I recently read a fascinating online conversation on Collective Intelligence with Tom Malone. Malone is Professor of Management at MIT’s Sloan School and the founding director of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence (CCI). The CCI was founded to study how new communications technologies are changing the way people work together. In particular, it is studying the various ways that groups of people are now
collaborating via the Internet, in order to understand how to best
organize these collaborations and enhance them with innovative IT-based
tools and platforms.
Collective intelligence is not a new topic. From time immemorial, groups of people working together have acted in ways that seem intelligent. But, as Malone points out, “It’s also possible for groups of people to work together in ways that seem pretty stupid, and I think collective stupidity is just as possible as collective intelligence. Part of what I want to understand and part of what the people I’m working with want to understand is what are the conditions that lead to collective intelligence rather than collective stupidity.”
The CCI is conducting research on a number of topics related to collective intelligence. One of the most intriguing is their attempt to try to ascertain if something like collective intelligence indeed exists, and if so, to try to measure a group’s intelligence using methodologies and statistical techniques similar to those that have been applied to individual intelligence for the past hundred years.