When is Collective Intelligence also Collective Consciousness?

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).

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4 Responses to “When is Collective Intelligence also Collective Consciousness?”


  1. 1 Steve Perrin December 27, 2008 at 12:29 am

    Aside from the issue of others gatherings intelligence about the content of my mind, I myself am aware neither of the content nor the workings of my mind. No index, no summary, no concordance exists. Ask me what I know and I honestly have no satisfactory answer. I may know a little about this or that, but I am not conscious about either the breadth or depth of what I know. I know how to whistle and ride a bicycle, but I cannot tell you in much detail how I do it. Ditto for riding a car. As one who writes, I can tell you nothing about where the words come from. If you get an answer from anybody about where words come from, you will likely be in possession of a fantastic hypothesis, not any kind of knowledge.

    Taken out of the context in which it appears, intelligence is a confusing word. Spies and scholars are both concerned with intelligence, but there is almost nothing in common with how they use the term. Turn it into an adjective for modifying consciousness, and no serious person will claim to know what either word means separately, much less the combination. No one has defined consciousness satisfactorily, and I suspect the same is true about intelligence and intelligent. Until we can be sure what we are talking about, the discussion is apt to become unruly and unmeaningful in very short order. My advice? Tread slowly, deliberately, and with extreme caution.

    –Steve from Planet Earth (blogger about subjective consciousness, onmymynd.wordpress.com)

  2. 2 duncanwork December 28, 2008 at 7:07 pm

    Good point. Thanks. Better definition of the terms is needed, including more context. I’ll add another post about definitions. But of course, this is still a blog and not a treatise.


  1. 1 Holistic Thinking: Contains No Preservatives « 100 Trillion Connections Trackback on December 26, 2008 at 5:24 pm
  2. 2 Collective vs. Collected Intelligence « 100 Trillion Connections Trackback on December 1, 2011 at 6:21 pm

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