Definitions of Collective Intelligence


There are many definitions of collective intelligence available online. Below are the one’s I found so far. Some of them are edited to make them readable as definitions. Most define what I would consider only one portion of the full range of collective intelligence, being too narrow either in their sense of the “collective” that is intelligent, or in the functions they equate with intelligence, or in their sense of where collective intelligence comes from. But they are all very articulate about what CI is from their perspective. I’ll start with definitions proposed by the prolific Pierre Levy:

The capacity of human communities to co-operate intellectually in creation, innovation and invention. — Pierre Levy

The cognitive powers of a group — e.g., perception, action planning and coordination, reasoning, prediction, memory, imagination and hypothesis generation, inquisitiveness, problem solving and, above all, learning capacity. Collective cognitive powers are closely related to the groupís culture. — Pierre Levy (the cognitive powers list from this source has been expanded with items from Levy’s definitions in and

A fully distributed intelligence that is continuously enhanced and synergised in real-time. — Pierre Levy

Collective learning and creative process [realized] through exchanges of knowledge and intellectual creativity. — Pierre Levy

A form of universally distributed intelligence, constantly enhanced, coordinated in real time, and resulting in the effective mobilization of skills… No one knows everything, everyone knows something. — Pierre Levy

Human communities, organizations and cultures exhibiting “mind-like” properties, such as learning, perceiving, acting, thinking, problem-solving, and so on. [This embraces phenomena variously known as] distributed cognition, distributed knowledge systems, global brain, super-brain, global mind, group mind, ecology of mind, hive mind, learning organization, connected intelligence, networked intelligence, augmented intelligence, hyper-cortex, symbiotic man, etc… Emotions, bodies, medias, sign systems, social relations, technologies, biological environment and physical supports [also play roles in] collective intelligence processes. — Pierre Levy

The capability for a group to organize itself in order to decide upon its own future and control the means to attain it in complex contexts. — Jean-Francois Noubel

The oldest human social organization where individuals 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. — Jean-Francois Noubel

The capability of a collective/social system to hold questions and language too complex for any individual intelligence to hold, and to work out strategies, visions, goals, and images of a desired future, etc. — edited from Finn Voldtofte’s notes from a World Cafe

A specific property of a social structure, initialized when individuals organize, acquiring the ability to solve more complex problems than individuals can. This property amplifies if the social structure improves its synergy. — Tadeusz Szuba

An unconscious, random, parallel and distributed computational process run by a social structure [such that the] social structure seems to be working well for a wide spectrum of beings (from bacterial colonies up to human social structures). — Tadeusz (Ted) Szuba

People of different backgrounds or talents working together so as to help optimize the meshing of those talents in organizations — Doug Engelbart

Collective problem-solving ability. — Francis Heylighen

The capacity of families, groups, organizations, communities and entire societies to act intelligently as whole, living systems. — Tom Atlee

The capacity of communities to evolve towards higher order integration and performance through collaboration and innovation. — George Por

That which overcomes “groupthink” and individual cognitive bias in order to allow a relatively large number of people to cooperate in one process – leading to reliable action. — Anonymous

Empowerment through the development and pooling of intelligence to attain common goals or resolve common problems. — Phillip Brown and Hugh Lauder

For more articles on collective intelligence, click here.

This list was compiled by Tom Atlee and posted on the Co-intelligence Institute’ website:

This entry was posted in Definitions. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s