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For All Worldwide, A Holistic View

(All chapters are intended for continuing revision)

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Volume II - Chapter Four

(Updated, July 23,, 2008)


The Internet creates an entirely new working environment for science as a whole. --Walter Truett Anderson  See on CI: <http://ru3.org/ru3/project/enjeux/index.html>.

The Internet links millions of people in new spaces that are changing the way we think. --Sherry Turkle     See collective intelligence blog: <http://www.noubel.com/mt/weblogs/ci/>.

For Marvin Minsky, the mind is a society. For Levy, the society is a mind. --Pierre Levy

With Internet2 we have learned...to explore what we can do together...We must never forget that empowering people to work together is critical to success. --Douglas van Houweling

We can use collective intelligence to change the world -- Craig Hamilton  <http://wie.org/j25/collective.asp>.

For an excellent blog on collective intelligence:  see:

We might also oridyce "intellectual fusion"--the explosive potential of collaboration on a grand scale. John Kelly et al (2008)

THINK BIG! On `big science,' Mark Buchanan in New Science, 10 November 2004 wrote about what a billion brains could do, working collectively. He reported on the teamwork,  and cooperation that can be seen in the very structure of things. Another kind of `big science for a global age' could be seen if all departments of a university, and of many universities perhaps, all gave a bit of time one year to seeing what they might each contribute to research on a major global human problem like terrorism. Yet Hawley of MIT (2005) that the range of student knowledge gets narrower and narrower, with not enough sharing among fields of study, so "we need to be concerned abut our intellectual ecology."
 <http://wiki.crao.net/index.php/AnnuaireRu3>. Mark Williams (MIT Technology Review, Oct. 2006)  describes "a "mssively multiplayer game"--engaging a worldwide community-- that can lead to a kind of  `collective intelligence' that can be used "to solve problems no member could solve alone.

Pierre Levy has proposed a coordinate system of the `semantic space' structured according to a theory of human collective intelligence. Theoretically, "such an abstract space has an infinity of dimensions" but there can be a "more cognitively managed space called a `digital sphere that has only 486 dimensions that can be represented by 486 kinds of `digitongs.' The translation into digitong "has implications for a global online university project."  In 2005 a `blog' discussion of collective intelligence was at: <http://www.community-intelligence.com/blogs/public/>.

Early in the twentieth century, at a time of worldwide economic depression and the rise of oppressive totalitarianism, a challenge was issued by H.G. Wells (1933). He said that such crises might be resolved through "effective, well-informed, coordinated sustained human thinking about what needed to be done for humanity as a whole." This would require worldwide networks of thinking people. In a section on "a global thinking system," Mayne (1994) examined that challenge. Wells lamented the "enormous waste of human mental. . . resources" on poorly-thought-through schemes. Democratic governments, he said, give authoritarian dictators their chance because of a "very slow, slack method of conducting human affairs." The solution would combine intelligence and action, and that would require a better educated and empowered public opinion, especially through the empowerment of mature human networks. Bugliarello (1994) said that human brain power, collective memory and computers can empower networks for larger problem-solving. How?

2.4.1  BRINGING MANY MINDS TOGETHER (<http://ru3.org/ru3/project/concept/organisation.htm>.

When many minds are brought together something unexpected often happens, they often discover creativity and intelligence that no one of them has alone. New technologies coming into being can greatly empower collective intelligence in solving crucial problems. For new systems to enable that, <http://www.innovateonline.info/index.php?view=article&id=45>.Tyson (2007) notes the importance not of the intelligence of the individual "but how smart is the collective brain power of the entire species."  Wikinomics <http://www.wikinomics.com/" shows how thousaands, even millions can collaborate.

