The Global SoS Network

Streamlining Collective Intelligence Towards Sustainable Development [Beta version]  



The post-WWII Marshall Plan brings to mind Germany as an excellent case in point for the streamlining of collective intelligence. For most practical purposes, that country was bombed right into underdeveloped status towards the end of World War II. How did Germany emerge from ruin to developed status so expediently? To put the question into a more useful SoS perspective: What is the identity of the bottleneck... the System-of-Systems constraint that blocks emergence for so many nations, taking into account all the  resources that have been invested over so much time?


Economics Professor David Henderson attributes the success to economic measures implemented by the allies on Germany. In his Article "German Economic Miracle," he points out how elimination of price controls and monetary reform were the main catalysts. However, those are the exact same recommendations that the International Monetary Fund has been making and helping implement in countries in the South for many years. It is evident that the results have been less than stellar.


Thanks to Germany's economic miracle we now know that Germans somehow managed to streamline and focus their collective intelligence in a successful way. We also know that a very important factor that allowed for Germans to streamline their collective intelligence was the quality of their postal service.  When a country enjoys adequate postal services, its society has the attributes of an information society. Of course, after WWII, in accordance with the technological progress of the era, the information society was a paper-based one. 


The Global SoS network has determined that a paper-based information society has the capability to eliminate restraints to trade. The network has also found that an ICT-based information society must first have postal services as a foundation so that the Internet can complement the service offered by the postal administration.





During the time in question, quality postal services created various facets of an information society, of which we shall inspect three. This means that in effect, Germany and much of Europe consisted of information-driven societies even before the term was invented.


Firstly, traditional German postal services nurtured impersonal exchange that rates so highly on Dr. Douglass North´s scale. Impersonal exchange made markets much larger than they would be otherwise. In fact, German and other European markets were growing at an accelerated rate even before the Marshall Plan was initiated. Secondly, postal services gave Germans the capacity to streamline their collective intelligence in order to make the collective financial effort to rebuild the destroyed German infrastructure.


In the third place, adequate postal services allowed for the creation of teledemocratic mailstreams with which Germans and other Europeans regulated the activities of their Public Sector System. The story of adequate postal systems in Europe after World War II seems to be a textbook case of how to develop a country.


There is another quality that those three facets helped emerge. It was, and still is, trust. It has been said that when people trust the mail, they can trust their government. When the mail service is adequate, then trust transcends space and time. When people can trust that their bills and checks will arrive to their correspondents and that they can communicate readily with their representatives in government, then collective intelligence takes on a life of its own. Collective intelligence acquires emergent qualities that can make any nation a developed nation with an eco-social market.


Trust is studied by by Kenneth Newton in the Oxford Book of Political Behavior, Chapter 18, titled "Social and Political Trust." There Newton points out how luminaries like Confucius, Hobbes, Locke, Adam Smith, John Stuart Mills, and others like Max Weber all talked of the need and importance of social trust.  Trust is also an important idea for the great political thinker Alexis de Tocqueville.


Streamlined collective intelligence helps trade grow because when there is collective trust, everyone can focus on hard work and trade. Just as Nobel Laureate Douglass North points out, there is collective trust and much larger markets because business owners do not have to see their clients or suppliers personally in order to trade. People also trust that any dispute can be settled economically by the judicial system, which because of adequate postal services can act expediently -for example to send summonses in order to dispense justice.




For further examination, probably the first item that should be looked at is the history of the Tassi family, who created the modern European postal service as a result of centuries of providing postal service for the Holy Roman Empire starting in Italy, and then throughout the European continent. By the time the family changed their name to Thurn und Taxis in the 17th Century, they had already been established in the European postal business for around two hundred years.


Surely there is a wealth of research material that will uncover what as of now can only be deduced. In 1843, the Thurn-und-Taxis-Post company had a very sophisticated distribution network in Germany and through most of Europe. The ingrained postal tradition in Germany is witness to the unique fact that such a large logistics network as DHL is owned by a national postal administration, Deutsche Post. The German postal culture underlined an information society, which may also help answer why so much was accomplished in so short a time after World War II.


With Germany as a budding powerhouse, the economies of every Marshall Plan recipient state had surpassed pre-war levels by 1952. Certainly, the only way for people to manage that kind of growth is by streamlining their collective intelligence in a way that they can  build a large market, build and maintaining a robust infrastructure, and regulate Public Sector activities through a constituent-legislator mailstream.


Creating and maintaining civil infrastructure must have been such an expensive undertaking that it could only have been done if everyone paid their fair share. That collective effort must have required adequate postal services. Only with adequate postal services, utilities and infrastructure managers could have counted upon revenue streams with which to confront the colossal task of rebuilding a devastated landscape.



What applies to war-ravaged countries with a strong postal-service tradition applies to present-day underdeveloped countries that cannot yet rely upon adequate postal services. Most, if not all, underdeveloped countries are below what the Universal Postal Union calls the postal divide. 


The fact is that for a nation to become developed, it must become an information society. All citizens must be able to streamline their collective intelligence in a way that they can make the collective effort of:

  • contributing financially to the construction and upkeep of infrastructure,
  • trading impersonally, and
  • communicating  with public officials in a practical, economic manner.

It all sounds very democratic. And it is. In the first instance, the collective effort is the result of streamlining collective intelligence towards creating the sustainable infrastructure platform David Singleton, Global Planning Leader for Arup, has talked about. Adequate postal services also help answer the question posed by David Singleton regarding how best to convey sustainable infrastructure as a priority for sustainable development.


For a country to become developed, postal services must be adequate enough so that society can focus its collective intelligence onto the construction and maintenance of its infrastructure. Adequate postal services are the sociotechnical tool with which a collective effort can create the revenue streams necessary for financing the sustainability of infrastructure.


The second development is also necessary. Impersonal trade over time and space is something that a rich nation cannot do without. It is sufficient to imagine a rich nation like, for example the U.S. without adequate postal services. If people could not mail their checks because of the fear they would be pilffered at the post office. How would it affect trade? would consumer spending be as high as it is today? There are many other scary scenarios. What would happen to the US infrastructure if utilities were not able to bill everyone over the mail?


The third condition is essential. Studies have shown that US constituents contact their legislators millions of times per month using both the Internet and the US Postal Service. US Presidents also know how to wield teledemocratic mailstreams. For example, in 2003 President Bush called Americans to contact their legislators so that Congress would approve the funds for a US invasion of Iraq. After US constituents obliged, President Bush thanked the American people for their efforts. More recently, President Obama also thanked  Americans for contacting their legislators and thus enabling the Affordable Health Care Act to become approved in the US Congress.




US Vice-President Al Gore was the first to suggest the creation of a Global Marshall Plan. From the point of view of The Global SoS Network, such an endeavour should focus on the SoS environment that helped the original Marshall Plan become so successful.


Al Gore proposes that one of the five strategic goals of the plan should should be the rapid development of environmentally appropriate technologies: A global rollout of adequate postal services, wherever they are required, will meet this requirement.


Developing countries the world over should enjoy a postal service at least as good as the one supplied by the Deutsche Bundespost in the 1950's.


The global rollout of adequate postal services will allow the collective intelligence of citizens in all developing nations make their country emerge out of poverty in an eco-social manner, as the Global Marshall Plan proposes.