Networking and mobilizing collective intelligence

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Nov 8, 2013 (3 years and 7 months ago)





Networking and mobilizing collective

Parker Rossman


Mark Buchanan (2004) wrote about what a billion brains could do,
working collectively. He reported on the teamwork, and cooperation that can be
seen in the very structure of
things. Another kind of `big science for a global
age’ could be seen if all departments of a university, and of many universities
perhaps, all gave a bit of time one year to seeing what they might each
contribute to research on a major global human problem

like terrorism. Yet
Hawley of MIT (2005) notes that the range of student knowledge gets narrower
and narrower, with not enough sharing among fields of study, so “we need to be
concerned about our intellectual ecology.”

Mark Williams (MIT
Technology Revie
, Oct. 2006)

describes “a
“massively multiplayer game”

engaging a worldwide community

that can
lead to a kind of

`collective intelligence’ that can be used “to solve problems
no member could solve alone.

Pierre Lévy has proposed a coordinate system of t
he ‘semantic space’
structured according to a theory of human collective intelligence. Theoretically,
“such an abstract space has infinity of dimensions” but there can be a “more
cognitively managed space called a ‘digital sphere’ that has only 486
ons that can be represented by 486 kinds of ‘digitongs.’ The translation
into digitong “has implications for a global online university project.”

Early in the twentieth century, at a time of worldwide economic depression
and the rise of oppressive total
itarianism, a challenge was issued by H.G. Wells


G. Parker Rossman is a pioneer on the future of the university and the future of global
long learning. A complete biography is at
Reprinted with
n from



(1933). He said that such crises might be resolved through “effective, well
informed, coordinated sustained human thinking about what needed to be done
for humanity as a whole.” This would require
networks of thinking
. In a section on “a global thinking system,” Mayne (1994) examined that
challenge. Wells lamented
the “enormous waste of human mental resources”
on poorly
through schemes
. Democratic governments, he said, give
ian dictators their chance because of a “very slow, slack method of
conducting human affairs.” The solution would combine intelligence and
action, and that would require a better educated and empowered public opinion,
especially through the empowerment of
mature human networks. Bugliarello
(1994) said that human brain power, collective memory and computers can
empower networks for larger problem
solving. How?

Bringing Many Minds Together


When many minds are brought together something unexpected often happens,
they often discover creativity and in
telligence that no one of them has alone.
New technologies coming into being can greatly empower collective
intelligence in solving crucial problems. For new systems to enable that, Tyson
(2007) notes the importance not of the intelligence of the individua
l “but how
smart is the collective brain power of the entire species.” Wikinomics shows
how thousands, even millions can collaborate.

Lifelong learning to everyone in the world requires overcoming many of
the crises seen in the rest of this volume, and tho
se in volume one, chapter one.
Education planners should seek to bring many minds together to do what has
never been possible before. Computer networking can be used to

human intelligence, Denning (1997) said,
rather than just seeking to replace it

Through networking we can draw upon expertise, enable creative thinking and
develop collective intelligence.
However we are just beginning to learn how
, in
part because although researchers engage in a great deal of networking
conversations, too few have

given serious attention to online thinking skills.



Making networking work thus for research planning
is a new art, yet to be
. Georghieu (1996) has described a three
stage process: (1) find and
bring together a panel of experts, (2) consult with s
ources to learn key issues,
trends and possibilities; use Delphi method to distill hundreds of suggestions
into a few basic themes and work areas; (3) experiment with various
alternatives. How now do we expand that and move beyond it to break new
ground in

the use of networking for larger research?

Several investigations have shown that

networks know more than the sum
of their parts.
Rheingold (2003) pointed out. “Connected and communicating in
the right ways, populations of humans can exhibit a kind of col
intelligence” made “possible by the Internet.” Intelligence is not restricted to
individual brains but is often seen in animal and other groups. “There have been
varieties of theories about the Internet as the nervous system of a global brain.

in addition to `artificial intelligence,’ researchers are finding that computers
can enable a kind of `social intelligence’ also. Serious thinking is blossoming
on the Internet. We note an expanding number of efforts.

