Democracy and the Evolution of Consciousness


In a democracy, “deliberation is necessary so that collectively-intelligent decisions are created instead of dumb politics. Neutral, objective, quality information is the basis for solid deliberation. Curating information — sorting out intellectual quality and truth claims or communicating across boundaries — is akin to governance through deliberation.“ Deliberative mechanisms for making decisions weigh consequences and balance trade offs. A lack of deliberation means that unmediated participation and information enhance governance by the “dumb mob” of your waking identity – not a good strategy for personal, relationship, or collective success.

How is your waking identity a “dumb mob?” Your sense of self is made up of the social scripting that you learned as a child. That social scripting is in turn made up of various roles that were modeled for you as a child: walker, talker, eater, communicator, student, child, manipulator, persecutor, victim, and rescuer. The rescuer role includes all the roles in which you are addicted to particular patterns of thinking, feeling, and doing. These “protective guilds” make up over ninety percent  of your awareness. Because all of this scripting and role identification is pre-programmed and habitual, it is “dumb.” While an outburst of anger, fear, or love feels freely chosen, if someone could monitor your thoughts, feelings, and actions for three months they could predict almost everything that you are going to think, feel, and do right now, today. This is not autonomy, spontaneity, or free will. It is not consciousness, unless sleepwalking and life as a cultural zombie is considered awareness. Your reactionary, impulsive, mindless roles are preferences that express your choices. They have “votes” in your consciousness. Your patterns of preference largely elect your waking identity – the consciousness that governs your life. There is little negotiation or consensus building that goes on; instead one cabal after another stages a coup and takes its turn in the rulership of who you are. First the parts that are hungry rise up and take charge. Their rallying cry is, “Let’s EAT!” Everything stops and makes eating a priority. Then another faction rises to take charge. It may be the “Let’s WORK!” collective; everything shifts to getting you dressed and transported to your chair at work.

Doing Integral Deep Listening interviews with your emerging potentials is like enfranchising a smart mob to counteract the chaotic and often self-destructive leadership of the dumb mob that is normally in charge of your life. It is not that you has to substitute one for the other; the influence of the smart mob provides a context that turns your dumb mob into a component of a healthy broader solution.

Here is an information technology definition of government: “governance is an open-ended operating system based on what works. The most adaptable will survive.” Gardels states, “in our age, the advent of social networks and the transparency of shared networks challenge all hierarchies from monopoly of the mainstream media to professional knowledge protected by credentials, such as doctors, to dictators protected by force.” The intrasocial, or interior cultural/social, correlate that is disclosed by IDL interviewing is an increase in personal transparency, as the priorities of normally unrecognized aspects of your broader identity are exposed in an intrasocial network of shared communication. The result is that the monopoly your waking identity attempts to maintain over your sense of who you are, your actions and goals, is increasingly weakened and diminished.

But what is the quality and usefulness of the result? Are intrasocial voices simply analogous to “dumb mobs,” the term given to “the age of the amateur” and the passionate populists of the blog mobs created by the unmediated spread of information via Google, Wikipedia, and the World Wide Web in general?  Systems that adapt to the new transparency, or harness it, can survive. Those that resist will ultimately lose trust, and thus allegiance, and fail. Dumb mobs represent the world of the “unknown expert” whose 10,000 hours of work and practice is all the qualification required to gain authority and respect. This breakdown is what has also enabled the leaps of innovation coming from “the dorm rooms” (see Facebook) “and edges of society” (see Occupy everything). This has been accompanied by the breakdown of intermediaries and the control of information by the credentialed. Plato and Aristotle railed against democracy in the 3rd century BC because of the damage they saw these “dumb mobs” could do to society. For Plato democracy undercuts meritocracy; for Aristotle, it is rule by and for the needy. Both think goverment is best directed by those with enough time on their hands to make the pursuit of virtue a priority instead of the struggle to feed and raise a family that preoccupies most humans.

Your intrasocial community is not a dumb mob that is irrational and disorganized, the creator of bizarre dreams and frightful nightmares. This is a misperception based on the intrinsically skewed and biased perspective of your waking identity. If the top of an iceberg were to look into itself below the water, the refraction of light off the surface would generate an inherently distorted reflection. This is what you experience in dreams; you mistake the refracted image you see for the reality beneath the waterline of your awareness.