Lifelong learning to everyone in the world requires overcoming many of the crises seen in the rest of this volume, and those in volume one, chapter one. Education planners should seek to bring many minds together to do what has never been possible before. Computer networking can be used to augment human intelligence, Denning (1997) said, rather than just seeking to replace it. (3.6) Through networking we can draw upon expertise, enable creative thinking and develop collective intelligence. However we are just beginning to learn how, in part because although researchers engage in a great deal of networking conversations, too few have given serious attention to online thinking skills. Making networking work thus for research planning is a new art, yet to be learned. Georghieu (1996) has described a three-stage process: (1) find and bring together a panel of experts, (2) consult with sources to learn key issues, trends and possibilities; use Delphi method to distill hundreds of suggestions into a few basic themes and work areas; (3) experiment with various alternatives. How now do we expand that and move beyond it to break new ground in the use of networking for larger research? (Elaborated in 3.10)

"Several investigations have shown that networks know more than the sum of their parts. Rheingold (2003) pointed out. "Connected and communicating in the right ways, populations of humans can exhibit a kind of collective intelligence" made "possible by the Internet." Intelligence is not restricted to individual brains but is often seen in animal and other groups. "There have been varieties of theories about the Internet as the nervous system of a global brain.  (2.2) So in addition to `artificial intelligence,' researchers are finding that computers can enable a kind of `social intelligence' also. Serious thinking is blossoming on the Internet. We note an expanding number of effortsAn early example was the 1998 Transatlantic Information Exchange Project (TIES) for conversations--to address global problems--among universities and others in Europe and North America. Its steering committee included members of the European Union parliament, the Library of Congress, the U.S. State Department along with similar officials of European governments. Many less official online conferences are showing how such effective networking need not be complicated, expensive, or limited to officials.

How networking can function was early illustrated by the experience of UN-IDEND (Davies 1997). Someone in Ecuador secured a grant from Switzerland and organized a volunteer team. Webmasters in Australia and Peru used a mainframe computer at San Francisco State University. Various phases of the operation were organized in Costa Rica, learning from a previous online conference where 456 people from 56 countries had participated over 82,000 times. Nearly five hundred worldwide signed on before the Internet conference began. Without a funding grant, $15 from each participant would have financed such a conference for several months. The equally inexpensive `global learn day' (Hibbs 1997) has continued to be a live round-the-world conversation, following the time zones. In each time zone, students and faculty have talked live to those in other areas, and from a Hawaii TV station live video of the conference was `streamed to the Internet.'

Online thinking at more depth was early seen  a free-of-charge United Nations conference on international disaster relief (IDNDR 1997). Anyone concerned about water-related disasters was invited to participate and to report on specific cases. It brought together specialists, a mix of professions and staff of key policy-making institutions, local to international. Arbib (1997) offers another example, the EMISARI networking system that was designed--with a large data base--to link a national emergency planning office with ten regional centers during a crisis. Designed to aid in the development of policy, it was networking to a database, not a simulation. It supported a process for two-way sharing of information, for continually revising the data base that was accessible to all who needed to make informed decisions. It allowed people in different locations to coordinate their thinking and work so that they could respond quickly to emergencies. The computer was not used to solve problems but to help people do so. The FermiLab's high energy research has involved planning for "the collaboration of hundreds of scientists from far flung laboratories all over the world."

One suggestive metaphor sees online planning conferences as like `islands that form in the ocean from volcanic activity.' Online planning for mega-research requires bridges to interconnect those many `islands.' Judge (1997) described transformative online conferences with the metaphor of a public chess game. Periods of silence are interspersed with contributions which fit into an emerging pattern on which all participants "will be reflecting." This process moves beyond current methods of communication as representatives of each scholarly and scientific discipline contribute "specific ideas, values, facts, problems or relationships." The process will interweave into "a complex but healthy ecosystem," using a variety of supporting, guiding, informing, helping roles and will enable collective reflection on more subtle issues and questions. New challenges and processes will emerge. (Judge 1998) Much more is now going to be possible.

Suter et a (2005) new software for collaborative research and learning that `preserves the social context of face-to-face conferences; for example <http://www.icohere.com>. Such conferences are designed "to stimulate ongoing learning and to invigorate the intellectual and professional lives of pariciants. They are automatically introduced to one another along with their special needs and interests. Weblogging <http://www.corante.com/many>. and wikis can be used. 


