Convening the Field of CI

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September 10, 2005

Functions of Collective Intelligence - and Names for its Aspects

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 names and aspects.


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.


Many people -- including a large number of professional practitioners -- use or support collective intelligence without calling it "collective intelligence." They usually call it something else that fits their particular application. An examination of these names reveals distinct but overlapping and interconnected phenomena, which are here bundled into the category of "collective intelligence." All these names and phenomena can thus be usefully included as part of "collective intelligence" as a rich and broadly applicable interdisciplinary field of study and practice. Here are some of these names:

• collaborative intelligence
• group intelligence
• collective wisdom
• community intelligence and wisdom
• civic intelligence
• the magic in the middle
• the open source movement
• organizational learning
• 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.

Posted by Tom Atlee, Sat, Sep 10 2005 06:29 PM
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