This is a subject that both fascinates and puzzles me: collective wisdom.
In some ways it refers to the Emile Durkheim concept of the Collective Consciousness—that each of us in our own tiny spheres of awareness is actually connected into a far greater ocean of awareness by those frequencies within the “human range” that are available for our reception.
“The totality of beliefs and sentiments common to the average members of a society forms a determinate system with a life of its own. It can be termed the collective or creative consciousness.—Emile Durkheim”
But collective consciousness and collective wisdom are not quite the same.
Collective consciousness may contain the collective ignorance, attitudes, and judgmental biases of the masses, whereas collective wisdom contains the mature-thinking, accumulation of smart choices for human evolvement amassed only after determining the difference between those and the immature, not-so-smart ones that can get you killed.
One could call collective wisdom the inherent survival kit of a species.
Collective wisdom tends to be ancestral-based as it is often the tribe’s or a culture’s acquired wisdom handed down to a younger generation by the elders of the previous one.
So collective wisdom is commonly considered the learning-from-your-mistakes and not-doing-that-again tales that are retold generation after generation, such as: despite their lean and mean appearance, tigers aren’t really vegetarians so don’t try to offer one a handful of grass. It would probably be the last time you tried it.
It’s the sort of thing that your grandparents and parents tried to instill in your psyche before you ventured out the door of the house for the very first time: “Be careful of strangers—look both ways when crossing the street—walk to school, don’t run—and don’t pet the dog next door because HE BITES.”
The puzzling thing to me about collective wisdom is that it isn’t held in as high esteem as it should be because despite what our surviving elders tell us, we just keep doing those same things we know that we shouldn’t do:
- We try to convince the hungry tiger that nutritious kale is far better for his colon than is our leg or arm. (Please let go!)
- We try to be nice to strangers because we know that even perverts need friends. (And who doesn’t want to help a lonely pervert?)
- We are simply too busy looking at our iphones and ipads while driving because no one walks anywhere anymore, so who needs to look both ways no matter where you go? (Besides, I’m sure they’ll see me and stop.)
- And we know that the neighbor’s dog is just the sweetest, little, misunderstood poochie you ever laid eyes on, despite his frothing, snarly face and warning growls. (Oh he surely won’t bite ME.)
But still you counter: “Hey….I mean, if collective wisdom was so important to us, why didn’t they put a ‘collective wisdom’ button on my Google Glass?” (Like “duh!”)
Well ….maybe next upgrade.