Across the centuries, whenever scholars have contemplated overwhelming complexity, they have been tempted by two alternatives: (1) to despair or (2) to oversimplify through specialization and exclusion. The latter alternative has sometimes led to a loss of truth, to manipulation and twisting of knowledge, and at best to overspecialization that neglects other disciplines needed for the whole truth. S. B. Shum of the  (UK) Knowledge Media Institute says that researchers currently lack adequate ways to contest and debate ideas (printed exchange taking months and years) although "multiple perspectives and argumentation must lie at the heart of any system for it to have credibility" Ways to disagreed must be built into the process in order for it to have authority. To `plug this gap'  Shum proposes `sense making technologies,' for example as seen in the Scholarly Ontologies Project's publishing as a "semantic network of claim-making." <http://kmi.open.ac.uk/projects/scholonto>  and `Compendium' "for real-time meeting and group memory capture." <http://www.CompenditumInstitute.org> and the Digital Document Discourse Environment (D3E). <http://d3e.sourceforge.net>  for web discussion. He also calls attention to his online Journal of Interactive Media "that has adopted a hybrid private/public conversational peer review model since 1996." 

Now a third alternative is seen when the Internet expands what scholars like Smith (1994) call `collective intelligence' (CI). Computer networking can amplify CI to bring many minds together for deeper, creative, imaginative collective thinking on issues like how to extend learning to all.. It can empower thinking-in-community, collegial thought in which participants organize their energies to achieve the sum of more than their separate parts. CI can deal with complexity in ways no one mind alone, nor even one team alone can do. Suppose that each of a thousand universities conducted an ongoing seminar on one of a humanity's crucial issues and continued it year after year, connecting a worldwide community of experts online. What existing `think tank' could rival such a process for experimenting with the possibility of larger and more sustained thinking?

We are warned, however, that `too many cooks can spoil the broth,' that there is no guarantee that many minds will really come up with new or better ideas and processes. Indeed, the Carnegie Endowment spent three years and nearly ten million dollars to bring together the minds of well informed and internationally experienced people, including prominent diplomats, to see if they could develop some new ideas for resolving international conflicts. The results were meager (Miller 1998). Perhaps they failed because of the tired old method of face-to-face meetings that had no continuing online conversations to invite many others to contribute ideas?

Hiltz and Turoff in 1974 used the term CI for "the ability of a group to produce a result that is better than any single individual could achieve alone." They pointed out that this can happen in conventional face-to-face groups, but rarely yet does. Later they decided (1997) that the merger of Delphi Method with Computer Mediated Communications opens and enlarges the possibility. Research to develop procedures for implementing collective intelligence online is not yet very far advanced. Even the term is not yet well defined. It has other meanings, for example in biological study of primitive organisms. So we prefer here to illustrate CI, rather than defining it, by for example noting a group of Japanese scientists who undertook together a `network adventure,' an effort to fuse many kinds of expertise in a `group quest' by experimenting with a network of minds in an area where no one specialist was adequate to deal with the whole problem. (See 4.4)

French Philosopher Levy (Pesce 1996) early said that CI is the inevitable result of intelligent systems which are structurally coupled through electronic mediation. In other words, connecting intelligences breeds CI and begins to monitor and correct its own behavior in a way analogous to the human nervous system. It maintains its integrity through the culling out of the superfluous, the outdated and any effort to `own' or monopolize truth. CI thus moves beyond hardware engineering to social engineering. He sees CI in the construction of intelligent communities online in which communication tools are used for more than simply "to haul masses of information around." Online CI requires and enables the re-creation of a social bond among scholars who have a common purpose. CI, he says, unites not only ideas, but people. "It is a global project whose ethical and aesthetic dimensions are as important as its technological and organizational aspects." He sees CI as a form of "universally distributed intelligence, constantly enhanced, coordinated in real time." No one can know everything, so only collectively now can scientists know all they need to know. The Cartesian "I know, therefore I am" becomes "We know, therefore we are." CI is a continuum and is developed through collective discussion, negotiation and imagination. He uses an analogy from ocean navigation. The old-time ship captain's book of information from previous voyages is replaced by accurate maps and satellite information. Through online collective intelligence scholars begin to develop knowledge maps in cyberspace. Next perhaps something akin to satellite guidance will appear for larger-scale research. Meanwhile new suggestions include bligs: <http://www.thetransitioner.org/mt/weblogs/thetransitioner/index.php>..

