On the Origins of Genius
The etymology of this term goes back to ancient Rome, where the genius (plural in Latin genii) was the guiding spirit or tutelary deity of a person, family (gens), or place (genius loci). The noun is related to the Latin verb genui, genitus, “to bring into being, create, produce”, as well as to the Greek word for birth. Because the achievements of exceptional individuals seemed to indicate the presence of a particularly powerful genius, by the time of Augustus, the word began to acquire its secondary meaning of “inspiration, talent”. The term genius acquired its modern sense in the eighteenth century, and is a conflation of two Latin terms: genius, as above, and Ingenium, a related noun referring to our innate dispositions, talents, and inborn nature. Beginning to blend the concepts of the divine and the talented, the 18th-Century Encyclopédie article on genius (génie) describes such a person as “he whose soul is more expansive and struck by the feelings of all others; interested by all that is in nature never to receive an idea unless it evokes a feeling; everything excites him and on which nothing is lost.”
Genius and Possibility…
Chapter One of “Enabling Genius: A Mindset for Success in the 21st Century” by Myles Downey and the Enabling Genius Project Team is on “The Meaning of Genius” and provides a brief history of the term. This excerpt is from “The Possibility”, the final section of that chapter:
|“So we have genius as an external (guiding) spirit (unique to each and every person), as one’s innate talents, as one’s genetic inheritance, as a thing, an event, a manifestation or a moment. We have genius as the preserve of the few, which traps the rest of us in mediocrity. Many meanings. A dictionary definition, The Chambers Dictionary 11th Edition, has this to say:
Consummate intellectual, creative, or other power, more exalted than talented, a person endowed with this; the special inborn faculty of any individual; a special taste or natural disposition.
The root is given as Latin, from gignere, genitum; to beget. And beget, in turn, means to produce or cause. (Genius is only genius when there is a result.) Of course the bit I like is “the special inborn faculty of any person”.
Risking utter pedantry, “genius” is a word. Words are things to which we attach meaning. No word has innate meaning. If words had innate meaning, there would be no need for the roughly 6,500 identified languages that humans have invented – nor all the attendant dialects and regional variations. We frequently relate to words as if they did have innate meaning, which merely results in a stuckness of mind and is a bar to creativity and possibility. As the story here illustrates, the conception of genius is a reflection of a particular society at a particular time. The current concept of genius simply does not serve us as human beings seeking to explore what we are capable of. Worse than that, it actually limits us. There is another possibility and this is the project team’s proposition, maybe even a provocation or challenge, which is that genius is available to all.”
We are collectively creating change and increasing complexity at a rate far greater than our current demonstrated abilities to understand and respond systemically. And yet our collective intelligence, imagination and creativity are staggering – representing a vast, currently largely untapped, treasure trove of global genius.
The scale and complexity of the challenges we collectively face requires from us a new holistic inter-connected “seeing” (or perhaps a “re-seeing”) to access remarkable expanded capacities and capabilities we might not have realised that we have. Our current social systems, based on finite win-lose end-games, running on outdated and outmoded “Operating Systems”, are myopically and mechanistically stifling the originality, creativity and genius of each and every one of us. We can transition and transform to systems based on the infinite game of life, where the rules change, adapt and evolve to continue playing. A new global “Renaissance” is beckoning…
Of course, systemic change doesn’t happen overnight but, with the incredible technologies available now, and the co-creative genius of humanity, combining with artificial and natural intelligence, it is genuinely possible to more rapidly reveal, connect, “match”, design, develop, synergize and scale the most promising responses to (dis)solving our complex and wicked problems. These are extraordinary “VUCA” times (Volatile; Uncertain; Complex; Ambiguous) presenting extraordinary opportunities.
The art & science of a new type of “GPS”: enabling, supporting and advancing “Generative Possibility Systems“, unleashing the greatest in all, of all, for all
One such response might be to consciously, creatively and collaboratively curate the emergence of an “OS” for Humanity. For us, “OS” also stands for Open Source, and the “O” in “Operating System” represents much more too: used in this expanded sense it is also “Opening, Orienting, Original, Originating, Organizing, Outcome-valued, Organic, and Oneness-inspired. The “S” represents the Stories, Structures and Systems(-of-systems), and Self, Soul and Spirit, that together enable, support and advance the whole, at all scales of human activity, and all life, continually unleashing individual and collective genius for the greatest benefit.
