Convening the Field of CI

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September 08, 2005

Convening the Field of Collective Intelligence

Collective intelligence is intelligence that arises from -- and is a capacity or characteristic of -- groups and other collective living systems.

Although collective intelligence can be coherently defined, in practice it is not one thing. It serves diverse functions, comes in diverse forms, and has many diverse aspects. In fact, it is so multifarious that few of us who work with it comprehend its many dimensions. The time is ripe for us to come together and discover the fullness of the field we’ve been working in.

All over the world, the need is great. Collective intelligence can
• support the healthy functioning of groups and communities
• sustain and revitalize societies and cultures
• increase innovation, productivity and profit for companies
• heal conflicts and solve social and environmental problems
• bring breakthroughs, insights and inspiration to individuals and groups
• provide broad-spectrum, widely available, continually evolving information
• sense emerging futures and predict events better than experts
• ameliorate collective stupidities like “groupthink” and “mob rule”
• help groups learn, and improve collective awareness and behavior
• facilitate the emergence of new social forms and functions
• develop into a “global brain” or “noosphere”
• and even evoke significant transpersonal experiences in people.

On many fronts, the world can use -- and increasingly needs -- more and better collective intelligence. There are many names for it. They describe distinct but overlapping and interconnected phenomena, so they are all embraced as part of this rich and useful interdisciplinary field of study and practice. They include:

• collaborative intelligence
• group intelligence
• collective wisdom
• community intelligence and wisdom
• civic intelligence
• the magic in the middle
• organizational learning
• the open source movement
• group magic, group jazz, and flow
• smart teams
• civic networking
• network intelligence
• the wisdom of crowds
• stigmergy
• smart mobs
• deliberative democracy
• dialogue (generative, transformational, etc.)
• co-sensing
• collective consciousness
• the scientific community metaphor
• collective IQ
• swarm (or hive) intelligence
• open source intelligence
• collaborative software (or groupware)
• conflict resolution and peacemaking
• knowledge management
• participatory (and distributed) decision-making
• learning communities and communities of practice
• participatory design of social systems
• and many more.

In order to ensure our survival and success as a species, we will need to integrate and apply what we have all learned about collective intelligence to improve our capacity to create sustainable social, political, and economic systems that work well for everyone involved, and to creatively meet the challenges of the 21st century.

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. Coming together to understand collective intelligence -- in all its dimensions -- can help us fulfill the original dream of democracy: the wise participatory determination of our collective fate.

We believe it is not only possible but vital that we who deal with collective intelligence come together to understand the different parts of our important field, acknowledge our responsibility for its health and success, and find ways to actively assume that responsibility together, for our mutual benefit and the benefit of our world.

Posted by Tom Atlee, Thu, Sep 08 2005 12:58 AM
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