Some researchers, thinking together online, report an occasional experience of synergy (2.7) that is similar to the surprising and unexpected things that begin to happen when isolated nerve cells in a baby's brain begin to interconnect. We ask if this synergy happens, at least on occasion, as many minds move beyond limited fragmented thinking and overspecialization to new kinds of teamwork/thinking by, for example:

--enlarging the quantity and quality of thoughts as many minds test, correct, and stimulate each other;
--linking people to report significant experiences or demonstrations of success in meeting a need or solving a problem;
--linking widely scattered experts, combining their expertise to amplify many kinds of research;
--and experimenting with entirely new ways of thinking such as using computer mapping of thought patterns, combined with simulations and modeling.

That list suggests an idea that might be researched in a quest for more effective collective intelligence online. Pursuing such research must surely involve cognitive scientists and much more. See George Por: <http://www.vision-nest.com/cbw/Quest.html>  


Scholars have always built on the thinking of other scholars, their contemporaries and those in previous generations, including experts from different cultures and schools of thought. Now telecommunications and computer conferencing begin to open a larger intellectual era with the possibility of more comprehensive `collective intelligence' with greater depth, larger scope and more breadth of thought.

One step to mega-scale thinking might be taken when every idea in collective memory (beginning with cross-indexed hypertext/hypermedia data bases) can be compared with every other related idea from tradition and from contemporary research. The fusing of expertise through networks of thousands of teams of computer-connected minds may make it possible for individuals, small teams of scholars, and networks of cooperating researchers to develop more powerful ideas, data bases and experimental modeling to deal with more difficult crises. Suppose it to be true that network-empowered CI could bring humanity to a major turning point in intellectual history; one that is beginning to reshape human thought at a level of complexity and comprehensiveness that has never before been possible. Howard Rheingold has spoken of `grass roots group mind' and of `pioneering young infonauts` who are beginning to take minds soaring in ways in which we still have only primitive glimpses. To be able to observe the beginning of hypertext, fantasy amplifiers and mind storms, he has said, is a bit like watching old films of the first flying machines. He has reminded us that when asked what television would be useful for, one of its inventors said it would largely be used for nurses to monitor patients in hospitals. How ironic that our vision of mind-empowered collective intelligence may as yet be as dim as that TV inventor.

The research university at its best has been more than a place where isolated or specialized individuals work. It has also involved collective intelligence, most often seen in the discourse at faculty seminars, scholarly conferences and through peer-reviewed journals. Now networking can enlarge and empower those processes, showing that it is not `either/or'; face-to-face meeting and online conferences supplement and empower each other (Gragert 1999).


We can illustrate with a successful networking process. The June 1997 Global Knowledge (GK97) conference brought 2000 people from all over the world to Toronto. They came to discuss how information-age technology could be used to end poverty. The conference was funded and sponsored by the Canadian government and the World Bank. Over 500 of those present were from the developing world. Computer conferencing was used in preparation in advance, during the face-to-face meeting, and afterwards to enlarge participation worldwide.

In advance of the conference, those who could not come to Toronto were encouraged, for example, to come to an online "village well' home page on the World Wide Web. There they shared successful, practical things that were being done to solve problems that were on the agenda of the face-to-face assembly; for example, case studies on how isolated women in Pakistan were empowered by using the internet.

The World Wide Web, fax and e-mail were used by people on several continents to participate during the conference, especially in the 116 working groups, each of which focused on a particular problem. Delegates at Toronto came online to exchange ideas with people overseas. Thus data and reports of practical experience were brought into the meetings at Toronto from people participating at a distance. For example, the impact of the Internet in three schools in Uganda and a report on farmers in drought areas of Africa who were connecting with farmers in the Middle East who had skills in dry agriculture.

Serious thinking together then continued online after the conference. Several spin-off online conferences continued to work on a specific need, such as a plan to develop telecenters in developing world villages. (18.2). The Internet also became a place for group thinking in preparation for a sequel conference on empowering African women. Plans were being made for two more such global-scale conferences with online participation to involve many people from poverty areas of the world.