An early example was the 1997 Transatl
antic Information Exchange
System (
) for conversations to address global problems among universities
and others in Europe and North America. Its steering committee included
members of the E
uropean Union parliament, the Library of Congress, the U.S.
State Department along with similar officials of European governments. Many
less official online conferences are showing how such effective networking
need not be complicated, expensive, or limite
d to officials.

How networking can function was illustrated by the experience of

(Davies 1997). Someone in Ecuador secured a grant from Switzerland
nd organized a volunteer team. Webmasters in Australia and Peru used a
mainframe computer at San Francisco State University. Various phases of the
operation were organized in Costa Rica, learning from a previous online
conference where 456 people from 56 c
ountries had participated over 82,000
times. Nearly five hundred worldwide signed on before the Internet conference
began. Without a funding grant, $15 from each participant would have financed
such a conference for several months. (The equally inexpensive

‘global learn
day’ is, and continues to be, a live, round
world conversation, following the
time zones (Hibbs 1997). In each time zone, students and faculty have talked
live to those in other areas, and from a Hawaii TV station live video of the
rence was ‘streamed to the Internet.’)



For the free
charge United Nations conference on natural disasters
reduction (International Decade of Natural Disaster Reduction UN
1997), anyone concerned about water
related disasters was invited to
pate and to report on specific cases. It brought together specialists, a mix
of professions and staff of key policy
making institutions, local to international.
Arbib (1997) offers another example, the

networking system that
was designed

with a large data base

to link a national emergency planning
office with ten regional centers during a crisis.

Designed to aid in the development of policy, it was networking to a
database, not a simul

It supported a process for two
way sharing of
information, for continually revising the database that was accessible to all who
needed to make informed decisions. It allowed people in different locations to
coordinate their thinking and work so that

they could respond quickly to
emergencies. The computer was not used to solve problems but to help people
do so. The Fermi Lab’s high
energy research has involved planning for “the
collaboration of hundreds of scientists from far flung laboratories all ov
er the

One suggestive metaphor sees online planning conferences as like ‘islands
that form in the ocean from volcanic activity.’ Online planning for mega
research requires bridges to interconnect those many `islands.’ Judge (1997)
described transfo
rmative online conferences with the metaphor of a public
chess game. Periods of silence are interspersed with contributions which fit into
an emerging pattern on which all participants “will be reflecting.”

This process moves beyond current methods of com
munication as
representatives of each scholarly and scientific discipline contribute “specific
ideas, values, facts, problems or relationships.” The process will interweave
into “a complex but healthy ecosystem,”
using a variety of supporting, guiding,
orming, helping roles and will enable collective reflection on more subtle
issues and questions. New challenges and processes will emerge. (Judge 1998)
Much more is now going to be possible.

Suter et al. (2005) new software for collaborative research and learning
that `preserves the
context of face
face conferences; for example.
Such conferences are designed “to sti
mulate ongoing learning and to invigorate


the intellectual and professional lives of participants. They are automatically
introduced to one another along with their special needs and interests. Blogging
and wikis can be used.

Managing Better Collective Th


Across the centuries, whenever scholars have contemplated overwhelming
complexity, they have been tempted by two alternatives: (1) to

(2) to

through specialization and exclusion. The latter alternative has
sometimes led to a loss
of truth, to manipulation and twisting of knowledge,
and at best to overspecialization that neglects other disciplines needed for the
whole truth.

S. B. Shum of the

(UK) Knowledge Media Institute says that researchers
currently lack adequate ways to cont
est and debate ideas (printed exchange
taking months and years) although “multiple perspectives and argumentation
must lie at the heart of any system for it to have credibility”

Ways to disagree
must be built into the process in order for it to have author
ity. To `plug this
gap’ Shum proposes `sense making technologies,’ for example as seen in the
Scholarly Ontologies Project
's publishing as a “semantic network of claim
making.” and ‘Co
mpendium’ “for real
time meeting and group memory
capture.” and the Digital Document Discourse Environment (
).for web
discussion. He also calls attention to his online
Journal of Interactive Media

that has adopted a hybrid private/public conversational peer review model
since 1996.”

