Collective Intelligence

Demonstrating the Wisdom of Crowds

A century ago, groups that demonstrated collective intelligence relied solely on human brainpower. In today’s technology-driven world, however, some of the most recognizable forms of collective intelligence – Wikipedia, Google, Linux – rely on the combined capabilities of humans and computers. This human-computer acumen is the main focus of MIT’s Center for Collective Intelligence, where researchers examine how people and computers can be connected so they collectively act more intelligently than any person, group, or computer has ever acted before.

In an Exchange 62 session led by Professor Thomas Malone, a panel of experts in computer science, technology, and entrepreneurship explored various types of collective intelligence such as open innovation and computer-based crowd sourcing, and discussed how new communication technologies are changing the way people work together.

While most people recognize that Wikipedia is an example of collective intelligence, there are other forms being explored.  Computer scientist Rob Miller spoke about “cloud computing” and “crowd computing.” This involves the notion of coordinating a large group of people to do tiny things or to solve tiny problems that software or one user can’t do.

Another key component of collective intelligence has become the role of lead users. Said Eric von Hippel, “Lead users innovate to solve their own needs at private expense and then freely reveal their innovations.”  Von Hippel gave an example of a surgeon who identified the need for a heart-lung machine who ended up spearheading the creation of one after other avenues he had pursued failed.

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