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MIT Looks to Give Group Think a Good Name 167

netbuzz writes "With Friday's opening of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence, researchers there hope to address this central question: "How can people and computers be connected so that — collectively — they act more intelligently than any individuals, groups, or computers have ever done before?""
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MIT Looks to Give Group Think a Good Name

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  • by Yonkeltron ( 720465 ) on Tuesday October 10, 2006 @07:42PM (#16385589) Homepage
    Folks at UCSC have done similar research with this paper [] found on the arXiv....I remembered reading it when it first came out and it's still a pretty neat concept.
  • by LionMage ( 318500 ) on Tuesday October 10, 2006 @08:37PM (#16386125) Homepage
    Vernor Vinge has often talked and written about intelligence amplification techniques, such as amplifying the intelligence of an individual or harnessing the power of many minds together. In his latest novel, Rainbows End (yes, the apostrophe is omitted intentionally, a fact the author draws attention to multiple times in the book), Vinge postulates one such mechanism for realizing group intelligence. What if an AI that was only moderately smart built up a social network of "experts" and well-placed non-experts, and found ways to essentially get people to do things for it by promising various inducements? The beauty is, an AI would be very adept at tirelessly managing such a network so that each contributor wasn't just contributing to the AI's primary goal, but also contributing to satisfying the promises made to other contributors.

    Furthermore, the participants in this network wouldn't necessarily have to be aware of each other, nor would they need to be aware that they were part of a collective intelligence. People tend to cooperate more easily when they don't realize they're doing it.

    We humans have a lot of core competencies, but neither managing group efforts nor making decisions by committe belong to this category. Machines, on the other hand, are fantastic at administrative minutiae. Machines also are much better at number crunching in general, something we already rely on them heavily for. The merging of human and machine cultures seems like a logical progression to me, and I don't believe I am drinking Kurzweil's Kool-Aid.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 10, 2006 @08:45PM (#16386171)

    We all know that when you get lots of people together, the result is less intelligence than the sum of individual intelligences, not more.

    Not necessarily. It may depend on the framework used to combine the individual inputs into a collective decision. From a human emotion point of view, mob rule doesn't work very well (innocent people get lynched, for example) but democracy in the proper framework (that is, rule of law) works quite a bit better than monarchies or dictatorships (less human suffering and all that).

    More broadly, though, we really don't even know that much about individual decision making. Our current understanding of science is that everything happens because of either the fundamental laws of physics or random chance (actually random chance is a fundamental part of the modern laws of physics). Anyway, unless we find a way to change the fundamental laws of physics or control random chance (impossible by definition) then we need to be taking a long hard look at this thing we call free will.

    When we don't even really know what it means to "make a decision", we need to be a bit careful in our assessment of what it means to make "good" decisions and even more careful in our assessments of whether groups or individuals make better decisions.

  • by blahplusplus ( 757119 ) on Tuesday October 10, 2006 @09:26PM (#16386475)
    "But I believe that books or the written word in general is not the right tool for collective intelligence and in fact right now stopping us from making some advances e.g. in education."

    I don't agree that text is useless, sure it's not the best for every situation, but it is a companion to other styles of rendering and communicating information. This is where I believe FORUMS actually enhance "group think" there are LOTS of gold nuggets particular section of some topic in many peoples minds that would take a single person months and many aspects towards a lifetime to come up with by themselves or not at all.

    IMHO I've advanced my learning by leaps and bounds by absorbing other peoples understanding or realizations of the mechanics of how something works and/or reading about their own strategies in active forums. Wikipedia is not perfect, but go to any dedicated website for many professional topics or even just hardcore amateurs gathered around their favorite past-time or subject, like say video games, you will see how quick one persons learning filters down into other peoples own strategies. It's essentially network learning.
  • by Lemmy Caution ( 8378 ) on Tuesday October 10, 2006 @09:31PM (#16386507) Homepage
    See Ed Hutchins' "Cognition in the Wild," a study of navigation practices on a Naval vessel, for an answer to your question. I am willing to bet that very little of your own "intelligent" behavior is coherent or meaningful outside of a broader system, and that you rely on the cognitive capabilities of many others in order to operate yourself. What distinguishes "good input" from "stupid input" for human activities is usually something which is distributed across minds.
  • by QuantumFTL ( 197300 ) on Wednesday October 11, 2006 @02:39AM (#16389257)
    The major limitations are not how to deal with html, flash, IRC or whatever, but about how to deal with clashing egos, language & cultural barriers etc and how to arbitrate when experts disagree etc.

    True those things must be dealt with (and are probably the majority of the problem), but the ability to index, search, and automatically extract collective knowledge is important - this is one of the reasons that text is so successful on the web. Besides open formats ensure our kids will have access to our goodies too.

"I'll rob that rich person and give it to some poor deserving slob. That will *prove* I'm Robin Hood." -- Daffy Duck, Looney Tunes, _Robin Hood Daffy_