New course material in the Applied Wisdom curriculum

New course material is now available in the Wikiversity Applied Wisdom curriculum.

A new course “Beyond Theism” is available at:

A new module on “Examining Ideologies” is available at:

These materials benefited from comments on early drafts provided by Alan Rayner and others.

I hope students find them useful.

Wisdom at the Khan Academy

The Khan Academy provides thousands of instructional videos for free to anyone around the world with an internet connection. The Academy reaches about 10,000,000 students per month and has delivered over 300,000,000 lessons.  It is a powerful force for advancing knowledge, worldwide.

What would change if the Khan Academy became wisdom-based rather than knowledge-based? If the Khan Academy agreed to create 10-20 (or even 100-200) new videos that were wisdom-based what would you like the topics (and content) of those videos to be? If Sal Khan asked to meet with you to understand what the Academy should do differently next week, next month, or next year, to transform from knowledge-based to wisdom-based what specific requests and recommendations would you offer?

Specifically, what changes would you advise the Khan Academy to make to bring wisdom to life?

From Nitpicky to Philosopher’s Wiki

Nitpicking is a hot topic within the Global Circle. At its best it is a valuable exercise of critical thinking skills, and it can often serve to identify weak points in thinking and communicating ideas. Ideas forged by the gauntlet of critical inquiry come out stronger. Nitpicking certainly seems to be good sport!

But nitpicking can easily degenerate into destructive bickering. It is a communication style more contentious and often less illuminating than dialogue, and a mode of construction quite apart from appreciative inquiry. In drawing attention to details, it may distract us from the bigger picture. It is rarely the shortest path toward insight. Most importantly, it often just dissipates into a tedious back and forth and is rarely resolved into a new, better, and cohesive work.

The Wiki is a modern collaborative construct that can redirect the critical energy of nitpicking into creating an ever-improving presentation of ideas. A wiki invites all users to edit any page or to create new pages within the wiki website using only a Web browser. The encyclopedia project Wikipedia provides an example where collaboration, critical thinking, and contention are continuously channeled into creating a remarkable repository of knowledge.

A few simple but powerful features assist the collaborators. A “Talk” page accompanies each Wikipedia article to provide a forum for discussing the current page content.  Talk pages allow anyone to express their ideas for improving the article, raise critical questions, or offer points of view not yet fully addressed in the article.  The often passionate discussions and debate are preserved on the talk page as an important adjunct to the article that currently appears. Talk pages give nitpicking a path forward toward resolution and expression in the article itself.

The most powerful features of a Wiki encourage collaborative editing. Any user can edit any page at any time. This provides an opportunity for users who see a way to improve an article to take direct action and make the change. This is the Wiki response to that classic call to action: “Put up or shut up.” Changes are recorded in the “View History” page associated with each article showing the order in which changes were made, and identifying the user making each change. This provides a way to control changes, provide security, and encourage trustworthiness. Edits that are unhelpful in improving that article content can be easily undone and the page reverts to its previous content.

A Wiki encourages meaningful topic associations between different pages by simplifying page link creation. The result is a highly integrated, well structured, and easily accessible collection of ideas that continues to grow and improve.

Can a Wiki unleash the collaborate energy of today’s philosophers and channel their efforts into a cohesive collection of the wisest ideas ever created?  We can easily find out because the Global Circle has a Wiki available for members to use.  The Global Circle Wiki is linked from the right-hand panel of each blog page. Please take a look. I am ready to help any member who wants to get started. Let me know what you want to do and we will work together to make it happen. You can identify any existing blog article or email thread that you would like to recreate as a Wiki page and I will work with you to make it happen. Perhaps we can collect and organize responses to several of the questions posed on the blog to provide a structure that makes it clear the questions we are exploring and what questions are being answered. Of course you can edit any of the existing pages, or create a new page.  The Global Circle Wiki uses discussion threads, accessed through the “conversation icon,” instead of a talk page. The revision history is accessed using the “Clock” icon.

Now we have the original email list, the blog, and the Wiki. Is this too much? Won’t all this get confusing? Where do I start? Can’t this be simplified? Certainly opinions will differ, but I will suggest an orderly way to use this rich structure.  I call this “percolate and trickle” to reflect the gradient of volatility and coherence the three media provide.

  1. Email is the most fluid and transient medium. Announcements, timely questions, and some discussion take place via the email list.
  2. The blog is “discussion central” where a topic or thesis statement begins as a blog post, and deliberation takes place through comments and discussion threads.
  3. The wiki is an ongoing reference work of our “findings.” The wiki is a structured repository for the “results” of deliberation described above. Nonmembers can go here first to explore a structured presentation of our refined ideas.
  4. We cross link heavily to integrate the media.
  5. These are guidelines at best, individual users will use the various media in ways they are most comfortable.

Please jump in. I am looking forward to seeing every member get a good start with the Wiki. I believe that effective Wiki use will soon become an essential skill of the modern philosopher. Let’s get started using the Wiki to bring wisdom to life.

Would it be helpful to engage Mensa International in Bringing Wisdom to Life?

Mensa International is the largest and oldest high IQ society in the world. Part of their stated mission is to foster human intelligence for the benefit of humanity. See:

Would it be wise to engage their organization or interested members more directly in Bringing Wisdom to Life? Perhaps we could begin a dialogue on the common interests of a our two groups, the distinction between “smart” and “wise”, and identify what more they can do to increase and apply wisdom.

They have about 110,000 members world wide. If we could mobilize them in making wise decisions and taking wise action it could be an important force for doing good. See:

Do any of the Global Circle members have direct experience with Mensa? What ideas do we have for approaching them on this topic?

theory + practice = solutions

Dear Global Circle,

What *exactly* can . . .

a) an undergraduate student
b) a student applying for postgraduate qualification
c) a student in the middle of postgraduate qualification
d) a faculty member
e) a fully-fledged Professor

. . . do to make step-by-step progress today?


