Already a casual look will suffice to see that our habitual ways of creating and sharing knowledge leave lots of room for improvement
: Scientists talking to each other within specialized communities; journalists looking for the next sensation with which to captivate the public's interest; politicians winning victories with gut-level agendas; global challenges growing worse.
The creation of a radical alternative – a "new paradigm", or concretely the collective mind re-evolution as we are calling it, is where Knowledge Federation has its niche. While this pivotal part of our civilization's evolution is now just beginning to take shape, as an idea it already has a rich and interesting history.
In his 1945 seminal article As We May Think, Vannevar Bush (the MIT professor and dean who during the Second World War served as the director of the entire US scientific effort) warned the scientists that the war being over, another urgent strategic issue – the organization of global knowledge resources – called for their concerted attention and highest priority. "The summation of human experience is being expanded at a prodigious rate, and the means we use for threading through the consequent maze to the momentarily important item is the same as was used in the days of square-rigged ships." Technology could enable our civilization to organize its knowledge resources as an associative hyperstructure, Bush observed, just as a single mind does. And he urged the scientists to develop suitable technology, and corresponding co-creative practices.
Having read Bush's article as an army recruit in the Phillippines, in 1951 Doug Engelbart foresaw that the digital computer technology, when equipped with interactive facilities and interconnected into a network, cold provide exactly what Bush envisioned. Such technology could lead to a quantum leap in the evolution of our businesses and institutions. By evolving "a super new nervous system to upgrade our collective social organisms", we could vastly augment our "collective intelligence", and become capable of understanding and resolving our increasingly complex issues. Doug instantly decided to dedicate his then beginning career to the realization of this vision. On December 9, 1968, in what is now called "The Mother of All Demos", he and his SRI-based team showed the core elements of the computer technology with capabilities that are now common – created as building blocks for realizing his overarching goal.
Without doubt, one of the reasons why this so timely development has not yet spread like forest fire across our institutions is that we are lacking an institution that can practice and streamline this new way of working. It is clear, in particular, that the academic discipline – which has evolved around the task of dividing and conquering the exploration of the mechanisms of nature – will not at all be suitable.
Knowledge Federation has self-organized in a new way, as a "transdiscipline for knowledge federation", to provide this missing link in our institutional evolution – by being the missing link. What we are calling knowledge federation is simply the workings of a collective mind – all that needs to be done before an insight in a research publication or in a person's head has been made widely understandable, linked with other related insights, brought to the attention of those to whom it is relevant, and embedded in institutional and other practices to achieve impact. That "knowledge is power" is a very old adage indeed – but in this age of "information glut" it remains true only when the knowledge has been successfully federated.
After nearly a decade of inspired work, and a series of workshops and institutional or systemic prototypes, we are now glad to report that the first phase of our evolution has been successfully completed. In the second phase we will continue to organize workshops and develop prototypes. But our primary focus will now be on developing institutional aliances and making the collective mind revolution scale.
Knowledge federation is preparing to enter and transform the mainstream!
While our design team is thoroughly redesigning this website to suit this new purpose, and according to our new visual profile created by Fredrik Eive Refsli, our chief communication designer, you are welcome to explore our portfolio of prototypes to see what we have achieved; and our past events to see how we did that.
Or perhaps better still – just browse through
- Our collective mind blog post, which illustrates our way of working by showing how a specific research result, with large potential for general cultural impact, has been federated – and also outlines the collective mind vision and history
- Our pitch for institutional partnership to Google and Stanford University's H-STAR/mediaX, which explains in what way exactly we have undertaken to complete "Engelbart's unfinished revolution"; this document is intended to serve also as a template for other calls to collaboration