Now contrast that research process with the typical academic conference that brings together hundreds or thousands of scholars and wastes their brain power, by having brilliant minds just listen--hour after hour day after day--as papers are read aloud, often in a dull, non-interactive way. After each presentation a few minutes are given to questioning the speaker. Rarely do such sessions provide enough time for synergistic group thinking. It is often said at such conferences that the serious discussion takes place out in the hall, over meals, or late at night in bars. Perhaps this is why one effort at serious online conversation was called the "Global Ethics Cafe."  

From time to time now there are more truly `information-age conferences' where the speeches and papers are put online before the conference. Then when delegates come together they can spend their time in small groups, working over the basic ideas presented. They can put their findings online for further work after the conference. The fact that a record is automatically kept of all that is said during a process of online group thinking represents a vast improvement over telephone conferences. For example, busy people can participate at their own convenience. Many more can think together online, even while everyone `talks at once.' Ideas on any subject can be placed where they belong in the public record of the conversation! The record of the GK97 online discussions was indexed so that a participant could search all the responses by subject, author, or date.

However, an examination of the GK97 online discussions suggests the need for more research--and more experimentation with findings of existing research--on how to conduct effective online group thinking. Research is needed on what works and what does not work. How can people really be helped to think together online when they are scattered across five continents? The GK97 moderators chided some North Americans for talking too much--actually typing too much--in a conference intended to give a voice to the developing world. Even so, a better opportunity was provided for all to speak, despite technical or language difficulties. Whatever anyone said was heard and judged on merit. Moderators kept the online participants informed of what was going on at Toronto. They also passed ideas and information from the online participants to face-to-face workshops. Delegates at Toronto expressed appreciation for the thinking of online people and some of them also came online from time to time to add comments to the e-mail/web discussions. The CU-SeeMe video system was used so that some online participants could see each other.

Participants in a city five thousand miles away can use a computer/TV monitor with a divided screen to see speakers, to access data bases of video material and to participate in several group sessions simultaneously. Consequently, some delegates at a future GK conference may choose to participate online at times, much as some college students at Stanford University prefer to take a course online, from their own dormitory room, rather than going to a classroom. We mention the classroom analogy because students are paying fees that provide for professional paid assistance. Online participants may perhaps need to pay a modest fee also to provide for webmasters and the synthesizer/content analysis needed to monitor and facilitate the process of online group thinking. Unfortunately the needed groupware and other supportive software is not yet adequately developed to insure rigorous and thoughtful analysis of ideas. There will be continuing experimentation with and enlargement of conferencing systems like Discus  <www.discusware.com/discus/index.php that provide for division into many threaded discussion groups.

Online GK97 discussion among many people on four continents, across only three months, produced more text than most people have time to read. Also, the subsection in Spanish, and some translation from English into French, were not much help to participants who could not read and write well in those languages either. Yet if parallel discussions went on in every language, the cross-cultural exchange would have been frustrated; for example, if Japanese participants spoke only with other people who could speak their language. So it was suggested that more synergistic global-scale group thinking might have to wait for automatically translation from the speaker's or writer's tongue into what the hearer or reader can understand. New metaphors and greater insight into cultural barriers to understanding are also needed.

Even so, language is only one problem. A Filipino, for example, complained that she did not have the skills or technology to cope with such vast amounts of text. So what would happen if tens of thousands of people joined on online conference? If a hundred thousand joined in to participate online in a United Nations assembly? By what process could local groups participate? Perhaps each could meet in relation to a community college and then pass on their ideas to regional university. There might at each level be `content analysis' to digest and summarize the discussion. Then it might be sent on to international moderators who could organize ideas and suggestions in a global computer matrix. However, local groups cannot just share ideas among themselves if international and intercultural exchange is desired. Conferencing software must provide for horizontal as well as vertical connections so that--when dealing with an international problem--each local or regional group can be linked to include people from other cultures and points of view. Can researchers model the process?

