Can We Influence Outcomes Together?
May 5, 2011 5:58 PM   Subscribe

Can We Influence Outcomes Together? How can people and computers be connected so that—collectively—they act more intelligently than any individuals, groups or computers have ever done before? Can collective intelligence save the planet? An MIT Sloan Management Review studies The Collective Intelligence Genome [pdf].
posted by netbros (4 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Wasn't there something along these lines in Brunner's "The Shockwave Rider" - that groups of people were better at predicting odds collectively, than any computer? I don't have the book handy, so I can't look up exactly what it was... The Delphi pool, I think they called it.
posted by mrbill at 6:38 PM on May 5, 2011

Aha. Found it.

"It works, approximately, like this. First you corner a large - if possible, a very large - number of people who, while they've never formally studied the subject you're going to ask them about and hence are unlikely to recall the correct answer, are nonetheless plugged into the culture to which the question relates.

Then you ask them, as it might be, to estimate how many people died in the great influenza epidemic which followed World War I...

Curiously, when you consolidate their replies they tend to cluster around the actual figure as recorded in almanacs, yearbooks and statical returns.

It's rather as though this paradox has proved true: that while nobody knows what's going on around here, everybody knows what's going on around here.

Well, if it works for the past, why can't it work for the future? Three hundred million people with access to the integrated North American data-net is a nice big number of potential consultees."

posted by mrbill at 6:39 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

If we take a big step back, before computers and networking came along, there were really only three ways to organize people at a large scale:

(1) hierarchy (think military or corporations)
(2) markets
(3) charisma (think religion)

The really fascinating thing with these ideas of collective intelligence / wisdom of crowds / crowdsourcing approaches is that they now offer quite literally dozens of new ways of organizing thousands or even millions of people. We have open source, Wikipedia, prediction markets, social news sites, the ESP game, EteRNA, Mechanical Turk, Netflix and other recommender systems, Google PageRank, Innocentive, 99Designs, and more.

The scary thing is that we're still in the early days of figuring out all of what's possible in this design space. It's very likely that there are still dozens of great ideas out there that can still transform how we will do things in the future.
posted by jasonhong at 7:00 PM on May 5, 2011 [5 favorites]

AskMe has influenced my outcomes for years, every time for the better.
posted by Camofrog at 7:52 PM on May 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

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