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Selected Readings on Collective Intelligence

February 02, 2017 by Geoff Mulgan

 

Collective intelligence is a newish term for an old topic. It describes how intelligence functions at large scales: how teams or meetings do or don’t make the most of their members, through to how whole societies solve problems. The phrase was first used in the 19th century but has been given much greater prominence recently thanks to the spread of digital tools. There’s relatively little literature on collective intelligence as such, but there is a very broad literature of related topics, from philosophical speculation about how the Internet could change the way humanity thinks to social psychology, computer science to economics. This reflects the fact that there isn’t yet a coherent discipline of collective intelligence. But over the next few decades there’s a good prospect that one will emerge, synthesising insights from across a range of disciplines, and in particular showing how the combination of human and machine intelligence can help groups think and act more successfully.

The following readings give a flavour of the range. They include some very broad sweeps (such as the books by Pierre Levy and Howard Bloom); a collection from Thomas Malone and Michael Bernstein which aims to map the state of the field, including the contributions of various social science disciplines; a recent collection from the foremost contemporary author on individual intelligence (Robert Sternberg); and a very different collection focused more on democracy and public decision-making (Helene Landemore and Jon Elster).

The piece by Anita Woolley et al is a good example of a specific experiment which showed some of the characteristics that make a group better at solving problems. Cass Sunstein’s book is a very readable guide to group decision making, which reaffirms the principle that it’s often sensible to get a group to agree on diagnosis before moving onto prescription. Simon Hartley’s book on teams is a good example of the huge literature on what makes teams work – whether in sports or business. Michael Nielsen’s book is a fascinating account of how science is being transformed by the Internet and new ways of mobilising many minds to solve problems. Finally, I’ve also added on a link to a short paper I wrote on what’s known about making meetings successful – which shows why the vast majority of meetings in academic, business and politics are so unsuccessful in making the most of the brainpower of their participants.

Selected Readings

Collective Intelligence: Mankind's Emerging World in Cyberspace

Pierre Levy

Type Book

Global Brain: The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century

Howard Bloom

Objective Effectiveness
Type Book

Handbook of Collective Intelligence

Thomas W. Malone Michael S. Bernstein

Methodology Essay Collection
Objective Effectiveness
Type Book

Evidence for a Collective Intelligence Factor in the Performance of Human Groups

Anita Williams Woolley Christopher F. Chabris Alex Pentland Nada Hashmi Thomas W. Malone

Objective Effectiveness

Collective Wisdom: Principles and Mechanisms

Hélène Landemore Jon Elster

Type Book

Creative Intelligence in the 21st Century: Grappling with Enormous Problems and Huge Opportunities

Don Ambrose Robert J. Sternberg

Methodology Essay Collection
Objective Effectiveness
Type Book

Why do humans reason? Arguments for an argumentative theory

Hugo Mercier Dan Sperber

Methodology Conceptual Framework
Objective Effectiveness

Wiser: Getting Beyond Groupthink to Make Groups Smarter

Cass Sunstein Reid Hastie

Objective Effectiveness
Type Book

Stronger Together: How Great Teams Work

Simon Hartley

Objective Effectiveness
Type Book

Cognition in the Wild

Edwin Hutchins

Methodology Conceptual Framework
Objective Effectiveness
Type Book

Reinventing Discovery: The New Era of Networked Science

Michael Nielsen

Type Book

Meaningful meetings: how can meetings be made better

Geoff Mulgan

Methodology Conceptual Framework
Objective Effectiveness