Integral Deep Listening is a disruptive technology that undermines the “protective guilds,” the intermediaries and institutions that habitually control waking information and the power your waking sense of self abrogates to itself. IDL is a disruptive technology in that it augments vision, memory and attention in ways that threaten the monopoly your waking sense of who you are has on the governance of your life and world. IDL augments creative vision by broadening your perspective; it augments your memory by highlighting the priorities of your inner compass, your “deep history.” It augments your attention by selecting out priorities for your waking awareness that are integrative in that they are  representative of your greater identity.  Your waking identity, as the perennial creator, supporter, and protector of the “protective guilds” of your waking preferences, is the  determiner of your priorities, as well as the repressor of alternatives to them. It resists the loss of control which listening to your emerging potentials, via IDL interviewing and application of the resulting recommendations, represents.

Interviewing your emerging potentials brings down the “fire from heaven” of insurgent, disruptive technologies into your consciousness. The vested interests of those protective guilds that maintain  your status quo self-definition and life balance resist the loss of control as long as the “insurgents” – your interviewed emerging potentials – persist in their influence. When you are confronted with such insurgent, disruptive influences, your first phase response is usually conflictive and destructive. The forces in this phase are centrifugal — pulling apart and fragmenting. An analogy on a social-historical level would be the religious wars in Europe after the Guttenberg press was invented.

For the world economy, social structures, and cultural networks of meanings, those systems that adapt to the new cyber-induced transparency, or harness it, can survive. Those that resist will ultimately lose trust, and thus allegiance, and fail.  “The rigid, such as the autocrats in Egypt and Tunisia, are brittle and break. The more flexible, such as the medical profession, which have turned patient information websites to their advantage, thrive.“ On an intrapersonal level, the same thing is occurring. In order to manage the massive amounts of complexity and information pounding structures and processes of order everywhere, you need to transcend and include earlier, older, and less culturally scripted definitions of who you are. You must respond to the outer multiplicity by finding and evoking a multiplicity of interior awarenesses, of emerging potentials, if your waking identity is not to ultimately fail by losing the trust and thus the allegiance of your greater identity.

Somewhere in between the two extremes of authoritarian hierarchy and the chaos of dumb mobs, autocratic China is headed in two directions at once. On the one  hand China is in danger of becoming a ‘hyper-surveillance state’ that seeks ‘total information awareness’ of the activities of its subjects. The personal and individual equivalent is obsession and paranoia. This is a waking identity analogous to Chinese government as viewed by the dissident artist Ai Wei Wei, who sees a state that is always wanting to know where you are, what you do and who you talk to in order to be able to “crush” you at will. Yet China is also a state demonstrating an opposite powerful presence. It is itself subject to the surveillance of the microblogging population in a kind of ‘monitory webocracy’.  IDL allows something equivalent to be born in the evolution of human consciousness. Interviewed emerging potentials can be seen as analogous to China’s microblogging population, creating an interior monitoring web that can, should, and needs to provide necessary feedback to the top down government of waking awareness, your personal Bejing. Like the hierarchical meritocracy of China, your waking identity is an efficient system “but fails ultimately without feedback loops that provide reliable information, clogging the meridians of the body politic.” Just as “social media can become an organic part of the Chinese body politic and thus improve good governance,” so the feedback of your emerging potentials can become an organic part of your body politic and thus improve good governance over your life.

Tearing down is a centrifugal process; you may fear that if you listen to emerging potentials they will destroy the foundations of your life and dismantle your ego. Won’t you “decompensate,” melting down into a mindless, unconscious mass of incoherent ectoplasm? If emerging potentials can be disruptors of the authority and institutions that your waking identity has painstakingly built and protected over decades, what might be their role in reconstruction? “After the centrifugal phase of pulling down and pulling apart, the next turn is a centripetal phase which pulls together and builds up new institutions based either on new authorities or conceptions of authority.” Various psychological responses are possible.  Traditionally, and most likely, “new elites are installed and (pyramid-like) hierarchical institutions re-established with a different set of strong rulers and experts.” Think Egypt, the governmental structures of republics like the US or Germany (President/Prime Minister, Elected representatives, federal, state, and local bureaucrats). “Complexity requires more hierarchy for efficiency’s sake. Yet innovation must retain its own space or efficiency will kill it off.” Intrasocially this either means reimposition of another, reconstituted waking authoritarianism or the highly unlikely possibility of governance by a “possessing” dissociated personality. The second possibility the “monitory webocracy” analogy, emerged as a governmental model in post-enlightenment Europe.  “…a diamond shaped structure can form where most people are neither rich nor poor and conflict and competition, ritualized by rules, take place in “arenas” such as courts, markets, science and democracy…Unlike the top to bottom power structure of the hierarchical pyramid, where legitimacy is invested in the rule of the worthy and the expert, the diamond model’s legitimacy arises from a “reciprocal accountability” of its participants.” This alternative is made possible by the introduction of the concept of inalienable human rights and their codification as social law. On an intrasocial level it is made possible by Dream Sociometry and other forms of IDL interviewing. The reciprocal accountability is seen in triangulation, the comparing of findings among waking experts, common sense, and various interviewed emerging potentials.