Now a third alternative is seen when the Internet expands what scholars
like Smith (1994) call ‘collective intellig
ence’ (CI). Computer networking can
amplify CI to bring
many minds together for deeper, creative, imaginative
collective thinking

on issues like how to extend learning to all.

It can empower thinking
community, collegial thought in which
participants or
ganize their energies to achieve the sum of more than their


separate parts. CI can deal with complexity in ways no one mind alone, nor
even one team alone can do. Suppose that each of a thousand universities
conducted an ongoing seminar on one of humanity’
s crucial issues and
continued it year after year, connecting a worldwide community of experts
online. What existing ‘think tank’ could rival such a process for experimenting
with the possibility of larger and more sustained thinking?

We are warned, howev
er, that ‘too many cooks can spoil the broth,’ that
there is no guarantee that many minds will really come up with new or better
ideas and processes. Indeed, the Carnegie Endowment spent three years and
nearly ten million dollars to bring together the mind
s of well informed and
internationally experienced people, including prominent diplomats, to see if
they could develop some new ideas for resolving international conflicts. The
results were meager (Miller 1998). Perhaps they failed because of the tired old

method of face
face meetings that had no continuing online conversations to
invite many others to contribute ideas?

Hiltz and Turoff (1974) used the term CI for “the ability of a group to
produce a result that is better than any single individual could

achieve alone.”

They pointed out that this can happen in conventional face
face groups, but
rarely yet does. Later they decided (1997) that the merger of the
Delphi Method

Computer Mediated Communications

opens and enlarges the possibility.
Research to develop procedures for implementing collective intelligence online
is not yet very far advanced. Even the term i
s not yet well defined. It has other
meanings, for example in biological study of primitive organisms. So
we prefer
here to illustrate CI, rather than defining it
, by for example noting a group of
Japanese scientists who undertook together a `network adven
ture,’ an effort to
fuse many kinds of expertise in a `group quest’ by experimenting with a
network of minds in an area where no one specialist was adequate to deal with
the whole problem.

French Philosopher Pierre Lévy said that CI is the inevitable resul
t of
intelligent systems that are structurally coupled through electronic mediation
(Pesce 1996). In other words,
connecting intelligences breeds CI and begins to
monitor and correct its own behavior

in a way analogous to the human nervous
system. It maint
ains its integrity through the culling out of the superfluous, the
outdated and any effort to `own’ or monopolize truth.

CI thus
moves beyond hardware engineering to social engineering
. He
sees CI in the construction of intelligent communities online in w


communication tools are used for more than simply “to haul masses of
information around.” Online CI requires and enables the re
creation of a social
bond among scholars who have a common purpose.

CI, he says, unites not only ideas, but people. “It is

a global project whose
ethical and aesthetic dimensions are as important as its technological and
organizational aspects.” He sees CI as a form of “
universally distributed
intelligence, constantly enhanced, coordinated in real time.” No one can know
thing, so only collectively now can scientists know all they need to know

The Cartesian “I know, therefore I am” becomes “We know, therefore we are.”

CI is a continuum and is developed through collective discussion,
negotiation and imagination. He uses a
n analogy from ocean navigation. The
time ship captain's book of information from previous voyages is replaced
by accurate maps and satellite information. Through online collective
intelligence scholars begin to develop knowledge maps in cyberspace. Ne
perhaps something akin to satellite guidance will appear for larger
research. Meanwhile new suggestions include blogs.

Some researchers, thinking together online, report an occasional
experience of synergy that is similar to the surprising and une
xpected things
that begin to happen when isolated nerve cells in a baby's brain begin to
interconnect. We ask if this synergy happens, at least on occasion, as many
minds move beyond limited fragmented thinking and overspecialization to new
kinds of teamwo
rk/thinking by, for example:

enlarging the quantity and quality of thoughts as many minds
test, correct, and stimulate each other;

linking people to report significant experiences or
demonstrations of success in meeting a need or solving a


widely scattered experts, combining their expertise to
amplify many kinds of research;

and experimenting with entirely new ways of thinking such as
using computer mapping of thought patterns, combined with
simulations and modeling.



