Collective intelligence

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Collective intelligence is a shared or group intelligence that emerges from the collaboration and competition of many individuals and appears in consensus decision making in bacteria, animals, humans and computer networks.

The idea emerged from the writings of Douglas Hofstadter (1979), Peter Russell (1983), Tom Atlee (1993), Pierre Lévy (1994), Howard Bloom (1995), Francis Heylighen (1995), Douglas Engelbart, Cliff Joslyn, Ron Dembo, Gottfried Mayer-Kress (2003) and other theorists. Collective intelligence is referred to as Symbiotic intelligence by Norman Lee Johnson.[1] The concept is relevant in sociology, business, computer science and mass communications: it also appears in science fiction, frequently in the form of telepathically-linked species and cyborgs.



A precursor of the concept is found in entomologist William Morton Wheeler's observation that seemingly independent individuals can cooperate so closely as to become indistinguishable from a single organism (1911). Wheeler saw this collaborative process at work in ants that acted like the cells of a single beast he called a "superorganism".

In 1912 Émile Durkheim identified society as the sole source of human logical thought. He argued, in "The Elementary Forms of Religious Life" that society constitutes a higher intelligence because it transcends the individual over space and time.[2] Other antecedents are Vladimir Vernadsky's concept of "noosphere" and H.G. Wells's concept of "world brain" (see also the term "global brain"). Peter Russell, Elisabet Sahtouris, and Barbara Marx Hubbard (originator of the term "conscious evolution") are inspired by the visions of a noosphere — a transcendent, rapidly evolving collective intelligence — an informational cortex of the planet. The notion has more recently been examined by the philosopher Pierre Lévy.

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