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Sunday, January 2, 2011

Confusion, Information Overload and the Future of the Intuitive Mind

In my last post I wrote about the way that Integrated Intelligence can assist people in modern societies avoid being manipulated by the establishment - government and corporate power. In this post I am going to write about one of the most obvious characteristics of your average person in modern knowledge economies - confusion. This confusion stems from three interrelated problems – complexity, information overload, and meaninglessness. In today’s post I am going to talk about the way that having a well developed spiritual intuition can help us deal with this situation.

1.      The Complexity Problem
Steadily increasing complexity has been a long-term tendency over the last three centuries in capitalist societies. Academic Geoffrey Hogdson pointed out a decade ago that there has been a growing diversity of interactions between human beings, and between people and their technologies. New analytic problems are an inevitable scenario given the degree of innovation and change. Further, the nature and diffusion of knowledge creates difficulties in dealing with implicit, context-specific, and distinctive knowledge or skills.

In short, despite the benefits of technology-assisted automation, it’s getting harder to do your job. We are all aware that in core economic sectors both products and processes of production have become more complex and sophisticated, and this will only continue. The reality is that things are not going to get any easier in this respect.

The broader context of all this is that modern culture represents an open and dynamic system. It is ever more chaotic, and assuming control of situations or dynamics is becoming increasingly difficult. My key interest in this situation of increasing uncertainty and complexity is the fact that making accurate predictions purely via logic and calculation has become more difficult. This is problem has been made worse because of the loss of intuitive knowledge structures in the modern cultures. My observation is that the problem is worse in Asia than in western countries, as education systems have so completely jettisoned the intuitive mind.

2. Analysis Paralysis: The Information Overload Problem
Information overload is the inevitable result which follows from this growing complexity of modern systems. Advanced communications and information technology has resulted in a significant increase in the sheer volume of data. Geoffrey Hodgson  has stated that that with this increase in complexity, “more and more ‘bits’ of information” will be needed “to specify interactions and changes within the structured system”.

Looking at this from a more historical perspective, scientific knowledge tends to emphasise the accumulation of information and data. Mechanistic science has a tendency to acknowledge only certain kinds of data, especially measurable data. In 2002, according to a UC Berkeley report for example,  humankind stored approximately five exabytes of new information on paper, film, optical or magnetic media – a doubling over a three year period. This is equivalent to all the words ever spoken by humans. No doubt the situation is far more pronounced today, especially given the explosion of often unfiltered information on the internet – much of it of questionable quality.

We can readily see that in modern knowledge economies, there has been a vast increase in the volume of information, which increases the complexity of society and degrees of confusion in individuals. That this data tends to exclude information in meaningful domains such as the spiritual and inner dimensions of human experience adds to the sense of confusion.

The rather linear thought processes of the critical/rational mind retard receptivity (relaxed openness to intuitive and spiritual information in a state of presence). In his book Distant Mental Influence, parapsychologist William Braud, for example, argues that rigid thought processes retard psychic functioning. Therefore, there is good reason to believe that the contemporary school-as-factory – which emphasises rigidity and control of both behaviour and thinking – retards access to the extended mind and Integrated Intelligence, or INI . The modern global citizen may be experiencing an expansion of linguistic, numerical, and technical literacy, while simultaneously experiencing a retardation of Integrated Intelligence.

3.     The Problem of The Loss of Meaning
The fragmentation of knowledge and the sheer volume of data in the modern world also reduces the potential to comprehend the big picture. The dominant reductionist approach to knowledge preferred by the critical/rational worldview – analysing and breaking things down into their smallest parts in order to understand them – makes the problem worse. An associated issue is the extreme specialisation of knowledge nowadays. There is so much specific knowledge required to master particular subjects and fields of information, that “experts” have reduced time to look into other domains of knowledge. Yet, as I shall point out below, experts can no longer afford to be too specialised.

If we look at only part of a system, compre­hension of the patterns and interconnections between the parts is lost.

One of the most notable characteristics of mystical experience is its capacity for transcendent perception of the whole, of interconnectedness. In her book The Quantum Society, Danah Zohar has argued that the modern bureaucratic state retards a sense of sacredness and connectedness with the whole. Plurality and eclecticism (part of postmodernism) allow for little sense of commonness, nor any common set of values. Bureaucracy inevitably becomes the foundation for such a society.

The absence of a genuine spiritual consciousness in modern public education after the industrial revolution has probably reduced the ability to access holistic and Integrated Intelligence and in turn the ability to see ‘the big picture’. Rational ways of knowing require a distancing between the self and the thing being studied or seen. If only rational ways of knowing are used, mystical or non-dual perception is retarded. Industrialised and knowledge societies therefore produce individuals whose minds have a reduced capacity for conceiving and accessing spiritual dimensions.

