Friday, October 01, 2010

can a computer game teach collective intelligence?


Video - Jane McGonigal gaming can make a better world.

AvantGame | The term ‘collective intelligence’, or CI for short, was originally coined by French philosopher Pierre Levy in 1994 to describe the impact of Internet technologies on the cultural production and consumption of knowledge. Levy argued that because the Internet facilitates a rapid, open and global exchange of data and ideas, over time the network should “mobilize and coordinate the intelligence, experience, skills, wisdom, and imagination of humanity” in new and unexpected ways. As part of his utopian vision for a more collaborative knowledge culture, he predicted: “We are passing from the Cartesian cogito”—I think, therefore I am—“to cogitamus”—we think, therefore we are.

The result of this new “we”, Levy argued, would be a more complex, flexible and dynamic knowledge base. In a CI culture, he wrote, knowledge “ceases to be the object of established fact and becomes a project.”Members of a collective intelligence would not simply gather, master and deploy pre-existing information and concepts. Instead, they would work with the collected facts and viewpoints to actively author, discover and invent new, computer-fueled ways of thinking, strategizing, and coordinating.

Whereas Levy was making predictions about a collaborative culture to come, real-world examples of early forms of collective intelligence today proliferate. Perhaps the most wellknown CI experiment is Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia written and edited by the public, using the collaborative writing software known as a Wiki. Yahoo! Answers allows users to pose any question, on any topic, to the online public; amateurs and experts alike offer their best answers, which are rated by other users so that those deemed most helpful or insightful rise to the top.

Google Image Labeler, originally developed by Carnegie Mellon University researchers as the ESP Game, invites the public to improve its image search engine by working collaboratively to categorize online pictures by agreeing on specific, descriptive tags. MapHub enables users to upload personal stories and experiences of specific geographic locations to online maps, so that they become rich with site-specific data that paints a picture of collective experience. SFZero, an online role-playing game, describes itself as a “collaborative productive game”, relying on its players to generate and to score virtually all of its missions. And multiple online prediction markets, from the Hollywood Stock Exchange to the World Economic Forums’ Global Risks Prediction Market, allow individuals to wager on the likelihood of future events, from entertainment awards to terrorist attacks—typically with a startling degree of success.

What do these myriad CI projects share in common? They all use digital networks to connect massively-multi human users in a persistent process of social data-gathering, analysis and application. Their goal: to produce a kind of collectively-generated knowledge that is different not just quantitatively, but also qualitatively, in both its formation and its uses. Fist tap Dale.