That list suggests an i
dea that might be researched in a quest for more
effective collective intelligence online. Pursuing such research must surely
involve cognitive scientists and much more. See George Pór.

Collective Thinking A Process Of Generations

Scholars have always buil
t on the thinking of other scholars, their
contemporaries and those in previous generations, including experts from
different cultures and schools of thought. Now telecommunications and
computer conferencing begin to open a larger intellectual era with the

possibility of more comprehensive `collective intelligence’ with greater depth,
larger scope and more breadth of thought.

One step to
scale thinking

might be taken when every idea in
collective memory (beginning with cross
indexed hypertext/hypermedi
a data
bases) can be compared with every other related idea from tradition and from
contemporary research. The fusing of expertise through networks of thousands
of teams of computer
connected minds may make it possible for individuals,
small teams of schol
ars, and
networks of cooperating researchers to develop
more powerful ideas
, data bases and experimental modeling to deal with more
difficult crises. Suppose it to be true that network
empowered CI could bring
humanity to a
major turning point in intellect
ual history; one that is beginning
to reshape human thought at a level of complexity and comprehensiveness that
has never before been possible

Howard Rheingold has spoken of ‘grass roots group mind’ and of
`pioneering young infonauts` who are beginning t
o take minds soaring in ways
in which we still have only primitive glimpses. To be able to observe the
beginning of hypertext, fantasy amplifiers and mind storms, he has said, is a bit
like watching old films of the first flying machines. He has reminded u
s that
when asked what television would be useful for, one of its inventors said it
would largely be used for nurses to monitor patients in hospitals. How ironic
that our vision of mind
empowered collective intelligence may as yet be as dim
as that TV inve

The research university at its best has been more than a place where
isolated or specialized individuals work. It has also involved collective
intelligence, most often seen in the discourse at faculty seminars, scholarly
conferences and through peer
reviewed journals. Now networking can enlarge
and empower those processes, showing that it is not ‘either/or’; face


meeting and online conferences supplement and empower each other (Gragert

Experimenting with the Process

We can illustrate with a successful networking process. The June 1997 Global
Knowledge (
) conference brought 2000 p
eople from all over the world to
Toronto. They came to discuss how information
age technology could be used
to end poverty. The conference was funded and sponsored by the Canadian
government and the World Bank. Over 500 of those present were from the
oping world. Computer conferencing was used in preparation in advance,
during the face
face meeting, and afterwards to enlarge participation

In advance of the conference, those who could not come to Toronto were
encouraged, for example, to co
me to an online ‘village well’ home page on the
World Wide Web. There they shared successful, practical things that were
being done to solve problems that were on the agenda of the face
assembly; for example, case studies on how isolated women in P
akistan were
empowered by using the internet.

The World Wide Web, fax and e
mail were used by people on several
continents to participate during the conference, especially in the 116 working
groups, each of which focused on a particular problem. Delegates
at Toronto
came online to exchange ideas with people overseas. Thus data and reports of
practical experience were brought into the meetings at Toronto from people
participating at a distance.

For example, the impact of the Internet in three schools in Uga
nda and a
report on farmers in drought areas of Africa who were connecting with farmers
in the Middle East who had skills in dry agriculture.

Serious thinking together then continued online after the conference.
Several spin
off online conferences continue
d to work on a specific need, such
as a plan to develop telecenters in developing world villages (Rossman
The Internet also became a place for group thinking

in preparation for a sequel
conference on empowering African women. Plans were being made for two


more such global
scale conferences with online participation to involve many
people from poverty areas of the world.

