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Big Mind : How Collective Intelligence can Change Our World

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A new field of collective intelligence has emerged in the last few years, prompted by a wave of digital technologies that make it possible for organizations and societies to think at large scale. This “bigger mind”—human and machine capabilities working together—has the potential to solve the great challenges of our time. So why do smart technologies not automatically lead to smart results? Gathering insights from diverse fields, including philosophy, computer science, and biology, Big Mind reveals how collective intelligence can guide corporations, governments, universities, and societies to make the most of human brains and digital technologies.

Geoff Mulgan explores how collective intelligence has to be consciously organized and orchestrated in order to harness its powers. He looks at recent experiments mobilizing millions of people to solve problems, and at groundbreaking technology like Google Maps and Dove satellites. He also considers why organizations full of smart people and machines can make foolish mistakes—from investment banks losing billions to intelligence agencies misjudging geopolitical events—and shows how to avoid them.

Highlighting differences between environments that stimulate intelligence and those that blunt it, Mulgan shows how human and machine intelligence could solve challenges in business, climate change, democracy, and public health. But for that to happen we’ll need radically new professions, institutions, and ways of thinking.

Informed by the latest work on data, web platforms, and artificial intelligence, Big Mind shows how collective intelligence could help us survive and thrive.

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Mulgan Geoff
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Geoff Mulgan is chief executive of Nesta, the UK’s National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts, and a senior visiting scholar at Harvard University’s Ash Center. He was the founder of the think tank Demos and director of the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit and head of policy under Tony Blair. His books include The Locust and the Bee (Princeton) and Good and Bad Power (Penguin).

Preface vii
Introduction Collective Intelligence as a Grand Challenge 1
Part I
What Is Collective Intelligence? 9
1 The Paradox of a Smart World 11
2 The Nature of Collective Intelligence in Theory and Practice 14
Part II Making Sense of Collective Intelligence as Choice 33
3 The Functional Elements of Collective Intelligence 35
4 The Infrastructures That Support Collective Intelligence 48
5 The Organizing Principles of Collective Intelligence 60
6 Learning Loops 70
7 Cognitive Economics and Triggered Hierarchies 76
8 The Autonomy of Intelligence 90
9 The Collective in Collective Intelligence 99
10 Self-Suspicion and Fighting the Enemies of Collective Intelligence 119
Part III Collective Intelligence in Everyday Life 129
11 Mind-Enhancing Meetings and Environments 131
12 Problem Solving: How Cities and Governments Think 145
13 Visible and Invisible Hands: Economies and Firms as Collective Intelligence 161
14 The University as Collective Intelligence 174
15 Democratic Assembly 181
16 How Does a Society Think and Create as a System? 193
17 The Rise of Knowledge Commons: It’s for Everyone 200
Part IV Collective Intelligence as Expanded Possibility 215
18 Collective Wisdom and Progress in Consciousness 217
Afterword: The Past and Future of Collective
Intelligence as a Discipline 229
Summary of the Argument 237
Notes 239
Index 263

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