Would not each local group also need to concentrate on one delimited topic or aspect of a large problem if they are to think together in depth or could each local individual join with others elsewhere on one issue? Even then there may be the problem of dealing with a vast amount of text and data. How can they then learn what other groups are thinking, and how it all fits together? One's idealism--that the process can be improved by using new technology--is tempered after reading the complete transcript of one GK97 online session. Some coding helps; for example, a `Tí after the name of a person `speaking online' means that he or she was "physically present in Toronto" during the discussion. An examination of the transcript shows how much research is needed on how to involve widely separated persons in a significant way; and on how to organize the results to enable a significant group thinking and research process.

Perhaps that conclusion represents a prejudice that `chat rooms' have not become a way to get significant thinking done. They are like  the online `discussions out in the hall' after formal sessions. Many GK97 online participants reported that they got bored with the chat-type process although they still wanted to share more ideas and learn more of what others were thinking. Despite problems and difficulties, continuing online listservs--or computer conferences that carry on serious discussion of a particular scholarly topic--are quite successful, even over a long time. This is more likely true when there is a full-time moderator or team with different skills.

One GK97 participant from Asia said: "There are a huge number of talented people around the world who are technological innocents. Information needs to be sorted into categories, i.e. how to deal with this huge volume!" Another said: "Many people are working on automatic classification and filtering (but few) are working to make conferences more effective as a process of `human knowledge exchange."

An evaluator of a GK97 transcript suggested that each participant should be able at any time to click onto a biography and photo of any other participant. Also easy access should be provided to the agenda and to a reminder summary of what has already happened. This could be done with web hyperlinks for automatic jumping to essential data and background information. Comments should be inserted into the right place on the outline rather than just being in a messy chronological order. In a face-to-face meeting anyone who gets a chance to ask a question may have to wait a half hour. Online a reply to another `speaker' can be inserted in the text immediately following the question that was asked or the idea that was proposed. The online conferencing system can provide a process which allows some participants to `step aside" to continue conversation that interests them when the rest wish to go on to other topics and then also continue to participate in the main session..

Do people think better online when they have a document to work on? What other such questions need research? An Artificial Intelligence/Expert Systems group at GK97 proposed innovative technologies to organize the World Wide Web and "bring order out of chaos." Experts from the National Library of Medicine, the OCLC (Online Computer Library Center) and the Congressional Research Service discussed, for example, automated bibliographic control, machine-generated thesauri and visual data-clustering models. One online GK97 participant made recommendations drawn from the Environmental Decision-Making Research Center in Tennessee. First, he said, participants need to know what decision they want to make, i.e., is it a societal public decision or site specific? Then they must know what kind of information is needed. Third, what tools are needed for responsible decision-making and what are the constraints and policy issues involved in using those tools. Finally, how can the tools be used to choose among alternatives and policy options?

From different perspectives, Robert Steele of Open Source Solutions (OSS) and Jan Wyllie of Trendmontor tended to agree--during the GK97 online discussions--that it is not necessary for all who are thinking together online to read vast amounts of text. For example, a moderator or team of content analysts might summarize and digest the text, organizing it with graphic `mind maps' that visually present the organization so that on the Web one can click on any part of the map to get a summary of thinking in that area. Steele pointed to the Alta Vista mapping program in Java programming language that in 1997 was clustering "key terms and allows low-level browsers to look at table of key words. By checking on the terms in the tables, the viewer gets to the `thread' needed. Many programmers are working on such tools, including those who seek to improve the search engines that hunt for information on the Web.

These GK97 evaluations--and 1998 conferencing in preparation for a successor conference on women in African development--pointed to the need for more research and experimentation, such as that undertaken by experts such as Turoff and Hiltz (1988). As this was written, there were more such projects, such as an online conference on AIDS  for ten thousand people online. What research is required for a hundred thousand? Surely that GK97 experience can be seen as a step towards the type of continuing online research conference that J. F. Rischard of the World Bank proposed in HIGH NOON to deal with society's twenty most crucial issues.


Smith (1994), in Collective intelligence in Computer-Based Collaboration, reported research that sought "a process model similar to those which have been developed for tasks performed by individuals." In the past, he says, much more attention has been paid to the social activities of groups than to the ways they `think.' So he draws heavily on studies in cognitive science. To do so requires an interdisciplinary approach, involving anthropology, sociology, group dynamics, economics, social psychology, speech communication and more. A 2004 interdisciplinary team paper on collective intelligence can be found at <http://pespmc1.vub.ac.be/Papers/GOA-project.pdf>.