Now contrast that research process with
the typical academic conference
that brings together hundreds or thousands of scholars and wastes their brain
power, by having brilliant minds just listen

hour after hour day after day

papers are read aloud, often in a dull, non
interactive way. After e
presentation a few minutes are given to questioning the speaker. Rarely do such
sessions provide enough time for synergistic group thinking. It is often said at
such conferences that the serious discussion takes place out in the hall, over
meals, or la
te at night in bars. Perhaps this is why one effort at serious online
conversation was called the “
Global Ethics Cafe

From time to time now there are more truly `info
age conferences’
where the speeches and papers are put online before the conference. Then when
delegates come together they can spend their time in small groups, working
over the basic ideas presented. They can put their findings online for further

work after the conference. The fact that a record is automatically kept of all that
is said during a process of online group thinking represents a vast improvement
over telephone conferences. For example, busy people can participate at their
own convenien
ce. Many more can think together online, even while everyone
`talks at once.’ Ideas on any subject can be placed where they belong in the
public record of the conversation! The record of the GK97 online discussions
was indexed so that a participant could s
earch all the responses by subject,
author, or date.

However, an examination of the GK97 online discussions suggests
need for more research

and more experimentation

with findings of existing

on how to conduct effective online group thinking. R
esearch is
needed on what works and what does not work. How can people really be
helped to think together online when they are scattered across five continents?
The GK97 moderators chided some North Americans for talking too much

actually typing too much

n a conference intended to give a voice to the
developing world. Even so, a better opportunity was provided for all to speak,
despite technical or language difficulties. Whatever anyone said was heard and
judged on merit. Moderators kept the online partici
pants informed of what was
going on at Toronto. They also passed ideas and information from the online
participants to face
face workshops. Delegates at Toronto expressed
appreciation for the thinking of online people and some of them also came


online f
rom time to time to add comments to the e
mail/web discussions. The
SeeMe video system was used so that some online participants could see
each other.

Participants in a city five thousand miles away can use a computer/TV
monitor with a divided screen to

see speakers, to access data bases of video
material and to participate in several group sessions simultaneously.
Consequently, some delegates at a future GK conference may choose to
participate online at times, much as some college students at Stanford
niversity prefer to take a course online, from their own dormitory room, rather
than going to a classroom. We mention the classroom analogy because students
are paying fees that provide for professional paid assistance. Online participants
may perhaps need

to pay a modest fee also to provide for webmasters and the
synthesizer/content analysis needed to monitor and facilitate the process of
online group thinking. Unfortunately the needed groupware and other
supportive software are not yet adequately develope
d to insure rigorous and
thoughtful analysis of ideas. There will be continuing experimentation with and
enlargement of conferencing systems like Discusware

that provide for division
into many threaded discussion groups.

Online GK97 discussion among many p
eople on four continents, across
only three months, produced more text than most people have time to read.
Also, the subsection in Spanish, and some translation from English into French,
were not much help to participants who could not read and write well
in those
languages either. Yet if parallel discussions went on in every language, the
cultural exchange would have been frustrated; for example, if Japanese
participants spoke only with other people who could speak their language. So it
was suggested

that more synergistic global
scale group thinking might have to
wait for automatically translation from the speaker's or writer's tongue into
what the hearer or reader can understand. New metaphors and greater insight
into cultural barriers to understandi
ng are also needed.

Even so,

language is only one problem
. A Filipino, for example,
complained that she did not have the skills or technology to cope with such vast
amounts of text. So what would happen if tens of thousands of people joined on
online confe
rence? If a hundred thousand joined in to participate online in a
United Nations assembly? By what process could local groups participate?
Perhaps they could each meet at a community college and then pass on their
ideas to a regional university. There mig
ht at each level be ‘content analysis’ to


digest and summarize the discussion. Then it might be sent on to international
moderators who could organize ideas and suggestions in a global computer
matrix. However, local groups cannot just share ideas among th
emselves if
international and intercultural exchange is desired. Conferencing software must
provide for horizontal as well as vertical connections so that

when dealing
with an international problem

each local or regional group can be linked to
include peop
le from other cultures and points of view. Can researchers model
the process?

