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Collective Intelligence

As we explore ways to generate more effective groups, organizations, institutions, and other human systems, it may help to begin by taking a closer look at collective intelligence.

When I investigate the problems that we face in the world today, I seldom find that individual evil is a central cause. More often I find basically good, intelligent people collectively generating discord and disaster -- in families, groups, organizations, nations and the world. Meanwhile, in their own lives, from their own perspective (and usually that of their loved ones), most of them are doing perfectly good, decent things. How can this be?

Clearly individual intelligence is not enough. If we wish to successfully deal with the various social and environmental challenges we face today, we need to develop far more collective intelligence as a society and as a global civilization -- and then apply that collective intelligence with wisdom.

There are many different kinds of collective intelligence, including

  • the collective intelligence generated by high quality conversations among diverse people working together
  • the collective intelligence generated by independent consumers in a market
  • the collective intelligence of global information systems we reach through computers
  • the psycho-spiritual fields of collective intelligence we can reach through meditation and deep dialogue
  • the collective intelligence of whole societies who weave all of these into their cultures and into their political, governmental and economic institutions.

To date, much has been learned about how to develop collective intelligence within organizations-usually to help corporations become more competitive in the global market. Good work has also been done to increase collective intelligence in civil society at the community level, especially to deal with local environmental conflicts.

Yet comparatively little effort has been applied toward building collective intelligence in the public sector, for governance and social system design. In order to ensure our success as a species, we will need to apply what we have learned about collective intelligence to improve our capacity to create sustainable social, political, and economic systems that work well for everyone involved.

This much is clear: Given the right conditions -- conditions which have been created in numerous environments around the world on many occasions -- communities and societies can collectively reflect on their problems and possibilities, and collectively choose and implement effective, even brilliant solutions and initiatives. Understanding collective intelligence can help us fulfill the original dream of democracy: the participatory determination of our collective fate.

You can explore collective intelligence further in the articles below.

Levels/realms of human collective intelligence

Is Collective Intelligence Like Individual Intelligence?

Collective intelligence is only one-fifth of co-intelligence

Collective Intelligence, as a field, takes off

Defining Collective Intelligence

Emerging and converging fields of study and practice involving collective intelligence

Notes on Factors in Collective Intelligence-- (a longer brainstorm here)

Notes on Forms of Collective Intelligence

Thoughts on Wisdom and Collective Intelligence

THE COLLECTIVE INTELLIGENCE CONVERGENCE to Define and Advance the Field of Collective Intelligence (includes a vision of the emerging field, a founding document, "Convening the Field of Collective Intelligence", and a list of practitioners and researchers and their websites). The event did not come off as planned,but it evolved into an interesting website, which will include discussion of the Tovey book, below.



The Tao of Democracy by Tom Atlee

Collective Intelligence - An Introduction edited by Nasreen Taher (2007)

Collective Intelligence: Creating a Prosperous World at Peace edited by Mark Tovey (2008) (Free downloadable pdf)


See also Democracy and Politics

To explore blogs about collective intelligence, click here and here.


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