The Limits of Open Intelligence

I had a question from someone in the audience at the RSA yesterday concerning distributed or open intelligence. His point was disagreeing with mine in that he thought that the future of scientific research and innovation was in open systems.

I am not against distributed innovation, open innovation or the ‘wisdom of crowds’ but I think that there is a limit to how far you can push it. The wisdom of crowds, for example, is largely a statistical phenomenon. Moreover, I firmly believe that in the future it will still be individuals and small groups that will be responsible for most of the radical new ideas, although these new ideas may, in turn, be developed and refined by large networks.

Specific problem solving is somewhat different and here open systems do have a huge role to play. But for really radical ideas you need a single maverick mind.

This makes me think about Jaron Lanier’s point that the network (i.e. the internet) has become exalted as being far more important than any individual. That we care more about the abstraction of the network than we do about real people. This in turn makes me think about some aspects of new media, and to some extent Web 2.0, in that without content any new channel is meaningless. A channel cannot be revolutionary without revolutionary content.

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One Response to The Limits of Open Intelligence

  1. Max Kaehn says:

    The trick is lowering the cost of allowing a maverick mind to test their ideas out and letting them spread. The Internet is good at lowering communication costs, but testing new ideas can still be expensive.

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