Towards a Global Brain:
The Web as a Self-organizing, Distributed Intelligence
Vrije Universiteit Brussel, ECCO - Evolution, Complexity and Cognition research group
OVERVIEW: Distributed intelligence is an ability to solve problems and process information that is not localized inside a single person or computer, but that emerges from the coordinated interactions between a large number of people and their technological extensions. The Internet and in particular the World-Wide Web form a nearly ideal substrate for the emergence of a distributed intelligence that spans the planet, integrating the knowledge, skills and intuitions of billions of people supported by billions of information-processing devices. This intelligence becomes increasingly powerful through a process of self-organization in which people and devices selectively reinforce useful links, while rejecting useless ones. This process can be modeled mathematically and computationally by representing individuals and devices as agents, connected by a weighted directed network along which "challenges" propagate. Challenges represent problems, opportunities or questions that must be processed by the agents to extract benefits and avoid penalties. Link weights are increased whenever agents extract benefit from the challenges propagated along it. My research group is developing such a large-scale simulation environment in order to better understand how the web may boost our collective intelligence. The anticipated outcome of that process is a "global brain", i.e. a nervous system for the planet that would be able to tackle both global and personal problems.
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