​The Karma Project: Diversity and Impact of Emergent Collective Intelligence and Consciousness
TWCF Number
Project Duration
December 30 / 2016
- December 29 / 2018
Core Funding Area
Big Questions
South America
Amount Awarded
Grant DOI*

* A Grant DOI (digital object identifier) is a unique, open, global, persistent and machine-actionable identifier for a grant.

Anuraj Shankar
Institution The President and Fellows of Harvard College

The Karma Project (TKP) seeks to define the emergent collective intelligence that transcends the capabilities of individual humans. We hypothesize that the connectivity and flow of beliefs, emotions, actions, and thoughts (BEATs) between people, families, and communities create a collective brain (CB). When humans nurture this ever-developing consciousness, it can help an individual’s actions shape the future of the greater community. In other words: Karma.

In a landmark 2010 study, Woolley A et al. demonstrated group level performance on cognitive tests exceeded the abilities of the individuals. In 2016, Tononi and Koch summarized quantifiable elements of consciousness in systems. These two concepts have yet to be explored in the context of multiple collective cognitive domains, and factors that influence them remain unknown. We plan to:

1. Visualize the CB through social media and chat bot technology to create an information and communication platform that tracks BEAT flow between people.
2. Characterize the CB requirements and abilities using dynamic network analysis and bot technology to perform cognitive and socio-emotional assessments of specific characteristics and connectedness in selected groups and individuals.
3. Via #2 and #3, track the response of groups to stressors, and assess associations between emergent abilities, adaptation, and resilience.

The work will be carried out in low-income urban communities in São Paulo and Jakarta that face multiple stressors (e.g., violence, water, money). By learning to nurture the CB, we could enhance resilience at the community and individual level. Our hope is to catalyze solutions to problems as diverse as social inequality and non-communicable disease.

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