Allan McKenna

P.s. feel free to change and improve this question set in any way. It is just a beginning.

(Copied here as a blog post with permission of the original author.)

Introducing Collective Wisdom Index Alpha

Following up on the blog post “Toward a Wisdom Index” this post introduces the first such index, “Collective Wisdom Index Alpha.” I look forward to hearing your comments and feedback on this nascent effort.

The index recognizes two conditions:

  1. The level of wisdom or folly that emerges from a group is largely independent of the wisdom of the individual group members.
  2. There are many concepts of wisdom and few efforts to measure it.

Therefore it is presented tentatively as version 0.1 of one member of a family of indices I hope can be created.

I encourage you to put this index to use. Use it to assess the various groups you participate in. Perhaps it can directly help us to improve academic philosophy. If those of you who are members of, or connected to, academic philosophy departments use this index to assess and improve the collective wisdom of those departments, it may represent a step forward.

Would it be useful for us to use the index to evaluate the performance of this Global Circle?

What do you think?

Thanks for your consideration of this on-going work.

Toward a Wisdom Index

Where is wisdom coming alive? How can we best assess the level of wisdom of an individual, a group, an organization, an institution, a nation or the world? Developing a reliable wisdom index can provide visibility of where wisdom is thriving and where it is lacking—based on objective measures. Various Individuals or groups striving to increase their wisdom could use the index to assess their current status, identify specific areas for improvement, and measure progress along the journey toward wisdom.

Several existing indices designed to measure positive outcomes provide a range of useful models we can learn from in designing a wisdom index. These include the:

  • Global Peace Index —measures the relative position of nations’ and regions’ peacefulness,
  • Human Development Index — a composite statistic of life expectancy, education, and income indices used to rank countries into four tiers of human development,
  • Happy Planet Index — an index of human well-being and environmental impact weighted to give progressively higher scores to nations with lower ecological footprints,
  • Environmental Performance Index — a method of quantifying and numerically benchmarking the environmental performance of a state’s policies,
  • Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index® — daily assessment of U.S. residents’ health and well-being,
  • Global Innovation Index — recognizes the key role of innovation as a driver of economic growth and prosperity and acknowledges the need for a broad horizontal vision of innovation that is applicable to both developed and emerging economies,
  • Democracy Index — measures the state of democracy in 167 countries,
  • Gross national happiness —measures quality of life or social progress in more holistic and psychological terms than the economic indicator of gross domestic product,
  • Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award recognizes U.S. organizations in the business, health care, education, and nonprofit sectors for performance excellence, and
  • this list of freedom indices.

A useful assessment instrument and index will:

  • Accurately reflect a well-conceived definition of wisdom,
  • Rely on observations, data, and measurements that can be reliably obtained,
  • Be easy to use,
  • Provide valid, reliable, and repeatable results,
  • Provide results that are easy to interpret,
  • Be perceived as providing an accurate assessment of wisdom,
  • Provide a wisdom model that encourages learning how to increase wisdom,
  • Identify specific areas for improvement so that the assessed organization can use the assessment results to guide their improvement efforts, and
  • Be freely available.

Developing an index will begin by choosing a definition of wisdom. Many have been suggested, and several useful definitions are collected in the Wikiversity course on wisdom.

Next the definition of wisdom needs to be translated into operational terms—observable and measurable behaviors. A few instruments have been developed for assessing the wisdom of a particular individual. These include:

New instruments for assessing organizational wisdom need to be developed. These may be based on measures of well-being of members and stakeholders and might also consider environment, inputs, and results of the organization as a whole.

After the assessment instrument is designed it needs to be validated, calibrated, and then put into use.

What are your thoughts on this proposal? Would such an index help bring wisdom to life? What should the design of the index include? How can we best create, apply, and report results from such an index? How would you like to contribute to this project?

Questions Queue

I propose this as a place Global Circle members pose questions they believe are vitally important, will serve to provide insight, and are within the scope of the Global Circle. Members are encouraged to contribute answers, pointers to existing resources that provide partial answers, refinements of the questions, and related questions. Links to answers being developed are included. Members are also encouraged to indicate the urgency and importance they attribute to the question. Please offer your comments via reply to this post. I’ll update this list as comments are received.

Here is the current list of questions:

    1. What is the aim and purpose of the Global Circle? How is the Global Circle differentiated from other groups of philosophers, other discussion groups, and other organizations working on global problems? In a paragraph or two, how do you describe the aim and purpose you would ideally like to see?
    2. Imagine the world as you would like it to be; as you believe it ultimately can be. Please describe this world. What makes that world good? What makes that world better than other concepts of desirable future worlds? What is of value in life, and how is it to be realized? What stages do you foresee the world transforming through to attain that wise world.
    3. What is the most pervasive obstacle slowing progress toward that wise world?
    4. What matters most?
    5. What educational curriculum best prepares people to live wisely?
    6. What is the most important action that can be taken to increase progress toward the wise world we envision?
    7. What are the grand challenges the world now faces?
    8. How can government effectiveness best be assessed? How can government effectiveness best be improved?
    9. How can bureaucracies learn to make wiser decisions?
    10. How can the general populace become wiser?
    11. How can we best assess the level of wisdom of an individual, a group, an organization, an institution, a nation or the world? Where is wisdom coming to life?
    12. What unfounded assumptions do we allow to go unchallenged? Which ones are most consequential?
    13. What forces, if any, work to align legal justice with moral justice?