Collaborative intelligence


This past Friday evening, Betsy Burroughs and I drove down to SAP Labs in Palo Alto to attend Future Salon and listen to our friend Zann Gill tackle the Engelbartian question of how, “as much as possible, to boost mankind’s collective capability for coping with complex, urgent problems.” The title of her session: Evolving Collaborative Intelligence.

Mark Finnern
Mark Finnern, founder and leading light of Future Salon

Once a month, sixty or so people convene at SAP Labs for nibbles, networking, an invariably fantastic presentation, and discussion. A few years ago I attended every other meeting, but travel and the long drive got me out of the habit. Friday’s session re-kindled my interest.

Zann Gill
Zann covered so much ground and presented so many provocative frameworks that I can only offer you a few sound bites from my notes:

  • Collaborative intelligence is more important than collective intelligence. Collective intelligence taps the consensus “wisdom of crowds” and harnesses algorithms to transform diverse input into a better-than-average consensual output. Collaborative intelligence taps the diversity of individuals, manifesting principles of evolutionary design to adapt to continually changing ecosystems.
  • Nature manifests directed innovation, with a series of “process design” principles that human-computer systems can apply to practical problems faced by enterprise systems (from companies to social networks to cities and nations).
  • Innovation networks support cross-disciplinary, collaborative problem-solving as we face our greatest challenge, eco-sustainability. Park Merced, one of Met Life’s post-WWII apartment complexes, is becoming a model eco-neighborhood by overcoming conventional thinking.
  • Reality differs from our perception of reality. Is versus as. Odds of a major quake in the next 30 years = 62% but we blow it off.
  • What if life itself is a pattern recognizer? What would this imply?
  • Group think (with the pressure for answers) vs. keeping ourselves honest. Instead of group think, we can evolve a capacity for emergent pattern recognition and decision-making.

Future Salon
Q&A was extensive and all over the map. I was disappointed that many people asked such self-serving questions, demonstrating in the flesh that they didn’t buy into Zann’s points about the power of working toward breakthroughs collaboratively.

Future Salon

Future Salon

Zann Gill

Follow-up and elaboration:
Zann Gill
The Thief (1952) with Ray Milland

Incidentally, since my pocket camera bit the dust on Thursday, these are among the first photos I’ve taken with my iPhone. The shots are not as clear as I’m accustomed to, but overall I’m happy with the results.

2 thoughts on “Collaborative intelligence

  1. Ken Allan

    Kia ora Jay!

    I think the important thing here is what is done with all this intelligence, however it is aggregated. Collaborative intelligence, is as useless as collective intelligence if neither of them are tapped and used appropriately.

    So often the intelligence (in whatever aggregate) is there. It’s how it’s used/applied that is the practical issue in solving the problems mentioned here.

    Frankly, it’s that part that incurs politics and I’m afraid to say that political interference negates all the care and attention given to aggregating the intelligence however it is done. This has been witnessed at local level and at international level and even at the global level in recent past history.

    I do not have a solution to this. But I recognise that it is at least as important as deciding how to aggregate the intelligence of a large group of people, either considered individually or otherwise.

    Catchya later
    from Middle-earth

  2. k.a.m.

    Mr. Cross,

    Thank you for turning me on to Ms. Gill.

    From your site I linked to Google talks and found out more about her ideas, her books, and just great stuff I otherwise would have never found without your link.

    The internet truly is an online learning tool.

    If nothing else comes out of social darwinism’s collective ideas online, I believe exactly what I’m doing here, biofeedbacking to you, is reason enough to do it.

    Where is all this going?

    Who knows?

    And that’s alright too.

    Thanks again for sharing.

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