"Collective intelligence" is a richly diverse domain of study and practice. Having an inclusive definition may help more diverse practitioners work and explore together. (see George Por's entry re CI definition) One such definition might be simply:
Collective intelligence is the INTELLIGENCE of a COLLECTIVE,
which arises from one or more SOURCES.
Below I expand on each of the highlighted terms in the definition to paint an inclusive picture of the whole domain. (Another application of this definition: We can compare diverse perspectives on CI by clarifying the unique meanings that advocates of those perspectives assign to each of those three highlighted terms.)
"Collective" refers to any entity constituted by other entities. In this case, it usually refers to human social entities such as groups, organizations and communities. But it can also refer to animal collectives such as flocking birds or nesting ants, or to groups of virtual artificially intelligent agents in computer environments or to even broader entities.
INTELLIGENCE AS A CAPACITY
Intelligence is variously defined as "the capacity to acquire and apply knowledge," "the ability to effectively adapt," or simply "the ability to solve problems." But for our purposes it may be useful to list characteristics, capacities or functions that are variously ascribed to intelligence -- problem solving, learning, adaptation, reasoning, prediction, reflection, imagination, etc. -- and then welcome into our domain anyone who is exploring the collective expression of any of these.
INTELLIGENCE AS STRATEGIC INFORMATION
Intelligence can also be defined as strategically useful information such as the kind of intelligence that intelligence agencies generate for decison-makers in government and the military.
SOURCES OF COLLECTIVE INTELLIGENCE
Practitioners differ on where collective intelligence (as a capacity) comes from and where it resides. Making these differences explicit may reveal useful overlaps and complementarities, as well as facilitating mutual understanding. Some of these different perspectives include
* Collective intelligence belongs to or is a property of a whole in which individuals are embedded or of which they are an expression, which existed prior to them.
* Collective intelligence is a background field of intelligence co-generated by the minds that make it up.
* Collective intelligence is an emergent property of collective social systems.
* Collective intelligence is a group phenomena (often experienced as "group magic") in which the intelligences of individual participants who are in tune with each other merge into a group intelligence through which meaning and action flow smoothly.
* Collective intelligence is cognitive synergy among appropriately diverse perspectives in conversation such that new insights or more inclusive pictures of reality emerge.
* Collective intelligence is a phenomenon associated with distributed individual intelligences who have access to their collective output and thought processes through their co-generative participation.
* Collective intelligence is a natural product of the independent opinions or behaviors of diverse individuals or groups in a decentralized system (flock, market, guessing game) that aggregates those opinions or behaviors.
ONLINE DEFINITIONS OF COLLECTIVE INTELLIGENCE
There are many definitions of collective intelligence available online. I've listed seventeen, all of which can be seen as specific expressions of the above broad definition.
[All the points above are expanded in the full document which follows...]
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