A Statement of Principles
The Internet has provided the infrastructure for a variety of new approaches for collective intelligence. We believe, in fact, that the new communication infrastructure provides the potential for radical changes in the ways that human beings communicate and work together to build a more peaceful, sustainable, and equitable future. At the same time, we acknowledge that collective intelligence is not a recent invention. It has existed for eons before the Internet came into being. While the expression “collective intelligence” is generally not used in this regard, the idea of democratic processes – especially when used to to help govern societies via collective problem solving – is a common material manifestation of that concept.
Aristotle, writing in the Politics, states that people are political by nature. In the article on the common good in the Encyclopedia Britannica, this notion is expanded in ways that are relevant today.
From the era of the ancient Greek city-states through contemporary political philosophy, the idea of the common good has pointed toward the possibility that certain goods, such as security and justice, can be achieved only through citizenship, collective action, and active participation in the public realm of politics and public service. In effect, the notion of the common good is a denial that society is and should be composed of atomized individuals living in isolation from one another. Instead, its proponents have asserted that people can and should live their lives as citizens deeply embedded in social relationships.
The pursuit of the common good will generally mean finding peaceful ways to resolve conflict, building a more equitable society, securing a healthy and diverse environment for ourselves and future generations, and respecting cultural diversity. Moreover, we believe that collective intelligence for the common good may be fundamentally distinct from other types of collective intelligence and thus warrants special attention.
Some of the socio-technological systems that fall under this focus include online deliberation; sensemaking; argumentation and discussion-mapping; community ideation and idea management systems; collective decision-making; group memory; participatory sensory networks; early warning systems; collective awareness; and crowdsourcing. We are interested in how those systems could be integrated with each other and with existing face-to-face systems. And we are also interested in approaches that support people working together in small groups who are not using electronic technology. Moreover, it is our intent to help develop, maintain, and enhance projects and systems that are actually used.
- In what ways have the contexts for collective intelligence for the common good changed? And how might they change in the future?
- What examples of collective intelligence for the common good historically and currently do we see? Why do they demonstrate collective intelligence for the common good? What might we see in the future?
- What new socio-technological systems are currently being developed now to promote collective intelligence for the common good? What’s their significance? What problems or challenges are they facing? Where might they go in the future? What obstacles or challenges are these new systems intending to address? How might these systems / approaches be instrumental in addressing significant real world problems?
- Researchers and activists focus on various aspects of collective intelligence such as sensing, deliberation, memory, focus, etc.
- How might these diverse approaches and systems be linked to each other – and how?
- What methodological approaches are relevant?
- How do disparate perspectives, disciplines, and attitudes relate to collective intelligence for the common good?
- How might these systems / approaches be instrumental in addressing significant real world problems?
- What roles do “ordinary” people – citizens with or without legal rights – play in designing and developing these approaches?
- Who are the stakeholders and what roles are they assuming in relation to collective intelligence for the common good? What roles might they assume in the future?
- What has been, is currently, and what could be, the relation of the citizen to citizenship? of citizens to associations? of citizens to citizens?
- How do face-to-face and other “real-life” encounters integrate with online communication and other uses?
- What can we do to work with “proof of concept” models to ensure that systems get developed and maintained that are built on the findings?
- How do we go about developing the necessary diverse set of partners and how might we work together?
With the challenges and opportunities afforded by the Internet and other information and communication technologies at this historical juncture, the development of a broader community or network becomes more-or-less necessary if civic society is to establish and hold any influence over the establishment and governance of information and communication systems, resources, and policies that are open, allow unhindered access to information, and encourage civic problem solving. Our goals include advancing research and more action-oriented approaches in a number of relevant directions at the same time.
As members of civil society who are not coordinated indirectly through the market or through coercion, we recognize that informal associations, sharing, and responsibility, will be necessary if we are to organize effectively in the face of urgent and complex challenges to the health of the planet and the people that inhabit it. In short, we would like to be able to affirmatively answer the question will we be smart enough soon enough?
With collective intelligence for the common good, the means align with the ends. In other words, practicing collective intelligence for the common good will be required if collective intelligence for the common good is our ultimate aim. Modeling the world we’d like to see can provide invaluable insights. Beyond conducting research and developing tools, services, policy, and the like, we are hoping to build the circumstances that help promote this work and the orientation in the world.
This perspective compels us to think about the inclusive community that this work requires, one that will necessarily be more focused and integrated and organized than many that currently exist. Moreover, we believe that this focus is likely to require a revision of our some of our own approaches, including rethinking who are the stakeholders of our work and how the work should be evaluated.
Our hope is to consciously and organically nurture this community / network. One approach would be to proceed largely through the actions of members inviting potential members. One research issue introduced here for our own edification is whether this approach could help instill and reinforce the norms and values that hopefully propel this project. The intent of this conscious community development is of course not to build a gated community, but to help focus attention on relevant issues including how best to engage the “outside” world and maintain porous borders.
In a general way, a member of the community would agree to:
- Emphasize work that is explicitly and conscientiously intended to advance the common good;
- Think about how their work complements other work of the community – and consciously work to integrate / complement the work and extend its effectiveness in the real world;
- Share news and engage in online and other conversations with the rest of the community on a regular basis;
- Focus on the organization and processes of the community in addition to the specific areas in which you specialize;
- Endeavor to help develop and use the socio-technological (and other) tools and systems developed by people in the community both as part of our community obligations and as a way to help improve the functionality and effectiveness of the tools and systems, and hence our potential effectiveness.
We envision the work that falls into the heading of Collective Intelligence for the Common Good in an extremely broad way: it includes research and action; products include (for example) deliberative systems, research enterprises and case studies, think tanks, model policy documents, curricula, ruminations and epistles, thought experiments, art works, and many others. We also hope to ultimately open up this work, possibly through networks of networks, enabling a multiplicity of systems, resources, events, experiments, etc, etc. – but, still, with the intent of integrating the work into the whole. While this work continues to promote rigorous research, it consciously seeks to integrate and build upon other perspectives. We hope to transcend the constraints of many dominant habits, institutions, and norms, especially when their strict obedience compels us to work in ways that are likely to be ineffective in addressing the common good of the planet and its inhabitants.
This statement is a statement of broad directions, principles and aims, not an oath that demands full compliance.
If you fell these idea resonates with yourself, your research and you’d like to connect with the CI4CG network just
This would be the first step toward a more active engagement in the community