Why the “Killer App”?
What made computers indispensable?
- The first database programs, plus word processing and accounting software.
What first made the Internet a necessity instead of a curiosity?
- Email, singlehandedly.
Why did cell phones become nearly ubiquitous so quickly, despite concerns about their health impacts?
- Mobile connectivity, plus the magic of texting, made cellphones an essential tool for postmodern lifestyles.
Why do we salivate over the iPhone, and now the iPad?
- Because the sleek tool lets us use thousands of amazingly cool, intuitive apps.
We undertake the ordeal of upgrading our operating systems only in order to access new applications. A “killer app” legitimizes any innovative approach, making the expense and hassle of an upgrade worthwhile.
Integral Applications: Good Works Will Be the “Killer App”
Integral evolutionary consciousness has already spread fairly widely among an intellectual elite, sparked by a few powerful personal (rather than social) applications. Integral theory simply sheds more light on our world. Integral spirituality and Integral Life Practice have empowered people to deepen and expand their consciousness while also engaging life’s complexity. In terms of the personal benefits they confer to users, these could be considered “killer apps.” But each of these applications, or memes, is primarily personal or conceptual — not primarily social. This makes these apps comparatively slow-moving viruses, even if their transformational effects on individuals are extremely high-leverage when they “take.”
At some future point, integral consciousness will spread much more widely — like wildfire, in fact. We all know it. The foundation has already been established, with the strong roots that make it inevitable, and clearly necessary. But the moment of ignition has not yet arrived. And it may not occur until someone launches “the integral killer app.”
What will this integral killer app look like? I believe it will be some form of what is commonly referred to as “good works.”
Our world faces challenges that need nuanced, holistic, complex, intuitively prescient, meta-systemic solutions — integral evolutionary solutions. They will need to be implemented by people sensitive not only to a vastly complex range of particulars, but people who are also able to bring their compassion to bear very adroitly, juggling not only durable categories, but entire systems and paradigms. We need the excellence co-created by a community whose lenses can zoom in and out, from engaging profoundly particular forms of presence and empathy to thinking many moves ahead, using meta-paradigmatic big-picture imagination.
Our world needs healing of a new order, good works of a whole new category — in other words, integral evolutionary good works.
What Do Integral Evolutionary Good Works Look Like?
Traditional good works have many expressions, including offering practical care for people in need in one’s own ethnocentric group. Think the United Jewish Appeal or people helping sick members of their church.
Modernist good works have many expressions, including bringing science and logic to bear to improve life conditions. Think the Red Cross, the Peace Corps, modern water and sanitation systems, antibiotics and other medical miracles, the bill of rights, and the outlawing of slavery.
Postmodern good works have many expressions, including dismantling covert oppression by racism, sexism, classism, environmental exploitation, corporate dominance and exploitation, and fostering holistic approaches to healing and wellness. Think the women’s, civil rights, peace, and environmental movements, and progressive politics in general.
An example of higher-order postmodern good works — a half-step beyond the good works described above — are the projects that seek to educate girls all over the world. (These programs often also help bring education to boys, since that’s a good value too, but their metrics of success focus on girls.) When women’s education levels rise, many markers of social well-being respond right away – birthrates fall, family health improves, literacy accelerates, political extremism and violence decline and incomes (both family and national) grow. With one fundamental, practical change, societies are transformed, thus ameliorating a host of problems.
We don’t yet have examples of truly integral good works that are changing the world. They are just beginning to emerge.
What will these integral “killer apps” look like?
Fish, Fishing, and Beyond
Let’s look at it through the prism of the instructive cliché, “Give a man a fish and he eats today, but teach him to fish and he eats for a lifetime.”
From an integral perspective, we will not be satisfied to just “give a man a fish” or even to “teach him to fish.” We will aspire to engender a change in fishing conditions—and the culture of fishing—altogether.
Integral evolutionary consciousness thinks holistically, looking at large-scale patterns. Integral good works will be inherently multidimensional and metasystemic in nature, reflecting both a higher order of thinking and a higher order of efficacy. (A good thing, given the state of our world!)
Let’s consider a couple of examples of attempts to begin the inevitably enormous projects of instantiating meta-systemic good works — The Synergy Engine, and Holacracy.
The Synergy Engine
A very concrete example another half-step beyond educating girls is Barbara Marx Hubbard’s vision of a “Synergy Engine” — a higher-order semantic search engine that would be to today’s Google what Google was to the original Yahoo — a way to scan for and identify important non-obvious connections through a higher order of intelligence.
Imagine a software program with high-speed access to a vast body of information, in most languages, including the World Wide Web, governmental, scientific and academic databases, social networking websites, and more, able to notice many different kinds of connection among technical ideas, beliefs, motivations, organizations, and individuals, especially across domains. Imagine that it learns about each user, and thus returns results that are tailored to individuals’ likely angles of special interest, returning entirely different results for the same query to different inquirers, grouped intuitively in distinct clusters.
