MIT Center for Collective Intelligence
MIT Center for Collective Intelligence sounds like a great project, established to conduct research on the following question: How can people and computers be connected so that—collectively—they act more intelligently than any individuals, groups, or computers have ever done before?
Other related questions this research effort seeks to answer include the following:
(a) What would it mean for a group of people to be "intelligent"? For instance, if a single superhuman intelligence had access to all the knowledge and resources of a company like IBM or General Motors, what would it do? What strategies would it pursue? How quickly could it respond to changes in the marketplace? How productively could it use factories and money? How profitable would it be? And-most importantly-how closely could we approximate the behavior of this imaginary superhuman intelligence by cleverly connecting real people and computers?
(b) What can we learn from the ways human brains are organized that might suggest new ways to organize groups of people to perform intelligently? (And vice versa: What can we learn from the ways people are organized that might help us understand how human brains are organized?)
(c) The field of artificial intelligence (AI) has, for decades, tried to create computer programs that can behave as intelligently as humans. From the traditional AI point of view, letting people help a program while it is running is considered cheating. But what if that were fine? What if the goal were to create combined human/machine systems that were more intelligent than either people or machines could be alone?
The recently launched initiative has it's own blog and a couple of videos, including this one by Bob Metcalfe (Requires RealPlayer 8.0+). There's even a Handbook of Collective Intelligence (in Wiki format of course), intended to provide a conceptual framework for the whole field of collective intelligence. From the section called What is collective intelligence?:
"What is collective intelligence not?
Some people, when they hear the term “collective intelligence” assume that it implies individuals giving up their individuality to be somehow subsumed in a group. This is not what we mean.Collective intelligence, as we are defining and exploring it, is not about false consensus, cults, hive minds, or Groupthink. As described further in the section on factors that inhibit collective intelligence, each of these phenomena actually represents a kind of collective stupidity or mediocrity. Similarly, although the Borg collective from Star Trek is an example of people and computers connected together to form a higher intelligence, it falls short of the true possibility of collective intelligence.
As a statement of principle, we offer the following:
"Collective Intelligence relies upon the individual knowledge, creativity, and identity of its constituent parts, and emerges from a synergy between them.In its highest forms, participating in collective intelligence can actually help people self-actualize while solving collective problems."
Thanks to Alex Pang for the pointer.
P.S. Two other resources to check out on the topic of 'CI' (not associated with MIT but worth a look) is Blog of Collective Intelligence and Stowe Boyd's /Message blog.