Over at the Edge there’s a fascinating article by Thomas W. Malone about the work he and others are doing to understand the rise of collective human intelligence — an emergent phenomenon that’s being primarily driven by our information technologies. We may be on an evolutionary trajectory, he argues, that could someday give rise to the global brain. And amazingly, he’s developing an entirely new scientific discipline to back his case.
Malone, who is the Director at MIT's Center for Collective Intelligence, studies the way people and computers can be connected so that — collectively — they can act more intelligently than any single person, group, or computer.
And in fact, Malone is even mapping what he calls the "genomes of collective intelligence," a list of convergent examples and design patterns of this phenomenon — things that are assisted by Google, Wikipedia, InnoCentive, (the community that developed the Linux open source operating system), and others. He claims to have identified about 19 of these collective intelligence design patterns — or genes — theat occur over and over in different examples. He writes:
For instance, the community of people that developed the Linux open source operating system embodies what we call the "crowd" gene, because anyone who wants to can contribute new modules for the Linux operating system. But that community also embodies what we call the "hierarchy" gene, because Linus Torvalds and a few of his friends and lieutenants decide-essentially hierarchically-which of the modules that people send in will actually be included in the new versions of the system. So that's the genomes of collective intelligence project.
Among the other things Malone is working on, he's trying to understand how our whole society is evolving in a way that makes us more intelligent. "It's becoming increasingly useful to think of all the people and computers on the planet as a kind of global brain," he writes. Moreover, "our future as a species may depend on our ability to use our global collective intelligence to make choices that are not just smart, but also wise."
George P. Dvorsky serves as Chair of the IEET Board of Directors and also heads our Rights of Non-Human Persons program. He is a Canadian futurist, science writer, and bioethicist. He is a contributing editor at io9 — where he writes about science, culture, and futurism — and producer of the Sentient Developments blog and podcast. He served for two terms at Humanity+ (formerly the World Transhumanist Association). George produces Sentient Developments blog and podcast.
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