This kind of “Synergy Engine” could “change fishing conditions” by making it possible for individuals to find one another, and for technological innovators to locate projects, individuals, and technologies from other fields that could advance their projects.
- Inventors, scientists and engineers working on new game-changing technologies could more easily locate breakthroughs in apparently unrelated technological fields. For instance, researchers on new approaches to biofuels might discover important breakthroughs they’d otherwise never connect with—in, say, genetic medicine, or field biology—that might help them solve critical engineering problems that would otherwise build extra years into the timeline for making their new technology ready for commercial use.
- Cultural, social, and political change agents, social entrepreneurs, and funding bodies could more easily locate one another to network, exchange ideas, and build co-creative alliances.
Such a Synergy Engine would result — not in one or two or a dozen innovative initiatives — but in an environment in which the path forward for any innovative initiative would be lubricated and facilitated.
This would be a meta-systemic change. A world in which innovation has been empowered and quickened is a world better able to innovate rapidly and powerfully. A project led by Darrell Laham and Claudia Welss, with other partners, is already at work co-creating the Synergy Engine at the Foundation for Conscious Evolution.
Holacratic Organizational Empowerment
Many integral thinkers are aware of Holacracy, a next-level operating system whose intent is to liberate organizations to fulfill their evolutionary purpose. Its founder, Brian Robertson, drawing on Agile Software Development, Lean Manufacturing, Sociocracy, Integral Theory and other approaches, has synthesized a coherent integral organizational practice that aims to function far beyond the level of its predecessor methodologies.
Robertson and others associated with Holacracy are trying to forge and disseminate a true integral “killer app” that can radically increase organizational intelligence, efficiency and success (especially in turbulent conditions), while helping to grow the levels of consciousness in the organization’s employees. The practice also has the potential to meshwork multiple organizational contexts via a series of interlinked transformational practices.
One of Holacracy’s guiding principles that dramatically increases agility, transparency, innovation, and accountability is “dynamic steering”, which shifts organizations from the “predict and control” mindset to a spontaneous, creative “sense and respond” mindset.
Through a gestalt of meeting practices, governance structures, and decision-making processes that focus on the organization as an entity with a purpose that deserves to be liberated, rather than on stakeholders with needs to be met, Holacracy deconstructs the inefficiency that currently handicaps most organizations, allowing difficult decisions to be made smoothly and quickly, and providing pathways for the organization’s choices to be informed – but not bogged down — by the distributed intelligence of every member of the team.
It’s still early in the game, of course. Human relations are notoriously resistive to transformation, but if Holacracy fulfills its potentials, it will enable organizations and individuals to transcend the plane of human relations in service to the organization’s positive purpose. Holacracy intends to:
- Empower organizations and the individuals within them to take meaningful action in service of authentic evolutionary purposes.
- Provide a viable, creative alternative to the zero-sum battle between exclusively profit-driven corporations and regulation-driven solutions to their excesses.
- Synergize cooperation and competition, creating a mechanism through which higher purpose, systemic health, and integrity can succeed via marketplace efficiency rather than top-down regulation.
- Empower creative efficient cooperation among organizations (crossing boundaries between private and profitable, non-profit, governmental, and community organizations), thus generating a mechanism for next-level win-win dynamics within and across organizational neighborhoods.
Let There Be Game-Changers
There’s no way to know if the Synergy Engine or Holacracy will fulfill their full promise. But they are both concrete examples of metasystemic good works that are expressions of integral evolutionary consciousness.
Imagine many such “integral good works” — each one a potential “game-changer” that can transform fundamental social, cultural, physical, or personal dynamics.
When even one such integral “killer app” begins to bear fruit on a significant scale, culture will rapidly begin adjusting to that striking information.
Higher-order integral evolutionary thinking will then be validated — not just theoretically, but in practice. Just as the acceptance of Einstein’s theory of relativity became tacit and universal after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the significant efficacy of any example of integral good works will validate integral evolutionary consciousness itself.
“The Integral Killer App Challenge”
So we, personally and collectively, have a koan to ponder: can we identify potential integral good works? Where will our integral killer apps come from? How can you and I help facilitate their emergence? How can we make sure they can attract needed funding or markets?
As I see it, this is one of the most important tasks of the still-nascent integral evolutionary movement — birthing a whole new category of “good works.”
One or more of them, sooner or later (and as soon as possible!) will prove to be among the “killer apps” that will serve as a “tipping point” for the widespread emergence of integral evolutionary culture.
So I suggest we all take it seriously. Because this is a project of inherent, structural importance, it will proceed without any sponsoring organization (although that might be nice too!). Like the “X Prize” for rocketry, or the race to map the human genome, the “Integral Killer App Challenge” is a shared public imperative, a critical target for leading-edge practical innovations that beckons us all.
The prize? — the eventual gratitude and admiration of a world deeply in need of this service (although at first, the sincere appreciation of the much smaller integral “community of the adequate.”)
Ready? Set? Go!