Here is below how I explain to non-specialists what is collective intelligence and why it deserves to become a science.
Collective intelligence is not a new idea and concept. It is
the oldest human social organization where individual decide to mutualize their
knowledge, know-how and experience in order to generate a higher individual
and collective benefit than if they remained alone. Collective intelligence
is the foundation of positive-sum economies where the whole is more than the
sum of its parties.
Collective intelligence, at a natural stage, has two limitations:
– in size: only a limited number of people
can interact before it reaches a too high level of complexity that generates
more "noise" than effective results ;
– in distance: people need to be together within in a short
range so that everyone can participate and get a perception of the whole
The bigger human organizations became (cities, companies),
the more they had to find other ways of organizing themselves. The main structure
that prevailed until today is based on the work division sustained by a vertical
command&control hierarchy. The command&control structure and the proprietarization/rarity
of money are two phenomenon that reinforce themselves and help the world maintain
its own social hierarchical structure in a relatively stable manner.
Why collective intelligence is becoming interesting
What is new is that the two initial limitative factors of CI
are becoming obsolete because of the arising of the Cyberspace. New distributed
people-to-people tools (from email to social software…) enable interrelation
at a virtually unlimited scale and distance.
The old social form of collective intelligence is now spaying
very fast, everywhere at all stages of human organizations. New social structures,
new forms of governance, new relationship between the individual and the group,
new economies, new political powers are in formation in the cyber layer, competing
with the current social organization.
The aim of the Canadian Chair of Collective Intelligence is
to study it and develop a theoretical and practical knowledge, in other words,
to build a new science that will help understand this emerging planetary phenomenon.