The pyramid power structure is what Wilber’s integral calls “agentic,” or vertical-hierarchical, pattern of organization. The diamond structure is integral’s  “communal,” or horizontal-heterological, pattern of organization. While development as a whole tends to be hierarchical, with each successive level transcending and including previous ones, agentic and communal styles tend to alternate up the developmental ladder. The act of inclusion in “transcend and include” is itself a heterological impulse. The understanding of a multiplicity of states and perspectives, in addition to your current waking state and perspective, is a heterological, communal awareness, that tends to lead to a broadening of awareness. These two movements have also been called “ontogenetic” and “phylogenetic,” with ontogenetic activities “organized and carried out through centrally designed institutions to shape the development of society, while the phylogenetic response is evolutionary, like self-organizing bacteria lacking foresight but responding to the environment.” “Political authority today is ontogenetic and cyberspace is phylogenetic. The health of human society depends on the balance.”

Increasing societal complexity depends on both more hierarchy to manage that complexity and on more feedback loops of reciprocal accountability. IDL creates a smarter “management” in your waking identity because it expands your perspective as you listen to and incorporate the feedback and perspectives of other, previously unrecognized or ignored voices.

“Since social networks and shared knowledge continuously challenge elites and credentialed meritocracy, it is likely in the future that a new “agile meritocracy” whose transient power rises and falls based on reputation and performance — will replace entrenched elites.” We see this model happening with intrasocial reality. As one begins practicing Integral Deep Listening to emerging potentials they discover and interact with intrasocial networks of meaning. This is particularly evident with Dream Sociometry, in which a number of emerging potentials are interviewed at the same time, preferences are tabulated and displayed as networked intrasocial relationships in a diagram called a Dream Sociogram. This input continuously challenges the world view, preferences, and perspectives of your entrenched waking “elite” identity, slowly replacing it with a credentialed meritocracy, which was an ideal of Plato and Confucius alike, coming from very different cultures and societies. The power of these representatives of intrasocial meritocracy rise and fall based on their reputation and performance. The reputation of these emerging potentials is based on their ability to score higher than you do on one or more core process or quality associated with wakefulness and enlightenment. Their performance is based on the observable improvements to quality of your life as their recommendations are objectively measured and verified.

Waking identity will never be replaced, only perpetually expanded and thinned. This is because “it takes an institution.” Governance requires stable, dependable structures and processes. Some of these can only be supplied by a waking identity that does sensory-based reality testing. The input of emerging potentials is more like crowd-sourced authority, which is good for innovation, protest, and issuing wake-up calls; they provide transient leadership, although the values that they personify are a lasting, dependable foundation for good social and intrasocial governance. “It is a libertarian illusion to believe that distributed networks of amateurs or “unknown experts’ can self-administer a society based on rational self-interested decisions. Retail sanity does not necessarily, or even usually, add up to wholesale rationality. As often or not, retail sanity can add up to wholesale madness. It was the distributed networks of financial experts that instigated the Wall Street meltdown. It was up to the stodgy old “drunk uncle” institution of the US government to salvage the system.” This is much less likely to be the case with the collective wisdom of emerging potentials. Why? The retail sanity of other people is less sane than your intrasocial emerging potentials. This is because people tend to score lower in core qualities and processes of awakening and enlightenment than do your own emerging potentials.

“…the nation state is too small for global problems and too big for local problems. In a networked world of distributed power it would make more sense to seek change from the bottom up, from the city to the subnational level, than from the nation state or the level of global summitry. This is especially so as the world has become mostly urbanized with an archipelago of megacity regions with 20-million-plus inhabitants each, especially in Asia. Megacities are the network nodes where people live and work (or are unemployed), where they play and pollute.” When you consult emerging potentials you are seeking change from microcosm to macrocosm, from inside out, and from the microsocial to the macrosocial. You are seeking change based on core intrinsic values rather than internalized, scripted, cultural values that do not, cannot, and will  not recognize your unique expression of universal values.

“Already dense with feedback because of physical proximity, the intensified feedback loops of social networks can make cities even more intelligent.” Similarly, the feedback loops of interviewing emerging potentials, checking out their recommendations against your waking common sense, the recommendations of other emerging potentials, and the recommendations of respected others will make the “city” of your consciousness not simply more intelligent, which is nothing to write home about, but more wise, with more compassion and inner peace.


The quotes in this article are taken from Democracy and Smart Mobs, Nathan Gardels’ summary of themes emerging from a brainstorming session on governance and social media held by the Nicolas Berggruen Institute in Palo Alto on March 4, 2012,