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Collective intelligence is a shared or group intelligence that emerges from the collaboration and competition of many individuals. Collective intelligence appears in a wide variety of forms of consensus decision making in bacteria, animals, humans, and computer networks. The study of collective intelligence may properly be considered a subfield of sociology, of business, of computer science, of mass communications and of mass behavior—a field that studies collective behavior from the level of quarks to the level of bacterial, plant, animal, and human societies.
The above definition has emerged from the writings of Peter Russell (1983), Tom Atlee (1993), Pierre Lévy (1994), Howard Bloom (1995), Francis Heylighen (1995), Douglas Engelbart, Cliff Joslyn, Ron Dembo, Gottfried Mayer-Kress (2003) and other theorists. Collective intelligence is referred to as Symbiotic intelligence by Norman L. Johnson.
Some figures like Tom Atlee prefer to focus on collective intelligence primarily in humans and actively work to upgrade what Howard Bloom calls “the group IQ”. Atlee feels that collective intelligence can be encouraged “to overcome ‘groupthink‘ and individualcognitive bias in order to allow a collective to cooperate on one process—while achieving enhanced intellectual performance.”
Collective intelligence (CI) can also be defined as a form of networking enabled by the rise of communications technology, namely the Internet. Web 2.0 has enabled interactivity and thus, users are able to generate their own content. Collective Intelligence draws on this to enhance the social pool of existing knowledge. Henry Jenkins, a key theorist of new media and media convergence draws on the theory that collective intelligence can be attributed to media convergence and participatory culture. Collective intelligence is not merely a quantitative contribution of information from all cultures, it is also qualitative.
One CI pioneer, George Pór, defined the collective intelligence phenomenon as “the capacity of human communities to evolve towards higher order complexity and harmony, through such innovation mechanisms as differentiation and integration, competition and collaboration.” Tom Atlee and George Pór state that “collective intelligence also involves achieving a single focus of attention and standard of metrics which provide an appropriate threshold of action”. Their approach is rooted in Scientific Community Metaphor.
Levy and de Kerckhove consider CI from a mass communications perspective, focusing on the ability of networked ICT’s to enhance the community knowledge pool. They suggest that these communications tools enable humans to interact and to share and collaborate with both ease and speed (Flew 2008). With the development of the Internet and its widespread use, the opportunity to contribute to community-based knowledge forums, such as Wikipedia, is greater than ever before. These computer networks give participating users the opportunity to store and to retrieve knowledge through the collective access to these databases and allow them to “harness the hive” (Raymond 1998; Herz 2005 in Flew 2008). Researchers at the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence research and explore collective intelligence of groups of people and computers.