Many diverse individuals and groups have intelligence and resources to apply to shared situations. So minimize alienation, domination and conformity while encouraging and creatively engaging many diverse voices and players. Enable them to call forth, organize and tap their vast collective intelligence, resourcefulness and parallel processing capacity for better solutions.
Some related patterns: 18 Consulting and Abiding by Willingness
26 Diversity 34 Felt Agency 37 Fullness of Choice 55 Multi-Modal Power 84 Tackling Cognitive Limitations 90 Well-Utilized Life Energy
Collective Distributed Intelligence – going deeper …
This is an edited version of the video on this page.
To really understand this pattern, we need to get beyond the common but limited notion that intelligence is something that exists inside individual people’s heads. We need to see intelligence as a generic capacity – as the capacity to learn, to solve problems, to understand things in ways that actually makes sense of the world. Defined this way, we see that intelligence can happen collectively. Groups or whole societies can be intelligent. They can have that capacity to learn and make sense.
There are lots of different collective manifestations of intelligence. In this case, we’re looking at the phenomenon where a larger collective intelligence comes about through engagement with the distributed intelligence of many individuals and groups. In other words, many people are engaging in this collective intelligence-generating activity or capacity.
Among the many interesting ways to understand collective intelligence is to explore the parallels between individual intelligence and collective intelligence. Consider the role of perception in intelligence. You have to be able to see what’s going on in order to think about it. And then there’s memory, which we call upon as part of our intelligent reflections – reflection being another aspect of intelligence. Perception, memory and reflection are all vital to what most people think of as learning.
Now, those are clear for individual intelligence. But what are perception, memory and reflection at a collective level. Well, for collective public perception, we have sensors, scientific sensors, all over the world, and we have people gathering statistics and journalists gathering news and all that. This is like a collective form of perception. And then we have databases and libraries, which are forms of collective memory. The arts and philosophy, etc., can be considered collective forms of reflection. Various forms of research and science constitute collective learning. We also can watch the mass experience and evolution of entire societies or groups. Things happen collectively to that whole society or group and we see commentators and others talking about various angles on those events in various media, and that becomes a form of collective learning.
So this is a big part of the leap we’re taking with this pattern. You leap from individual intelligence to what collective intelligence is all about. There are all these different manifestations of that that we can study. I have been studying collective intelligence for about 30 years – and it is fascinating!
Let’s look at some interesting examples that have been developing recently. The whole idea of open source – like Wikipedia – having lots of people stepping in to create or organize knowledge together and having things set up so that they can do that. There are many online collaboration tools – this is a new form of an increased capacity for collective distributed intelligence.
Crowdsourcing is another example: Many people crowdfund their initiatives and companies crowdsource innovations and solutions. A company may have an engineering or marketing problem, and they’ll send out an invitation: “We will give $10,000 to whoever comes up with the best solution to this problem!” They’ll send it out into the world and all sorts of people will compete to come up with the best solution. Whoever wins, the company’s got thousands of responses to their question – and for $10,000, that may actually be very cheap for them compared to hiring someone to find the solution – although they may just offer $1000, or whatever. I am just saying they are gathering and sourcing all this thinking, tapping into the vast parallel processing potential that exists in society. We stimulate many people to think about something and feed their insights into some central location where it can be used or accessed.