For a fuller version of this article
"Collective intelligence" is a richly diverse domain
of study and practice. Having an inclusive definition may help diverse
practitioners work and explore together. One such definition might
of a COLLECTIVE,
which arises from one or more SOURCES.
Below I expand on each of the highlighted terms in the definition
to paint an inclusive picture of the whole domain. (Another application
of this definition: We can compare diverse perspectives on collective
intelligence by clarifying the unique meanings advocates of those
perspectives assign to each of those three highlighted terms.)
"Collective" refers to any entity constituted by other
entities. In this case, it usually refers to human social entities
such as groups, organizations and communities. But it can also refer
to animal collectives such as flocking birds or nesting ants, or
to groups of virtual artificially intelligent agents in computer
environments or to even broader entities.
INTELLIGENCE AS A CAPACITY
Intelligence is variously defined as "the capacity to acquire
and apply knowledge," "the ability to effectively adapt,"
or simply "the ability to solve problems." But for our
purposes it may be useful to list characteristics, capacities or
functions that are variously ascribed to intelligence -- problem
solving, learning, adaptation, reasoning, prediction, reflection,
imagination, etc. -- and then welcome into our domain anyone who
is exploring the collective expression of any of these.
INTELLIGENCE AS STRATEGIC INFORMATION
Intelligence can also be defined as strategically useful information
such as the kind of intelligence that intelligence agencies generate
for decison-makers in government and the military.
SOURCES OF COLLECTIVE INTELLIGENCE
Practitioners differ on where collective intelligence (as a capacity)
comes from and where it resides. Making these differences explicit
may reveal useful overlaps and complementarities, as well as facilitating
mutual understanding. Some of these different perspectives include
- Collective intelligence belongs to or is a property of a whole
in which individuals are embedded or of which they are an expression,
which existed prior to them.
- Collective intelligence is a background field of intelligence
co-generated by the minds that make it up.
- Collective intelligence is an emergent property of collective
- Collective intelligence is a group phenomena (often experienced
as "group magic") in which the intelligences of individual
participants who are in tune with each other merge into a group
intelligence through which meaning and action flow smoothly.
- Collective intelligence is cognitive synergy among appropriately
diverse perspectives in conversation such that new insights or
more inclusive pictures of reality emerge.
- Collective intelligence is a phenomenon associated with distributed
individual intelligences who have access to their collective output
and thought processes through their co-generative participation.
- Collective intelligence is a natural product of the independent
opinions or behaviors of diverse individuals or groups in a decentralized
system (flock, market, guessing game) that aggregates those opinions
ONLINE DEFINITIONS OF COLLECTIVE INTELLIGENCE
There are many definitions of collective intelligence available
online. I've listed seventeen
in the full document,
all of which can be seen as specific expressions of the above broad
[All the points above are expanded in the
For more articles on collective intelligence,
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