A related problem is that of the Western world’s focus upon possessive individualism at the expense of meaning and relationship, including relationship knowledge. Total freedom leads to total alienation, Mary Clarke once noted. Modernity’s insistence on the sacredness of the isolated ego state (and its fragmented consciousness) leaves little place for the connectedness and deep shared meanings which might potentially be perceived and experienced via Integrated Intelligence.

Potential uses of Integrated Intelligence Within These Circumstances
If you have a well developed intuitive mind, you do not always need to have all the rational information at hand to make a wise choice. The often immediate and non-linear, non-sequential nature of Integrated Intelligence bypasses the necessity to have conscious awareness of all the available data, before decisions are made. For example, Roy Rowan, in the book The Intuitive Manager, argues that the best managers are the intuitive ones who learn to trust their intuition in decision-making situations. Those who wait for a complete analysis of any given market or business problem are left behind in the fast-paced modern world.

Other recent scientific research clearly shows that a less effortful approach to decision making leads to greater accuracy in making correct choices. This is because during unconscious thought processes, information in large quantities can be effectively integrated. As intuition expert Geoff Klein in The Power of Intuition suggests: “The world is too complex to think ahead using careful analysis of situations”, and that instead, we should “rely on our intuitions” (p 285).

Thus core operations of Integrated Intelligence can assist managers and others in coming to terms with the world’s mass of data and innumerable personal choices. Specifically, evaluation/choice, location, foresight, and diagnosis might be activated without access to all ‘hard’ data. (See this link for explanation of these processes).

With increasing complexity, the capacity to learn and adapt rapidly are becoming ever more important, as Geoffrey Hodgson points out. Hodgson argues that the increasing complexity of the modern societal system requires greater flexibility and adaptability, both at a personal and at an organisational level (p 92). An integrated conception of self and of knowledge systems (i.e. the understanding that Integrated Intelligence is transpersonal and non-localised) potentially moves the individual beyond the often fragmented ways of knowing of the rational mind. This, combined with foresight – a core operation of Integrated Intelligence – enhances both adaptability and flexibility. The fluid and receptive nature of Integrated Intelligence is relevant here. The relaxed and open nature of receptivity (relaxed, open awareness) stands as a contrast to the rigidity and inflexibility of ego-based states of consciousness. The ego prefers to cling to its particular worldview and its limited ways of knowing.

The increasing unpredictability of the modern world means that rational, linear and sequential modes of thought (such as pure logic or reason) are no longer enough. We need to expand out ways of knowing to include the intuitive mind. As the sheer amount of data expands rapidly, attempts to rationally analyse all available information may result in “analysis paralysis”, writes Roy Rowan (The Intuitive Manager). Integrated Intelligence has the advantage over traditional logical analysis of imbedding the individual within a constant stream of knowing.

Note, however, that Integrated Intelligence does not provide specific functional knowledge (such as how to operate the latest piece of software).Yet it can provide a context of meaning and purpose which grant relevance and comprehension of the bigger social and cosmic picture. The critical/rational worldview which underpins the knowledge economy insists that the individual within a random, mechanical universe, devoid of deeper meaning. The integrated society entails a worldview where the individual is situated in the dance of cosmic evolution.

In the mystical/spiritual worldview, the self is connected to the greater whole, providing a reframing of life’s meaning. Moreover, it is a universe where, as John Broomfield (Other ways of Knowing) states, “the whole speaks to the parts”. In such a universe, the idea of spiritual guidance comes back into consideration. The connection with the consciousness of the Kosmos grants the individual a source of wisdom for the life journey. The mechanistic paradigm and the consumer society cannot provide that. This is because self is disconnected from that intelligence, and alienated from the whole. The wisdom that transcends individualism is not valued, as modern mystic Tobin Hart has noted. The integrated society also re-introduces the concept of agency and ‘God’, although not necessarily in the biblical sense.

Another benefit of a more widespread use of INI is that the meditative and concentrative methods that can be employed in the training for Integrated Intelligence may provide benefit in the form of mindfulness and equanimity. For example, in the Buddhist tradition of Samatha (quiet mind) it is believed that once Samatha has been accomplished various forms of extrasensory perception and paranormal abilities can be developed with relative ease. Without a relaxed mind in a state of presence, the fragmented mind is less able to make sense of information overload, and has restricted means to make the sense of things. Integrated Intelligence therefore has the potential to move beyond this information-overload problem, transforming it into opportunity for increased knowledge, wisdom and growth.