Would not each local group also need to concentrate on one delimited
topic or aspect of a large problem if they are to think together in depth or could
each local individual join

with others elsewhere on one issue? Even then there
may be the problem of dealing with a vast amount of text and data. How can
they then learn what other groups are thinking, and how it all fits together?
One's idealism

that the process can be improved by

using new technology

tempered after reading the complete transcript of one GK97 online session.
Some coding helps; for example, a ‘T’ after the name of a person ‘speaking
online’ means that he or she was “physically present in Toronto” during the
ssion. An examination of the transcript shows how much research is
needed on how to involve widely separated persons in a significant way; and on
how to organize the results to enable a significant group thinking and research

Perhaps that conclusi
on represents a prejudice that `chat rooms’ have not
become a way to get significant thinking done. They are like

the online
`discussions out in the hall’ after formal sessions. Many GK97 online
participants reported that they got bored with the chat

process although
they still wanted to share more ideas and learn more of what others were
thinking. Despite problems and difficulties, continuing online listservs

computer conferences that carry on serious discussion of a particular scholarly


quite successful, even over a long time. This is more likely true
when there is a full
time moderator or team with different skills.

One GK97 participant from Asia said: “There are a huge number of
talented people around the world who are technological in
nocents. Information
needs to be sorted into categories, i.e. how to deal with this huge volume!”
Another said: “Many people are working on automatic classification and
filtering (but few) are working to make conferences more effective as a process
of `hum
an knowledge exchange.”



An evaluator of a GK97 transcript suggested that each participant should
be able at any time to click onto a biography and photo of any other participant.
Also easy access should be provided to the agenda and to a reminder summary
of what has already happened. This could be done with web hyperlinks for
automatic jumping to essential data and background information. Comments
should be inserted into the right place on the outline rather than just being in a
messy chronological order.
In a face
face meeting anyone who gets a chance
to ask a question may have to wait a half hour. Online a reply to another
‘speaker’ can be inserted in the text immediately following the question that
was asked or the idea that was proposed. The online c
onferencing system can
provide a process which allows some participants to `step aside” to continue
conversation that interests them when the rest wish to go on to other topics and
then also continue to participate in the main session..

Do people think bet
ter online when they have a document to work on?
What other such questions need research? An Artificial Intelligence/Expert
Systems group at GK97 proposed innovative technologies to organize the
World Wide Web and “bring order out of chaos.”

Experts from t
he National
Library of Medicine, the OCLC (Online Computer Library Center) and the
Congressional Research Service discussed, for example, automated
bibliographic control, machine
generated thesauri and visual data
models. One online GK97 partici
pant made recommendations drawn from the
Environmental Decision
Making Research Center in Tennessee. First, he said,
participants need to know what decision they want to make, i.e., is it a societal
public decision or site specific? Then they must know wha
t kind of information
is needed. Third, what tools are needed for responsible decision
making and
what are the constraints and policy issues involved in using those tools. Finally,
how can the tools be used to choose among alternatives and policy options?

From different perspectives, Robert Steele of Open Source Solutions
(OSS) and Jan Wyllie of Trendmonitor tended to agree

during the GK97
online discussions

that it is not necessary for all who are thinking together
online to read vast amounts of text. For
example, a moderator or team of
content analysts might summarize and digest the text, organizing it with graphic
‘mind maps’ that visually present the organization so that on the Web one can
click on any part of the map to get a summary of thinking in that

area. Steele
pointed to the Alta Vista mapping program in the Java programming language
that in 1997 was clustering “key terms and allows low
level browsers to look at


the table of key words.” By checking on the terms in the tables, the viewer gets
to the

‘thread’ needed. Many programmers are working on such tools, including
those who seek to improve the search engines that hunt for information on the

These GK97 evaluations

and 1998 conferencing in preparation for a
successor conference on women in Af
rican development

pointed to the need
for more research and experimentation, such as that undertaken by experts such
as Turoff and Hiltz (1988). As this was written, there were more such projects,
such as an online conference on AIDS

for ten thousand peop
le online. What
research is required for a hundred thousand?

Surely that GK97 experience can
be seen as a step towards the type of continuing online research conference
that J. F. Rischard of the World Bank proposed in HIGH NOON to deal with
society's twen
ty most crucial issues.

Defining And Describing Collective Intelligence

Smith (1994), in

Collective intelligence in Computer
Based Collaboration
reported research seeking “a process model similar to those which have been
developed for tasks performed by individuals.” In the past, he says, much more
attention has been paid to the social activities of groups than to the ways they
`think.’ So he dra
ws heavily on studies in cognitive science. To do so requires
an interdisciplinary approach, involving anthropology, sociology, group
dynamics, economics, social psychology, speech communication and more.

