The "Extended Mind Thesis" posits that our computational organs—the things we use to think—are not limited to our brains, but in fact extend throughout our bodies and into the world around us.
In practice, that means our minds are also contained in our writing, in our tools, like computers, on networks like the internet, and in potentially any other mechanism we might use to help us crunch numbers, store data, or connect with new information.
We have brains that help orchestrate all this activity, in other words, but our brains are juggling inputs and outputs and collaborations between a slew of components existing within and beyond what we might typically consider to be our bodies.
"Collective Intentionality" is a philosophical concept that addresses how people work together to accomplish goals beyond the capabilities of a single person.
The archetypical example used in theorizing about this concept is moving a heavy table upstairs: a task that's beyond the physical capabilities of a single person, but which two people can manage without much trouble as long as they collaborate appropriately.
The theory of collective intentionality is that when we engage in such tasks with other people, our intentions—and thus, some aspect of our thinking—syncs up with that of the other person.
According to one perspective on this theory, that means Person 1 demonstrates that they intend to move the table upstairs, Person 2 sees this intention, believes it, and indicates that they likewise intend to move the table, and these intentions locked in and believed, both people then engage in a collective dance of cooperation to achieve this multi-person goal as a temporary, collective organism.
Belief that such goals are achievable is thought to be quite important to this process, and the communication of this belief from each person to all other involved parties is likewise thought to be vital. Lacking such shared belief, the syncing of intentions and thus, actions, won't necessarily take place. And the consequence of such asynchronicity is that it's painfully cumbersome moving the table, or you keep bumping into things and scratching up the walls, or you fail to get it up the stairs and decide to try something else.
Some philosophers have carved up this concept to take into account economic theories related to self-serving behaviors, and how such behaviors, at times, can—theoretically at least—lead to optimal collective outcomes.
There's evidence that self-serving behavior while driving, for instance, can lead to more efficient traffic with less congestion, and in some cases markets behave more rationally and predictably, with overall better outcomes for everyone, if people act in their own best interest, rather than attempting to consciously behave as part of a collective.
The collective is served by the individual serving themselves, in other words.
In this context, these differing behaviors are sometimes labeled "I-intentions" and "We-intentions," and some philosophers posit that an I-intention cannot overlap with a We-intention—they're different, mutually exclusive things—while others suggest that I-intentions might actually be sub-components of larger We-intentions: we might believe we're behaving selfishly, but in reality we're cogs in a larger machine and our selfish acts, as long as they don't directly conflict with the will of the "we" of which we're a part, are playing a role in that meta-scale, umbrella-effort.
What's especially interesting about this concept is in some estimations it moderates behaviors as simple as taking a walk with a friend, with both parties adjusting their pace, posture, vocal volume, and even emotional state to align with their partner, usually subconsciously, but it may also extend to encompass a globe-spanning cognitive-mesh of which we're all a part: an extended brain the size of the planet—even larger than that, actually, since we're sending our thinking-tools off-world, as well.
It also gives us some additional frameworks and language to apply to diplomatic and trust-related concepts, like game theory and alliance-building, as even some types of competition and hostility, through this lens, can be perceived as cooperation (and thus, alchemized into something mutually beneficial) if we approach such conflicts appropriately.
Brain Lenses is part of the Understandary project portfolio.
You can find the Brain Lenses podcast at brainlenses.com or wherever you get your podcasts.