Understanding the factors that constitute whole-system consciousness can help clarify where to focus attention, resources and efforts to advance the healthy evolution of humanity. In each of the categories below, a defining inquiry is followed by a description of what we would experience in an idealized conscious social system.
How do we deeply and consciously connect to the whole systems we are part of?
To the extent we live in a conscious social system, we know, identify with, and care about our community, bioregion, and world -- each system we are part of -- as a whole. We are very aware of the existence and needs of these precious living systems, through culture (especially stories), education, governance, and spiritual and group attunement practices.
We know about the health of our human and natural communities, thanks to engaging media stories, grassroots sharing of news, statistics, briefings, clear attention to environmental changes and many other common activities and facets of our culture. We know enough about system dynamics to recognize what is happening, what it means, and how we can engage with it.
We are aware of and value each other, and what people different from us are doing. The field of our collective awareness is vitally alive, evidenced by how often similar ideas, innovations, and discoveries show up simultaneously in different places, as needed.
How do human knowing and caring flow powerfully through the social system?
To the extent we are a conscious social system, the relevant knowledge or caring of one person, time or place is, to a remarkable degree, available to other people, times and places. Throughout our healthy research, communication, media, education, government and political systems, new knowledge and forms of caring are born and information and care flow freely, intermingling in many ways and increasing in value as they move.
Our whole systems have forms of memory which transcend our individual memories and lives. These include powerfully inclusive and accessible information storage, evaluation, distribution, and retrieval systems like libraries, databases, open source intelligence services, and the searchable Internet.
We readily find each other to work together and share what we care about, and systemic structures and processes facilitate this -- from electronic networking tools to self-organizing face-to-face gatherings around advertised interests (such as Open Space conferences).
'How are behavior, power and social guidance systems aligned to serve the needs of the whole?
To the extent we live in a conscious social system, our political, economic and social arrangements ensure that our self-interested behaviors naturally contribute to the welfare of the whole -- and that we collectively empower our leaders and institutions to serve the whole.
Our social arrangements make it difficult for any of us -- especially our leaders and power centers -- to unduly colonize our systems' resources for our own personal or group benefit at the expense of the whole. Well-designed future-orientation systems and feedback mechanisms -- including learning systems, norms, contests, rewards and punishments, and more -- keep us responsive to the needs of our whole community, society, and world.
Our political, governmental, economic, information and education systems are designed for answerability and service to the common good -- while mindfully protecting and nurturing our rich individuality and diversity from which so many social benefits flow.
Our institutions and cultural practices support legitimate leadership arising from the collective intelligence and wisdom generated by adequately diverse groups of us in high quality conversations, which are watched by our whole community or society and often exercise direct decision-making power. See, for example, citizen deliberative councils.
How does a whole system evolve itself?
To the extent our system is conscious, it constantly reflects (sometimes through its leaders or proxies, as above) on its own operation, the results of our collective activity, and our future prospects.
Key parts of our systems are kept as free as possible from bias, fixed ideas, and inflexible attitudes. We honor wholeness in all its forms. Our system continually and creatively engages the diversity -- and even strangeness, extremism, and conflict -- in and around it to generate inclusive, evolving forms of common sense and shared enterprise. Many ways to do this are broadly known and used.
We have a certain eagerness to welcome, generate and consider novel perspectives and possibilities -- and to test them in useful ways. Our mainstream honors and maintains a productive relationship with our fringes.
We always set up our systemic structures so they can and do change in a timely manner: They neither resist needed changes and miss promising opportunities nor do they change chaotically in response to every impulse. Overall, we maintain a healthy relationship between centralized and decentralized forms of collective perception, reflection, and action -- out of which the right level of appropriate change naturally emerges.