Systems Thinking

Collective Intelligence: 10 Quotes

3 min readOct 10, 2020


“We must therefore establish a form of decision-making in which voters need only ever pronounce on simple propositions, expressing their opinions only with a yes or a no. […] Clearly, if anyone’s vote was self-contradictory (intransitive), it would have to be discounted, and we should therefore establish a form of voting which makes such absurdities impossible.” (Nicolas de Condorcet, “On the form of decisions made by plurality vote”, 1788)

“Collective wisdom, alas, is no adequate substitute for the intelligence of individuals. Individuals who opposed received opinions have been the source of all progress, both moral and intellectual. They have been unpopular, as was natural.” (Bertrand Russell, “Why I Am Not a Christian”, 1927)

“Collective intelligence emerges when a group of people work together effectively. Collective intelligence can be additive (each adds his or her part which together form the whole) or it can be synergetic, where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” (Trudy and Peter Johnson-Lenz, “Groupware: Orchestrating the Emergence of Collective Intelligence”, cca. 1980)

“Cybernetic information theory suggests the possibility of assuming that intelligence is a feature of any feedback system that manifests a capacity for learning.” (Paul Hawken et al, “Seven Tomorrows”, 1982)

“The concept of organizational learning refers to the capacity of organizational complexes to develop experiential knowledge, instincts, and ‘feel’ or intuition which are greater than the combined knowledge, skills and instincts of the individuals involved.” (Don E. Kash, “Perpetual Innovation”, 1989)

“Civilization is to groups what intelligence is to individuals. It is a means of combining the intelligence of many to achieve ongoing group adaptation. […] Civilization, like intelligence, may serve well, serve adequately, or fail to serve its adaptive function. When civilization fails to serve, it must disintegrate unless it is acted upon by unifying internal or external forces.” (Octavia E Butler, “Parable of the Sower”, 1993)

“We must learn to think together in an integrated, synergistic fashion, rather than in fragmented and competitive ways.” (Joanna Macy, Noetic Sciences Bulletin, 1994–1995)

“It [collective intelligence] is a form of universally distributed intelligence, constantly enhanced, coordinated in real time, and resulting in the effective mobilization of skills. I’ll add the following indispensable characteristic to this definition: The basis and goal of collective intelligence is mutual recognition and enrichment of individuals rather than the cult of fetishized or hypostatized communities.” (Pierre Levy, “Collective Intelligence”, 1999)

“With the growing interest in complex adaptive systems, artificial life, swarms and simulated societies, the concept of “collective intelligence” is coming more and more to the fore. The basic idea is that a group of individuals (e. g. people, insects, robots, or software agents) can be smart in a way that none of its members is. Complex, apparently intelligent behavior may emerge from the synergy created by simple interactions between individuals that follow simple rules.” (Francis Heylighen, “Collective Intelligence and its Implementation on the Web”, 1999)

“Cultures are never merely intellectual constructs. They take form through the collective intelligence and memory, through a commonly held psychology and emotions, through spiritual and artistic communion.” (Tariq Ramadan, “Islam and the Arab Awakening”, 2012)

For more quote on “Collective Intelligence” see [The Web of Knowledge]




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