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“Collective Intelligence (CI) is the capacity of human collectives to engage in intellectual cooperation in order to create, innovate, and invent.”
– Pierre Levy + James Surowiecki + Mark Tovey

I wrote a post a few days ago, Is Twitter a Complex Adaptive System?, that proposed the idea that Twitter may be evolving into an entity of sorts, a collective intelligence. I’ve come across some new posts that are amplifying that meme, and I just want to keep the thoughtstream going.

Insight #1

I was reading an article by Nova Spivack from 2006 over on Ray Kurzweil’s site, titled The Third-Generation Web is Coming. In it, he lays out the evolution from Web 1.0 –> Web 2.0 –> Web 3.0, a more intelligent web “which emphasizes machine-facilitated understanding of  information in order to provide a more productive and intuitive user experience.”

He also lays out the key technology trends driving the evolution. Among them are Ubiquitous Connectivity (broadband, mobile internet), Network Computing (SaaS, P2P, cloud computing), and Open Information (open APIs, open-source software, OpenID).

Sound familiar?

Insight #2

Then this article from ReadWriteWeb passed through my tweetstream, The Future is all about Context: The Pragmatic Web. The author, Alisa Leonard-Hansen, paints a picture for “a highly relevant and individualized Web experience based on the ubiquity of our identity data.”

However, with the rise of the social Web, we see that what truly makes our online experiences meaningful is not necessarily the Web’s ability to approximate human language or to return search results with syntactical exactness….Rather, meaningful and relevant experiences now are born out of the context of our identities and social graph: the pragmatics, or contextual meaning, of our online identities. My Web experience becomes more meaningful and relevant to me when it is layered with contextual social data based on my identity. This is the pragmatic Web.

Then she goes into a different direction, talking about business models and Facebook. She finishes by just touching on the implications of the centralization of identity data, which is such an extremely important concept that I need to save that discussion for an entirely separate post. But to begin building your framework for understanding the importance of open technology, bookmark the Peer to Peer Foundation website and the P2P blog.

Dave Winer echoed the sentiment of context in his recent post, How (slowly) we add metadata to tweets, in reference to the new retweet feature on Twitter and issues about attribution. He links to an article by Alex Bowyer, A better design for twitter retweets, which is a very well thought out post that deserves to be read.

Insight #3

I then found this article by Dean Pomerleau, titled Twitter and the Global Brain. He starts by explaining that some recent evidence in neuroscience has suggested a new model for understanding how the brain is altered during learning. He then makes a correlation between that process and the emerging structure and function of the real-time web, i.e. Twitter.

Imagine a twitter user as a neuron. He/she makes the equivalent of a synapse with each of his/her followers. When a twitter user sends out a tweet, it is the equivalent of a neuron firing. Followers who receive the tweet decide whether to propagate the activity by retweeting the message, in a sense by deciding whether they too should fire in response to the tweet.

He acknowledges that this is not exactly how Twitter works yet, but he goes through some interesting examples of how it could work, and if that system became automated, it could signal the emergence of a type of Global Brain.

I think he’s done a very good job of distilling this concept into terms that are understandable to the layman.

Insight #4

Then, just this very morning, I discovered this site: information economy meta language. It’s mission is as follows:

The main mission of the Collective Intelligence Lab is to pursue theoretical, empirical and applied researches related to ieml. This general mission can be decomposed in three sub-tasks:
- to develop the vocabulary and the grammar of the information economy metalanguage,
- to design and build the technical and methodological tools that will encourage and spread ieml uses,
- to exploit ieml-related tools and methods for the study of information economy, the improvement of knowledge management and the growth of collective intelligence.

On the site, I found this document by Pierre Levy , the team’s Director, titled From social computing to reflexive collective intelligence: The IEML research program (PDF), which appears to be due for publication in the Information Sciences journal in 2010. It’s a dense 25 page paper, but I see a lot of correlation between what he’s proposing and what I’m proposing with the Metathinking concept.

Essentially, he’s saying that we need a new language infrastructure for the web in order for it to evolve to the sematic web stage. I’ve been echoing that thought by proposing we need a new thought architecture in order to process the new types of information that we’re encountering.

This ‘new language’ Levy describes seems to be the necessary structure that would have to be created in order for Pomerleau’s ‘Global Brain’ to emerge.


This all seems to be brought together beautifully by the Guardian article, After social networks, what’s next?

In it, venture capitalist Peter Theil answers the question by asking us to evaluate what stage we’re at with social networks, and reminding us that we often don’t realize the implications of what we’re seeing even when it’s staring us right in the face.

So, based on the above insights, the pieces seem to be in place. Allow me to answer the question with this question:

Have we transitioned to Web 3.0?


I’m so glad I was able to write this post on Thanksgiving. I’m thankful to my network for giving me the information that inspired this post. Thank you all!

This post made possible by:
@tonnet – tweeted Dave Winer article
@futurescape – RT @brainpicker to ReadWriteWeb article
@ideahive – tweeted Guardian article
@novaspivack – tweeted link to ieml site & Levy paper

People mentioned in this post:
Dave Winer @davewiner (Scripting News blog
Alex Bowyer @alexbfree
Nova Spivack @novaspivack (creator of Twine)
Michel Bauwens @mbauwens (creator of P2P Foundation)
Pierre Levy @plevy (his wikipedia page)
Ray Kurzweil – not actively on twitter yet, but here’s his site

Some contextual quotes to chew on:

To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete” – Buckminster Fuller

The future has already arrived. It’s just not evenly distributed. – William Gibson

The mark of a well educated person is not necessarily in knowing all the answers, but in knowing where to find them. -Douglas Everett