This seems to be a really important and practical question — not just an interesting philosophical one.
This question occurred to me early this month when I read this NY Times article about Collective Intelligence and Privacy. I realized that I had been sloppily (or naively) using “collective intelligence” and “collective consciousness” as almost having the same meaning. The article in contrast – and apparently most tech-type people who use the CI term – are referring to the macro-level knowledge, insights, and power that accrues when intelligence about behaviors and perspectives is gathered from many sources, and analyzed to reveal patterns. In that usage the sources (e.g., individual people or organizations) may not even be aware that their intelligence and behaviors are being collected, or what the results are, or how the results are being used. As a result, “collective intelligence” is fraught with challenges to individual privacy, rights, etc.
What is the answer?
At minimum it seems that for collective intelligence to lead to collective consciousness, it has to be transparently accessible to the collective (the sources) as well as to the collectors.
But I would really like to know more how others think about this, especially those who are most actively researching, pondering, parsing, categorizing, analyzing, wonkifying and creating collective intelligence.
I’ll also add a few other posts about this, starting with the next one, (which you may have just read).