Smith's motivation and concern, in part, is "the rapid development of computer networks, distributed systems, and communications" which make it increasingly possible for people to think together when they are widely separated geographically. He begins by asking to what extent a group can function as an "intelligent organism, working with one mind, especially online." If we knew what mode of thinking would constitute collective intelligence, he says, we would better know how to build a computer system to help the process along.

He distinguished between collaborative and collective intelligence, reminding us of the Memex system devised by Vanniver Bush in the early 1920's to amplify intelligence. To do so Bush sought to identify aspects of human intelligence: "long-term memory, semantic relationships and associative access." Building upon the ideas of Bush, Smith foresees `intelligence amplification' systems which could enable group thinking on a scale and level of significance that until now has been impossible.

Scientists and others usually enter into a group thinking process when facing a problem that is too large for one person to handle alone, or when no one member of the group possesses all the skills and knowledge required. Keynes (Mayne 1994) also worried over the fact that politicians know so little and what they need to know "exists in bits and fragments here and there." How can ideas and knowledge help until they are put together holistically? Until that happens, Wells said, "we will (continue to) have a series of `flounderings,' ill-directed violent mass movements, slack drifting here and ill-conceived action there."

A computer system and process to support collective thinking, Smith said, would need to help participants analyze a problem. This would generally require an adequate database and software help in considering alternatives. The process would require continuing instruction as the group goes about the task of building "large, complex structures of ideas." An agreed-upon common `wide-area filing system' could then make it possible for anyone, anywhere in the world, to participate. Smith experimented with software that provided several columns on a monitor where each participant could comment on, rewrite or otherwise edit a common text. Software provided "well-defined social and authority structures," assigning roles to different members of the thinking group. His system was designed for use by people working alone at a distance, or by people who come together at one or more sites. Their workstations were connected to a high-speed network, to hypermedia data storage and to software for audio and visual communications. Much research, he found, would be required to learn what supporting tools are needed so that "human and data components can best be combined." He reported that Nowell and Simons, in their model of how human beings carry out complex problem-solving tasks, wanted to simulate human intelligence to function in real human situations and not just as a theoretical model. This meant defining and focusing upon accomplishing specific goals. Smith has proposed research for including collective memory, long-term memory and a working memory of knowledge, the three of which would need multiple processors for large-scale projects. Also needed is a collective strategy to plan, divide shares and bring back together the separate parts of a large task. Good group thinking does not happen by accident, at least not in large projects that involve a great number of minds.

The Collaborative Systems Laboratory, supported by the National Science Foundation, has been developing tools for more effective collective intelligence and "group communication, coordination and decision support. For scientists in different countries to think together online there must be "a comprehensive picture of the project," including "proposals, specifications, descriptions, work breakdown structures, milestones, time units, staffing, facility requirements, budgets, e-mail and library functions, new groupware architecture and more. Some suggest that--as organizations develop CI--there is an analogy between the biological nervous system and organizational networking which also has the functions of memory, communications, collaboration and management.

The emphasis here on the importance of CI is not intended to belittle the role and importance of the individual mind, of the compelling idea, or the great discovery and vision of a `lone genius.' Instead we are discussing how that genius can also be greatly aided. The processes developed to empower and expand CI can be used by the individual also, for example to cope with a great deal of routine work so that she has more time for creativity. Research into methods for empowering CI "could mean the difference between being run over by the technology and harnessing it.

Pierre Levy  (1997) listed Vanniver Bush, Theodore Nelson, J. R. Licklider, Douglas Englebart and Tim Berners-Lee--inventor of the World Wide Web--as "the great visionaries in the history of collective intelligence in cyberspace." His eighteen page list of Web pages listed them in these categories: 

  • "The open source movement: collective intelligence in computer programming." 

  • "Collective intelligence in the scientific community."

  • "Collective Artificial Intelligence."

  • "Collective intelligence in business, 

  • "Collective intelligence in global wisdom,

  • "Collective Intelligence and epistemology, etc."


