Collective intelligence refers to cognitive abilities of a community resulting from multiple interactions between members (or agents). Agents may conduct seemingly very complex tasks with a basic mechanism known as synergy.
Under certain conditions, the synergy created by collaboration brings out powers of representation, creation and learning higher than those of individuals. A study of collective intelligence also involves the study of boundary interactions between members of a group, and limits that lead to collective errors which are sometimes catastrophic.
Collective intelligence is an old phenomenon, pointing to the advances in information and communication technologies. The internet facilitates in the coordination of decentralized and dispersed knowledge of people and thus enhances accessibility of collective wisdom.
The forms of collective intelligence are very different depending on the types of communities involved. And the systems are more or less sophisticated. Human societies in particular do not obey the rules as mechanically as other natural systems, for instance, the animal world.
The simplest features include: limited local information – each individual has only partial knowledge of the environment and unaware of all the elements influencing the group. Each individual is subject to a restricted set of simple rules in relation to the behavior of the whole system.
Furthermore the interactions are numerous: each individual is connected with one or more other individuals in the group. The emerging structure is useful to the community: people benefit from collaborative work (sometimes instinctively), and their performance is better than if they had been alone.
A classic example is the ant colony. Individual ants have a very limited repertoire of behavior and response. The colony as a whole is a stable but complex system with self-regulating ability to adapt easily to environmental variations. And has the capacity to solve problems without external control or a central coordinating mechanism. The tasks performed by the colony are not within reach of a single individual or identical group devoid of collective intelligence.
The individuals forming insects act with limited independence, the performance of their duties, however, is very focused. The totality of these insect societies is extremely powerful, which researchers attribute to a highly developed form of self-organization. For communication ants use pheromones for example, the bee waggle dance. Without a centralized form of supervision, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
It is obvious that in places where common thinking and collective knowledge is constructed, the principle of collective intelligence yields much greater attention.