Smith's motivation and concern, in part, is “the ra
pid development of
computer networks, distributed systems, and communications” which make it
increasingly possible for people to think together when they are widely
separated geographically. He begins by asking to what extent a group can
function as an “in
telligent organism, working with one mind, especially
online.” If we knew what mode of thinking would constitute collective
intelligence, he says, we would better know how to build a computer system to
help the process along.

He distinguished between colla
borative and collective intelligence,
reminding us of the Memex system devised by

Bush in the early
to amplify intelligence
. To do so Bush sought to identify aspects of
human intelligence: “long
term memory, semantic relationships and assoc
access.” Building upon the ideas of Bush, Smith foresees ‘intelligence


amplification’ systems which could enable group thinking on a scale and level
of significance that until now has been impossible.

Scientists and others usually enter into a group

thinking process
facing a problem that is too large for one person to handle alone
, or when no
one member of the group possesses all the skills and knowledge required.
Keynes (Mayne 1994) also worried over the fact that politicians know so little

what they need to know “exists in bits and fragments here and there.” How
can ideas and knowledge help until they are put together holistically? Until that
happens, Wells said, “we will (continue to) have a series of `
,’ ill
directed violent ma
ss movements, slack drifting here and ill
conceived action

A computer system and process to support collective thinking, Smith said,
would need to help participants analyze a problem. This would generally
require an adequate database and software h
elp in considering alternatives. The
process would require continuing instruction as the group goes about the task of
building “large, complex structures of ideas.” An agreed
upon common `wide
area filing system’ could then make it possible for anyone, any
where in the
world, to participate.

Smith experimented with software that provided several columns on a
monitor where each participant could comment on, rewrite or otherwise edit a
common text. Software provided “well
defined social and authority structur
assigning roles to different members of the thinking group. His system was
designed for use by people working alone at a distance, or by people who come
together at one or more sites. Their workstations were connected to a high
speed network, to hyper
media data storage and to software for audio and visual
Much research, he found, would be required to learn what
supporting tools are needed so that “human and data components can best be

He reported that Newell and Simon, in th
eir model of how human beings
carry out complex problem
solving tasks, wanted to simulate human
intelligence to function in real human situations and not just as a theoretical
model. This meant defining and focusing upon accomplishing specific goals.

has proposed research for including collective memory, long
memory and a working memory of knowledge, the three of which would need
multiple processors for large
scale projects. Also needed is a collective strategy
to plan, divide shares and bring ba
ck together the separate parts of a large task.


Good group thinking does not happen by accident, at least not in large projects
that involve a great number of minds.

Collaborative Systems Laboratory
, supported by the National Science
Foundation, has b
een developing tools for more effective collective intelligence
and “group communication, coordination and decision support. For scientists in
different countries to think together online there must be “a comprehensive
picture of the project,” including “p
roposals, specifications, descriptions, work
breakdown structures, milestones, time units, staffing, facility requirements,
budgets, e
mail and library functions, new groupware architecture and more.
Some suggest that

as organizations develop CI

there is a
n analogy between
the biological nervous system and organizational networking which also has the
functions of memory, communications, collaboration and management.

The emphasis here on the importance of CI is not intended to belittle the
role and importanc
e of the individual mind, of the compelling idea, or the great
discovery and vision of a ‘lone genius.’ Instead we are discussing how that
genius can also be greatly aided. The processes developed to empower and
expand CI can be used by the individual also
, for example to cope with a great
deal of routine work so that she has more time for creativity. Research into
methods for empowering CI “could mean the difference between being run over
by the technology and harnessing it.”

