Fact Checked

What Is Collective Intelligence?

Daniel Liden
Daniel Liden

Collective intelligence, also known as shared intelligence, is an emergent property of groups that occurs when many individuals, collaborative or competitive, work toward the same end. This form of "intelligence" is not necessarily restricted to humans — other organisms that live in groups, such as bacteria and ants, and even components of organisms, such as cells, display emergent properties comparable to a collective intelligence or "group mind." Groups of sufficient size tend to overcome the small-group tendency of attempting to minimize conflict by avoiding controversial subjects or activities even if they are important. Large groups are also far less affected by the biases of individual members than small groups. With these traits minimized, a larger group working toward a common goal tends to display far greater overall intellectual and problem-solving capabilities than smaller groups or individuals.

There are several important characteristics that a group must possess in order for the emergent property of collective intelligence to fully manifest itself. Members of the group must openly share their thoughts and ideas so that all members can work with the same knowledge. These ideas, once shared, must be subject to criticism and modification by other members of the group as long as that modification and criticism is also shared. Additionally, ideas must be examined based on their own merits, not based on the reputation of the individual proposing the idea. Collective intelligence manifests itself most strongly when a large group acts almost as a single "mind," with free sharing of information and synthesis of the collective's body of knowledge.

Collective intelligence emerges when many individuals work toward the same end, as collaborators or competitors.
Collective intelligence emerges when many individuals work toward the same end, as collaborators or competitors.

Collective intelligence is a popular area of study in many fields, such as neuroscience, psychology, business, and computer science. Computer scientists often construct models to determine how various properties, such as group intelligence, can emerge from complex systems. Collective intelligence is of particular practical interest in business, as group decision making often drives innovation, business plans, marketing strategies, and other important elements. Researchers work to obtain greater knowledge of the conditions in which collective intelligence emerges so that businesses produce an environment that promotes collective thought and innovation.

Group decision making may lead to innovation.
Group decision making may lead to innovation.

Modern advances in communication have rapidly advanced humanity's capacity for collective intelligence. The Internet, in particular, provides a forum for the broad dissemination, modification, and discussion of many facets of human knowledge. Individuals from around the world with different backgrounds, areas of expertise, thought processes, and cultural conditioning can all collaborate on the same topics, thereby minimizing the effects of individual and small-group bias and promoting the emergence of a "collective mind" from the complex interactions of many individual minds.

You might also Like

Discussion Comments


I have an assignment on this topic and I want to write on collective intelligence and democracy. I've read a little about it and some authors say that democracy may not be suitable for every society because every society does not have the right collective agency for this system of governance.

Does anyone here know about this topic? Is it possible that some nations can never be democracy because their collective intelligence is not conducive to democratic ideas and values?


I think collective intelligence of cells is one of the significant reasons why scientists and doctors believe in and speak about the existence of a higher being. My godfather is a surgeon and he tells me that there are some things in science and medicine that are inexplicable. How do cells know how to do what they do? How do they collaborate and work with one another?

Biologists call this cell intelligence and my godfather believes that this intelligence comes from God. I believe this too.


Social media has become an excellent platform and tool for collective intelligence. Many people share ideas and collaborate using social media platforms and it is highly effective.

Take for example the Arab Spring or the demonstrations in Turkey in 2013 and 2014. People communicated, shared ideas and made collective decisions. They made social media the platform of collective intelligence. This is mostly thanks to the wide reach of the internet and how quickly information can be disseminated.

These types of collective actions were more difficult to organize before the time of the internet. So we can really say that the internet has been a breakthrough when it comes to groups and societies forming a collective intelligence.

Post your comments
Forgot password?
    • Collective intelligence emerges when many individuals work toward the same end, as collaborators or competitors.
      By: opolja
      Collective intelligence emerges when many individuals work toward the same end, as collaborators or competitors.
    • Group decision making may lead to innovation.
      By: Monkey Business
      Group decision making may lead to innovation.