Collective Intelligence? Nah. Connective Intelligence

George Siemens, elearnspace, Feb 18, 2008
Commentary by Stephen Downes

This is exactly right: "(Surowiecki) makes the point that people do not think together in coming to certain conclusions, but rather than people think on their own and the value of the collaborative comes in the connection and combination of ideas. Each person retains their own identity and ideas, but they are shaped and influenced by the work of others. The concept here is related somewhat to Stephen Downes' discussion of groups vs. networks. At stake in these discussions (Surowiecki, Downes, de Kerchove) is how we are to perceive the individual in a world where the collaborative/collective is increasingly valued." That is why I, too, prefer the concept of connective (not collective) intelligence.

I also agree with Siemens that the difference will become more vital over the years: "For reasons of motivation, self-confidence, and satisfaction, it is critical that we can retain ourselves and our ideas in our collaboration with others. Connective intelligences permits this. Collective intelligence results in an over-writing of individual identity." It is not a coincidence that I am at the same time arguing for personal empowerment (Learn Yourself, Things You Really Need to Learn) as I argue in favour of connective knowledge. It's not that I 'put the individual first' or any such thing; it's not a competition. It's just that, for the whole to produce maximally reliable knowledge, the individuals must be as enabled and empowered as possible, which precludes subsuming themselves to a 'will of the majority' or some such thing.
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