MIT launches Center for Collective Intelligence

Builds on MIT strengths and technology to seek new solutions

Cambridge, Mass. — The MIT Center for Collective Intelligence (CCI) officially launches today and has already set an ambitious goal to understand how to harness the power of large numbers of people — connected together through Internet and other technologies — to better solve a range of business, scientific, and societal problems.

“The recent successes of things like Google and Wikipedia suggest that the time is now ripe for many more such systems,” said CCI Director Thomas Malone, author of the influential 2004 book, The Future of Work, which examined how information technology enables business to organize itself in new ways. “At CCI, our 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?”

As an example, Malone cites the process of writing books. “Today's publishing industry is built on the assumption that books are written by a single author — or at most a few people. But Wikipedia shows that very different approaches may be possible. What if, for instance, certain kinds of books could be written by large numbers of people with very little central direction?”

In fact, at its formal opening, CCI will announce an experiment to create just this kind of new example of collective intelligence. The joint project by CCI, the SEI Center for Advanced Studies in Management at the Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania, and Pearson Publishing is expected to involve thousands of people who will collectively write a book — Wikipedia-style — about how to use communities in business.

“CCI is the right organization to lead this joint initiative,” said MIT Sloan Dean Richard Schmalensee. “It will give CCI, and all of us, an opportunity to learn as much as possible about how to make collective intelligence successful.”

“In the long run,” Malone said, “this movement toward more decentralized decision-making in business may be as important a change for business as the change to democracies was for governments.”

Malone noted that “CCI is a collaboration that builds on MIT's deep expertise in many disciplines.“ The center involves faculty from the MIT Sloan School of Management, the Media Laboratory, the Department of Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence, the Brain and Cognitive Sciences Department, the Leadership Center, and the McGovern Institute for Brain Research.

“CCI is trying to look over the horizon to see what will be common five, 10, or 20 years from now. Google, Wikipedia, Linux, and e-Bay are examples that show something interesting and important is already happening. Such examples are not the end of the story, but just the beginning. And I hope that our work can help people understand and take advantage of these exciting possibilities,” Malone said.

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Paul Denning
Director of Media Relations
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Fax: 617-253-5875
E-mail: denning@mit.edu

Patricia Favreau
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Tel: 617-253-3492
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E-mail: pfavreau@mit.edu