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Collective Intelligence and Human Culture

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According to Donald, individual human minds did not evolve apart from the group.  He writes,

we have evolved into “hybrid” minds, quite unlike any others, and the reason for our uniqueness does not lie in our brains, which are unexceptional in their basic design.  It lies in the fact that we have evolved such a deep dependency on our collective storage systems, which hold the key to self-assembly.  The ultimate irony of human existence is that we are supreme individualists, whose individualism depends almost entirely on culture for its realization.  It came at the price of giving up the isolation, or collective solipsism, of all other species and entering into a collectivity of mind.

Our consciousness, our self-awareness, our sense of self, our sense of other selves, our sense of the world, and our place in it are all mediated by the cultural constructs and constraints we inhabit.  The poet John Donne recognized this when he wrote, “No man is an island, Entire of itself.  Each is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”

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