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Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

This event took place on Monday 26 June. You can watch the recording below.

In this Nesta talks to… James Bridle, writer, artist, and technologist was in conversation with Nesta’s Laurie Smith to explore the concept of intelligence and its implications for our humanity in a technology-driven world.

Planetary intelligence is a trending topic which Bridle explores in their book Ways of Being, discussing how artificial intelligence (AI) and emerging technologies relate to our understanding of intelligence and the environment. James suggests that intelligence is not solely a human attribute but can be observed in various forms and relationships. They emphasise that intelligence is dynamic, embodied, and relational and challenges the notion that human intelligence is unique. James explores examples of intelligence found in nature, mentioning the "wood wide web" where trees communicate and share resources through underground fungal networks. By examining such examples James emphasised the importance of recognizing the diverse intelligences present in the world, often overshadowed by our focus on AI.

On the concept of collective intelligence, Laurie and James discussed how AI algorithms can offer alternative search patterns and problem-solving approaches. For instance, octopi exhibit what they call “confederated intelligence” within a single body, while bees engage in a voting democratic process for decision-making. By combining human intuition with AI's expansive search capabilities, novel and unexpected solutions can emerge. For example, citizens' assemblies, randomly selected from the population, showcase collective intelligence in governance, leading to innovative and inclusive decision-making.

Laurie and James also touched on the idea of acknowledging and engaging with non-human intelligence in politics. Bridle suggests exploring ways to represent and advocate for non-human entities which would require recognizing and granting equal rights to all beings. Overcoming the notion of human superiority is vital to address the ecological crisis and acknowledge our interdependence with other species. Therefore, a cultural shift towards respecting and preserving diverse ecologies is essential for safeguarding our own future.

From planetary intelligence to collective decision-making, recognizing diverse intelligences and engaging with non-human perspectives is crucial for developing our relationship with technology and the natural world.

The opinions expressed in this event recording are those of the speaker. For more information, view our full statement on external contributors.



Laurie Smith


Laurie leads on strategic foresight for Nesta. He oversees much of the organisation's research into emerging trends, novel technologies and promising interventions. Prior to joining Nesta he worked at the Royal Society, the UK's national academy of science, where he most recently led on emerging technologies and futures. Previously he worked at the Academy of Medical Sciences on policy around medical science, public health and international health.