In an increasingly complex society and workplace, Integrated Intelligence may also serve as a source of practical knowledge for individuals. Work now requires greater degrees of personal proficiency, autonomy, and expertise, with a consequent decentralisation of management power, as Geoffrey Hodgson has agued. Even universities are no longer the exclusive site of expertise but are now a site of public discourses, as futurist G Delanty has argued. (“Ideologies of the knowledge society...”, Policy Futures in Education, 1(1)). Experts now have to traverse many discourses outside their areas of expertise. Though writing about universities in particular, Delanty’s comments can be applied to education in the broadest sense of both formal and informal life-long education. The end result is that, as Delanty suggests, the era of the expert is quickly passing.

Both within the university and for the worker in the knowledge economy, there is an increasingly huge volume of information required to gain a deep under­standing of multiple fields of knowledge. The disconnected state of the rational mind means that a time-costly process is required to locate and evaluate information and diagnose problems.

The core operations of Integrated Intelligence – location, diagnosis, and evaluation – are be highly valuable here. The creative and innovative potential of Integrated Intelligence can be employed in generating solutions and alternatives. Scientific research may also benefit. While the ‘justification’ for particular scientific research explicitly employs critical rationality, the ‘discovery’ process whereby research is “inspired, conceived, planned, and conducted” is less discussed. Nonetheless, this is the domain where creativity and inspiration play a major role, and therefore potentially Integrated Intelligence. Here, Integrated Intelligence might find an overlap with the current burgeoning field of creative intelligence. As Todd Lubart states explicitly:

Creative intelligence may be considered as increasingly important in the new millennium because the technologically orientated world in which we live changes rapidly and often presents new complex problems that require innovative solutions (Lubart, "In Search of Creative Intelligence", in Models of Intelligence).

J. Ostrom Moller (in the volume The Creative Society of the 21st Century) points out that the industrial model of education with its cogs-in-the-machine approach is seriously out of date. Machines are increasingly doing the manual work, and computers are doing the calculations. As Moller puts it, “…the challenges become how to ask the right questions, how to define the problems and how to choose between various alternatives offered by the computer” (p 126). Integrated Intelligence offers a transpersonal overview that is needed in such a “non-material society” (Ostrom Moller p 126). The individual with a sense of spiritual guidance may be able to intuit solutions via INI. The person need not necessarily have a conscious knowledge of the reason why a choice is correct or wise, nor access to all the data. This would truly be an asset amidst information-overload.

Integrated Intelligence also has potential benefits for researchers. Information overload means that decisions about what to read amongst thousands of potential books and articles is a highly problematic task, if one approaches it in a purely rational way. This makes Roy Rowan’s  “analysis paralysis” likely. Mystic Michael Talbot’s (Mysticism and the New Physics) alleged capacity to locate books in libraries with no conscious prior knowledge stands as an example of how Integrated Intelligence might be employed to facilitate research. 

I have written quite a lot about how researchers can use intuitive processes as they research and write their books and papers. Click here for a good summary article about to be published in Science and Information journal.

Renewed Meaning, Renewed Hope
Integrated Intelligence’s core operations may provide renewed hope and meaning, via a re-mapping of our worldview. Futurist Richard Slaughter has written that we need to identify sources of inspiration and hope in the contemporary world. The need for meaning through knowing where we stand in relation to the Kosmos cannot be easily done away with, and this meaning has traditionally been provided by religion. Integrated Intelligence and the integrated mind allow a connection with a universal guiding consciousness. A universe imbued with Integrated Intelligence is a deeply meaningful one, by definition.

Australian futurist Marcus Bussey has argued that meaning and hope go hand in hand. Futures without meaning are futures without hope. It is my belief that Integrated Intelligence may help re-kindle hope and meaning. In the theory of Integrated Intelligence, personal and social transformation is one of the end states of the use of INI. An integrated Kosmos is one where “the whole sends messages to the parts”. This situates the evolution of self and society within a cosmic context, an inherently meaningful scenario.

The effects of the increasing complexity, confusion, and meaninglessness within the knowledge economy are potentially offset in an integrated society founded upon the immediate and intuitive ways of knowing of Integrated Intelligence. The ability to utilise INI in any given scenario often makes it unnecessary to rely exclusively upon mundane sources of information and rational ways of knowing. INI-based decisions can often be correctly made in an instant, and there is not always a necessity to know why the decision is the right one.

Yet for INI to be activated amongst the broader cross-sections of modern societies, the rejection of intuitive and mystical ways of knowing will have to be addressed. The “psi taboo”, to quote Dean Radin’s term, will need to be lifted.


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