In the light of the recent launch of BENISI (a collaboration between 6 HUBs and 5 European institutions to scale-up 300 social innovations in the region), we found ourselves googling around how other people are looking at networks collaborating for a higher purpose. We stumbled upon this quote from Thomas W. Malone, founding director of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence: “As all the people and computers on our planet get more and more closely connected, it’s becoming increasingly useful to think of all the people and computers on the planet as a kind of global brain.” From this perspective, one might say that the HUB on and offline network is an ever growing “social hemisphere” of this global brain. So we kept browsing and this is what our net-scan dug out.

Collective intelligence has existed at least as long as humans have, because families, armies, and companies, all act collectively with varying degrees of intelligence. But in the last decades, a new kind of collective intelligence has emerged: groups of people and computers, connected by the Internet, collectively doing intelligent things and acting like a global brain. The success stories of Google and Wikipedia suggested that the time is now ripe for many more such systems, and on these premises the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence was founded. Their basic research question is:  How can people and computers be connected so that — collectively — they act more intelligently than any individuals, groups, or computers have ever done before?

Founding director Thomas W. Malone explained in “COLLECTIVE INTELLIGENCE, A Conversation with Thomas W. Malone”, how one of the projects aims to “map the genomes of collective intelligence”. By collecting examples of interesting cases of collective intelligence they search for design patterns (“genes”). “For instance, the community that developed Linux embodies the “crowd” gene, because anyone who wants to, can contribute new modules for the Linux operating system. But that community also embodies the “hierarchy” gene, because Linus Torvalds and a few of lieutenants decide – essentially hierarchically – which of the modules that people send in will actually be included in the new versions of the system.”

Another project launched in 2009 is The Climate CoLab – an online platform where people can create, analyze, and select detailed proposals for what humanity can do to address global climate change. The winners of their contests have presented their ideas at the United Nations and on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

Harnessing collective intelligence to address climate change MIT Climate CoLab

Source: “Harnessing collective intelligence to address climate change: MIT’s Climate CoLab” (Robert Laubacher and Thomas W. Malone)

In a recent TEDx talk, Alberto Cottica also analyzed the future of participation and the potential that lies in collective intelligence:

As summarized on the European’s Commission Digital Agenda Platform: “Global warming, mounting inequalities, loss in biodiversity, rogue finance: humanity is faced with problems of unprecedented scale and complexity, that have so far resisted anything we throw at them. What these problems have in common is that they are not driven by any one bad guy‘s agenda: they are emergent properties of the interaction of billions of individual agents (individuals, businesses and governments), just as our minds are an emergent property of our 90 billion neurons interacting. We, as individuals, can’t control them, just as no neuron can control the mind.”

Another source of insights is The Millennium Project, a collective intelligence project founded in 1996, connecting futurists around the world to improve global foresight. It’s an independent non-profit global think tank of futurists, scholars, business planners, and policy makers who work for international organizations, governments, corporations, and universities. Judgments from over 2,500 people are assessed, distilled and updated on a continuous basis in the “State of the Future” and “Futures Research Methodology” series, special studies, and integrated into this Global Futures Intelligence System.


Until the future arrives, you’re invited to experience a collaborative, collectively intelligent present with us :)


Matthias Reisinger

Matthias Reisinger

Co-founder & Director

Matthias is an Austrian serial entrepreneur and one of the co-founders of the Impact Hub Vienna, of Inventures (an online blog about startup scene in Central and Eastern Europe), and of Three Coins (a financial literacy game).

Besides that he loves music, tech, sushi and 30day challenges.