can shed light on the kind of rhetorical community participants belong to. The shift from a rhetoric of domain-specific expert systems to one of intelligent agents happened in the 1970s and 1980s, when public trust in institutions and authority figures took a nose dive (Vietnam, Watergate) and when rapidly evolving technologies allowed for the development of a more complex, more diverse (in markets and knowledge), and more distributed world. Intelligent agents, as opposed to expert systems that are concerned with the accumulation of one domain of knowledge, are semi-autonomous, have choices, and interact with the environment. Their “expertise” and knowledge is collected in a distributed fashion. Miller argues that the ethos of rational reliability and that of sympathy are on two ends of a pendulum and must be balanced with virtues and moral reasoning (arete.)
Quotable Quotes
“A discourse…delinieates a rhetorical community and consequently an ethos – a sensus communis and a locus communis – a place where interlocutors abide, about which they contest, and from which they draw appeals. Those who dwell within a rhetorical community acquire their character as rhetorical participants from it, as it educates and socializes them. The community does this in part by supplying the Aristotelian components of ethos – the judgment (phronesis), values (arete), and feelings (eonoia) that make a rhetor persuasive to other members of the community” (198)
This is important because it’s about how the discourse that we create in turns creates the community – the hive. The writing that happens in blogs, del.ic.ious, GoogleDocs, tagging, etc. – imparts both a community and a shared ethos that is carried out in different projects.
Looking at ethos “can help us determine aspects of our community and our communal character” (198)
Notable Notes
Distrust in authority is historically and culturally grounded, leads to these bottom-up, more user-need sensitive human-computer interaction systems. People aren’t (usually) crazy domain experts. Their expertise is distributed and can be documented and used most efficiently in more of an intelligent agent system.
Ethos is normative and descriptive.

Create a free website or blog at