Collective intelligence examples are everywhere -We need to be discerning to know them.
There is a huge compendium of collective intelligence examples at this MIT site. It lists down all the social media and knowledge exchange technology platforms available on the market.
Here, in this article, I have written about two collective intelligence examples. Examples where participants self-organise and regulate themselves without needing an external medium like a technology platform to make things happen.
Mass collaboration has allowed us to create huge low-cost collaborative infrastructure projects. These projects allow millions of people to collaborate and co-create products. Productive capability of people will now be better through such collaboration as the value creation is quick and easy flowing to reach the masses. Research profoundly says that the new collaborative way of working and capability, will be the future of business models in companies and how individuals perform work.
Research profoundly says that the new collaborative way of working and capability, will be the future of business models in companies and how individuals perform work.
This collective action of bright minds joining together as one social activity to create value and there by leading to a coordinated decision making is what “Collective intelligence” is all about.
Infact, collective intelligence is a sub-set of such mass collaboration. In other words, we need to have mass collaborations for collective intelligence to take place.
We are going to talk about two diverse Collaborative collective intelligence examples as initiatives that has happened in the past and look at how these initiatives sustained and were a great success. These stories were told over and over again by many. But then, what is important is to capture the essence of what is to come in the future.
Goldcorp Inc. – The Goldcorp Challenge as collective intelligence examples
It would be interesting to talk about Rob McEven, the then CEO of Goldcorp Inc. who had a spark of an idea in the year 1999 and went on to launch one of the World’s most successful collaborative collective intelligence efforts which made history.
Goldcorp Inc. is a gold mining and gold producing company headquartered in Canada and was going through a rough patch facing bankruptcy and closure in 1998. Goldcorp also owned the underperforming fifty-year-old mine at Red lake in Ontario, Canada. With its mine dying, the company was also doomed to die eventually. There was unrest within the employees with strikes and debts looming.
In-house geologists within Goldcorp couldn’t find and locate gold deposits within the mining site and nor they came up with favorable solutions. They looked forward for McEven for a turnaround and for his leadership.
With his company still in lot of uncertainty by the year 1999, McEven attended a conference sponsored by the MIT. He was listening through the lectures and then a striking story came about on how “Linus Torvalds” created the Linux, the world class operating system by assembling a group of software developers.
When Torvalds revealed his code to the world, it allowed some thousands of willing programmers to voluntarily contribute to the development of the operating system. The contributors would vet it, make amends and further released newer versions of the software.
McEven contemplated and thought about it. He had a moment of insight. If his employees were not able to find gold deposits at the Red Lake then may by someone else could. He set of with his spark of insight and discussed many follow through ideas with his team.
The Goldcorp challenge,
In the year 2000, the Goldcorp challenge was born. It is one among many collective intelligence examples. He (McEven) decided to throw open the exploration of gold deposits to the world. Sharing all the knowledge and expertise they had with them from the last 50 years from 1948.
Initially, there was lot reluctance from within his team members. As his ideas were unconventional. The concept of Collaborative ‘Collective intelligence” and Wisdom were not known to the mining industry and the world audience.
Largely, the mining industry was a secretive industry. Nobody ever revealed information about a site and its geology. It was considered precious and proprietary data. Nevertheless, they decided to go ahead with the Goldcorp challenge in March, 2000 with a prize money of $ 575,000 available for participants and contributors who had the best ideas, techniques and estimates for finding and locating gold deposits at the dying site at Red lake.
All the geological data that Goldcorp had from the last fifty years was shared with the public though software and sharing infrastructure. People from all walks of life – Geologists, ex-military, students, scientists and consultants participated and contributed. It was a tremendous collective response and intelligence working together. McEven had his team were surprised at, the amount of information and expert talent and intelligence that was available externally.
Even as the concept of Collective intelligence existed many years before, McEven chance stumbled into “Collective intelligence” through a spark of an insight for the mining industry. So great was the response, that within weeks of sharing the information, the contributors had identified 110 targets within the Red Lake mining site. Out of which 50 % of the targets were totally new and not identified before and about 80% of them yielded vasts amounts of Gold deposits.
Fractal Graphics, an Australian Geoscience consulting firm and Taylor Wall and Associates together shared the first place winner’s prize of $ 105,000 in the contest. The scientific team at Fractal graphics based in Australia and had not visited Canada and the mining site before but they still managed to make collective efforts, pooled their resources and minds together and worked on from Australia to present winning locations for gold deposits.
Goldcorp today, is enjoying the seeds of ideas and effort that was sown 16 years back. It has now become the 4th largest producer of gold in the world. The company has successfully harnessed collective intelligence and turned itself around.
Cooperative computing at the SETI @ home project – A collective intelligence example
SETI@home (Search for extraterrestrial intelligence) is an experimental project for using distributed public resources across the world. Public resources in the likes of idle computing power in our PC’s and Laptops at our homes and offices. This idle computing power can be used to analyze radio telescope signals. A distributed cooperative computing happening in time where the collective intelligence of all machines across the world, can be used to speed up the enormous processing and computing power and resources required for the analysis.
The radio telescopes erected around the world listen to the narrow bandwidth radio signals from outer space. These radio signals are not naturally occurring and so analyzing them would provide evidence for the existence of Alien intelligence lurking out there or maybe even a contact is possible.
For those of you, who have grown up seeing the television serial “COSMOS” in the year 1980 where Carl Sagan (The man behind the SETI project) narrates the mysteries of the universe, the project and such extraterrestrial experiments for finding life outside earth would be a thrilling experience. The Hollywood movie “Contact” is also based on such radio telescope signal analysis where in a riveting story unfolds based on it. So popular is the SETI project for people across the world that it has remained as a fantastic exploration and quest for life outside earth in the minds of people.
The SETI @HOME project was launched by the Space sciences laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley in May, 1999. The Challenge was that the computers at the SETI@home project had to analyze each and every radio signal frequency and decide whether it is an intelligent signal or a noise and it had to listen to a huge number of frequencies. It required massive computational resources to accomplish this.
Buying such massive computational resource is expensive. So they thought about a clever way of using idle computing power lying at our homes and offices. All we need to do is to download the software program which is now available as part of the BOINC (Berkeley open infrastructure for network computing) infrastructure.
Machine intelligence is also collective intelligence
The software program comes in the form of a screen saver for your PC or laptop. When your PC is idle, the screen saver actually downloads a packet of data from SETI@home, processes the packet of data and sends it back to SETI@home. Each packet of data contains a work Unit of radio signals. It is as simple as this but then the infrastructure provisions and the challenges inherent in such large distributed computing was very evident.
Even though there is machine intelligence involved, this is real computational collective intelligence at work. Processing the radio signals in a cooperative fashion and helping towards the signal decision making for a greater cause is real collective intelligence that the world can see and wait for the results.
Since its inception, the project performed 10 21 floating point operations and this distributed computing as entered into “Guinness book of records” as the world’s largest distributed computing research project.
So far, the project has not detected any extraterrestrial signal but has identified candidate sky positions where likely concentration of intelligent radio signals might be lurking. Expectations are that somewhere between in the years of 2020 to 2025 that enough evidence of extraterrestrial intelligence would be found.
Hope you liked reading about the two collective intelligence examples above. If you like this article, please do share us.
Further resources on this subject
- MIT Centre for collective intelligence – Good resource for collective intelligence examples.
- He struck gold on the net (Really)
- Wikinomics – How mass collaboration changes everything
- How stuff works – SETI@home project
- About SETI@home
If you find this article interesting, please do share us