Engelbart (1996) proposed computer `groupware'--to help people think collaboratively--as a strategic way to create truly high performance human organizations. Across the centuries people have developed what he calls an Augmentation System with two parts: a human system and a tool system. Digital technology greatly enhances the tool system and, he has pointed out that, "these digital systems represent a totally new type of `nervous system" around which we can evolve new, higher forms of social organisms that can cope better "with the complexity and urgency of society's problems." This will require a "long-term, pragmatically guided, whole-system evolution." Methods for thinking together which have evolved across generations are not abandoned. Technology and research, however, can now be harnessed to achieve higher performance capability. Englebart expected people to be surprised by how group thinking can be enhanced.

Larger research and experimentation is needed to find out whether more holistic thinking systems can be devised, so that researchers can together propose larger and grander schemes and projects. What about modeling seven scholars, each of whom represent one of Howard Gardner's seven or more  kinds of intelligence and then model how they work together, using all seven kinds of intelligence. There is some experimentation of that sort with six-year olds. Could there be modeling of social laboratories in which more kinds of intelligence are mobilized to deal with human crises? Fitsgerald (2005) points out how collective intelligence can be seen in the way "groups can often outthink the experts, acting "as parallel-processing decision engines, pooling disparate knowledge to answer even the hard questions." Dede (2008) foresees "knowledge as collective agreement as Web 2.0 becomes the venue for "active co-construction of resources by communities of contributors." 

The next two chapters ask how scholars can move from idea development to simulations and collaboration to examine consequences and possibilities, as in global education planning, before new ideas are acted upon.

Return to Chapter 2.3 | Go to  Chapter 2.5

Bibliographical Notes

Collective Intelligence Institute: <http://www.co-intelligence.org/>.

Bugliarello, George. 1984. "Hyperintelligence." Futurist, Dec.

Dede, Chris.2008. "A Shift in Epistemology" Educause, May/June

Engelbart, D. 1996. "Towards High Performance Organizations." Washington DC: Open Source Solutions.

Figzgerald, Michael. 2005. "Group Rethink."  Technology Review." June. 

Georghiou, Luke. 1996. "The UK Technology Foresight Program."  Futures, May.

Hawley, Michael. 2005.  "Whither the Renaissance Man?" MIT Technology Review, May..

Hiltz, S, and N. Turoff. 1997. "Computer Based Delphi Processes." Online

Judge, A.  1991. "Transformative Conferencing." Brussels: Union of International Associations.

Kelly, John E. et al. 2008. "Intellectual Fusion." Educause. July/August.

*Levy, Pierre. 1997. Collective Intelligence. New York: Plenum. See also: Downloaded June  22, 2005. <http://www.fing.org/wikini/wakka.php?wiki=IntelligenceCollective>.>                     

Levy, Pierre. Downloaded, August 28, 2004."Digitong v2" <http://www.collectiveintelligence.info/documents/digitong-v2.xis>.

Mayne, Alan. 1994. "Critical Introduction" to H.G. Wells, World Brain. London, Adamantine Press

Rheingold, Howard. 1991. "The Great Equalizer." Whole Earth, summer.

Rheingold, H. 2003. Smart Mobs. New York: Perseus.

*Rischard, J. F. 2002.  High Noon. New York: Basic Books. 

Rossman, P. (2008). 'Networking and mobilizing collective intelligence'. In Tovey, M. (Ed.), Collective Intelligence: Creating a Prosperous World at Peace (pp. 315-332), Oakton, VA: EIN Press.

Smith, John B. 1994. Collective Intelligence. Hillsdale NJ: Erlbaum.

*Suter, et al. 2005. "Social Software and the Future of Conferences Right No*w." Educause, Jan./Feb.

Taher, Nasreen. (Ed.) 2005. Collective Intelligence: An introduction.. India: ICFAI (Universities ) Press

Tysson, Neil. 2007 Death By Black Hole and Other Cosmic Quandrries. New York: Norton.

Wells, H.G. 1933. World Brain. London: Metheun. See subject index for recent edition with preface quoting Parker Rossman

The Future of Higher (Lifelong) Education: For All Worldwide: A Holistic View
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July 12, 2006 -- Copyright © 2002-2005 Parker Rossman