The overarching purpose is to catalyze, accelerate, federate and multiply ongoing genius work, to more rapidly emerge the inclusive enabling systemic conditions, by design, for thrilling, extraordinary flourishing, peace, progress and thrivability of people and planet for as long as humanity exists…
Deeply inspired by the genius of nature and each other, of Life itself, and a genius Universe, in all its majesty and mystery, enter: Genius OS. We stand on the shoulders of many giants, including over thirty-five years of “Group Genius” work by Matt & Gail Taylor and many who have worked with them and built on their “kernel” in their own work. We see Genius OS through a “lens” of “Gen-I-Us” – i.e. the Generative Genius in I & Us – similar to the notion, from African origin, of Ubuntu, meaning, essentially, “I Am Because We Are”, and its complement “We Are Because I Am”.
We think of Genius OS as “HEARTware” for enabling, supporting and advancing Holistic Evolutionary Authentic Regenerative Thriving living systems through providing caring, creative, collaborative systemic innovation architecture for continually realising our highest generative potentials. Hence, “GenIUS” represents the Generative Intelligence of Unifying Systems, synergizing the collective genius of human, artificial and natural intelligence.
Over the course of human history, our progress has essentially been driven by an ability to imagine what might be possible, and then to make it so…
Genius OS could be likened to a “Linux kernel” for an “eco-socio-technical OS” and a profound game-changing “Infinite Games Engine”, further enabling, supporting and “levelling up” humanity. Our tools and technologies would be co-evolving with us and with Nature, continually tapping in to and expanding and enriching the local and global “possibility field”, an extraordinary and inexhaustible source of energy and inspiration for all.
Genius OS is not intended as a single, prescriptive solution – life is fortunately far too diverse and complex for that! The biggest enabling factor is the generative holistic “lens” or mindset that “Gen-I-Us” represents. The idea is to “simply” (but no simpler, as Einstein noted!) co-design, develop and continually evolve an open-source “kernel” that others can build upon, adapt, re-name, or whatever they feel they can meaningfully use it for that will be most appropriate for their purpose and will help to accelerate and amplify their net positive contribution to the wellbeing of all life in their place and context, and share insights and learnings elsewhere too.
It provides an adaptable, resilient, dynamic, ever-evolving living system “kernel” or “possibility base” for “curating emergence for thrivability”, as our good friend Alexander Laszlo, Director of a groundbreaking Doctoral Program in Leadership and Systemic Innovation, nicely puts it.
The shared “programming language” and “orienting ontology” for such an OS perhaps might be a combination of Natural Language Processing, a semiotic and semantic “table of elements” and perhaps something like Globish:
“It is very important that the Globish name is not “English for the World” or even “Simple English.” If its name were any kind of English, the native English speakers would say: “OK, we won. Now all you have to do is speak better English.” Without the name Globish, they will not understand it is a special kind of English, and it is no longer “their” English.
Most native English speakers who understand this should decide they like it. Hopefully they will say: “Now I understand that I am very lucky. Now my language will be changed a little for the rest of the world. Let me do my best, and they can do their best, and we will meet in the middle.”
So Globish is a word that tells native English speakers – and non-native speakers – that Globish has a different meaning.”
Ultimately, however Genius OS emerges and evolves, such a project would better enable us to accelerate the co-evolution of our Capability Infrastructure (Doug Engelbart) synergizing our human systems and tool systems (i.e. our incredible range and variety of technologies, at all scales) with nature. Each and every one of us could choose to be whatever intrinsically fits us best, plus be a “Genius OS Developer” of self and civilization, continually co-designing, developing, adapting and evolving the generative systemic conditions for ongoing exploration, understanding and realization of our highest generative potentials, our individual and collective genius, for as long as we may exist…
These are truly extraordinary times, and more and more of us are imagining and exploring relationships, patterns, perspectives, perceptions and possibilities, from personal to planetary, from quantum to cosmic scales of reality…bring it on!