Pierre Lévy

(1997) listed Van
r Bush, Theodore (Ted) Nelson, J. R.
Licklider, Douglas

and Tim Berners

inventor of the World
Wide Web

as “
the great visionaries

in the history
of collective intelligence

cyberspace.” His eighteen page list of Web pages listed them in

The open source movement: collective intelligence in computer

Collective intelligence in the scientific community

Collective Artificial Intelligence

Collective intelligence in business

Collective intelligence in global wisdo

Collective Intelligence and epistemology, etc



Engelbart (1996) proposed computer ‘groupware’

to help people think

as a strategic way to create truly high performance human
organizations. Across the centuries people have developed what h
e calls an
Augmentation System with two parts: a
human system


a tool system
Digital technology greatly enhances the tool system and, he has pointed out
that, “
these digital systems represent a totally new type of ‘nervous system’
around which we can e
volve new, higher forms of social organisms that can
cope better “with the complexity and urgency of society's problems
.” This will
require a “long
term, pragmatically guided, whole
system evolution.” Methods
for thinking together which have evolved across

generations are not abandoned.
Technology and research, however, can now be harnessed to achieve higher
performance capability.

expected people to be surprised by how
group thinking can be enhanced.

Larger research and experimentation is needed
to find out whether
holistic thinking systems

can be devised, so that researchers can together
propose larger and grander schemes and projects. What about modeling seven
scholars, each of whom represent one of Howard Gardner's seven or more

kinds of
intelligence and then model how they work together, using all seven
kinds of intelligence. There is some experimentation of that sort with six
olds. Could there be modeling of social laboratories in which more kinds of
intelligence are mobilized to de
al with human crises? Fitzgerald (2005) points
out how collective intelligence can be seen in the way “groups can often
outthink the experts, acting “as parallel
processing decision engines, pooling
disparate knowledge to answer even the hard questions.” E
lsewhere I ask how
scholars can move from idea development to simulations and collaboration to
examine consequences and possibilities, as in global education planning, before
new ideas are acted upon.

Arbib, Michael. (1997). 'A Brain for Planet Earth.'
orld Brain Workshop
, Jun.

Buchanan, Mark. (2004).
New Scientist

(10 November 2004).

Bugliarello, G. (1984). ‘Hyperintelligence,’
The Futurist
, Dec. 1984, pp. 6

Davies, Martha. (1997). ‘How About Global Work.’ GK97 Online conf, Sept 3.

Denning, P. (1997
). ‘A Glimpse into the Future.’
Educom Review
. 32:4

Engelbart, D. (1994). ‘
Towards High Performance Organizations"
. OSS94.



, Michael. (2005). ‘Group Rethink.’
MIT Technology Review
. June.

Georghiou, L. (1996). ‘The UK Technology Foresight Program.’

Hawley, Michael. (2005).

‘Whither the Renaissance Man?’
MIT Technology
, May.

Hibbs, John. (1997). ‘Global

Day.’ GK97 Online Conf. Sept. 4, 1997.

Hiltz, S, and N. Turoff. (1997). ‘Computer Based Delphi Processes.’

Judge, A.

(1991). ‘Transformative Conferencing.’ Brussels: Union of
International Associations.

Lévy, Pierre. (1997).
Collective Intel
. New York: Plenum.

See also:
Downloaded June

22, 2005.

Lévy, Pierre. Downloaded, August 28, 2004. ‘Digitong v2’.

Mayne, Alan. (1994). ‘Critical Introduction’ to H.G. Wells,
World Brain
London, Adamantine Press

Pesce, Mark. (1996). Address at the

International World Wide Web
Conference, Paris. May 8, 1996.

Rheingold, Howard. (1991). ‘The Great Equalizer.’
Whole Earth Review

Rheingold, H. (2003).
Smart Mobs
. New York: Perseus.

Rischard, J. F. (2002).

High Noon
. New York: Basic Books.

man, P. (2005). The Future of Lifelong Education.

Shum, S. B.

Smith, John B. (1994).
Collective Intelligence
Hillsdale NJ: Erlbaum.

Suter, et al. (2005). ‘
Social So
ftware and the Future of Conferences Right
, Jan./Feb.

Tysson, Neil. (2007).
Death by Black Hole and Other Cosmic Quandaries
New York: Norton.

Wells, H.G. (1933).
World Brain
. London: Metheun. See subject index for
recent edition with prefac
e quoting Parker Rossman