Collective Intelligence: What is it really?

One idea discussed at the web 2.0 conference was “what is collective intelligence”. Is it what some have said about things like Yahoo’s Flicker — that community tagging allows all to more easily find content they couldn’t have found before? In other words groups doing things that collectively add something to the whole? OReilly describes it as: Network effects from user contributions are the key to market dominance in the Web 2.0 era.
Or is it more? and others have done a great job of letting all of us put our brains (via web links) into a common repository. And that I think that adds some value that I can search things more easily and become more knowledgable. That is, if I’m willing to do the work and engage in the community. But I think of that today as a low-value use. Because it doesn’t yet solve a pain.
But here’s where collective intelligence could and should solve a very real pain: Security on the Web. If you could have 100,000 users all tag what is spam, viruses, and phishing or theft attempts, so that once it was tagged it would be removed for all, then everyone in that user community benefits. A very real threat would be diminished. Technology can take in user context and then predict what is going to happen.
The thing about technology is that it can do things people cannot do well. Human beings have a context that doesn’t always change as needed. But computers can be programmed to have a sort of amnesia. And then technology can construct a context so that new observations can be tied together and constantly improved as it’s applied to queries. That’s Enterprise or Collective Intelligence, V2. Computers also have this ability to do “data sequence neutrality”. If given a set of data in a particular order, the observations can all be viewed as equal where human beings (again, a strength in most contexts) have a evolving context where what got received first often biases the interpretation of what is received second.
Turn this into a security solution where observations of the many find the threat and take the needed action and (wow!) have you solved a real need in computing today. It’s the direction this stuff is going. I only hope it moves from what I consider to be “nice to have” stuff to “critical need solutions”

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