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Superminds: The Surprising Power of People and Computers Thinking Together

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From the founding director of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence comes a fascinating look at the remarkable capacity for intelligence exhibited by groups of people and computers working together. If you're like most people, you probably believe that humans are the most intelligent animals on our planet. But there's another kind of entity that can be far smarter: gr From the founding director of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence comes a fascinating look at the remarkable capacity for intelligence exhibited by groups of people and computers working together. If you're like most people, you probably believe that humans are the most intelligent animals on our planet. But there's another kind of entity that can be far smarter: groups of people. In this groundbreaking book, Thomas Malone, the founding director of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence, shows how groups of people working together in superminds -- like hierarchies, markets, democracies, and communities -- have been responsible for almost all human achievements in business, government, science, and beyond. And these collectively intelligent human groups are about to get much smarter. Using dozens of striking examples and case studies, Malone shows how computers can help create more intelligent superminds simply by connecting humans to one another in a variety of rich, new ways. And although it will probably happen more gradually than many people expect, artificially intelligent computers will amplify the power of these superminds by doing increasingly complex kinds of thinking. Together, these changes will have far-reaching implications for everything from the way we buy groceries and plan business strategies to how we respond to climate change, and even for democracy itself. By understanding how these collectively intelligent groups work, we can learn how to harness their genius to achieve our human goals. Drawing on cutting-edge science and insights from a remarkable range of disciplines, Superminds articulates a bold -- and utterly fascinating -- picture of the future that will change the ways you work and live, both with other people and with computers.


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From the founding director of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence comes a fascinating look at the remarkable capacity for intelligence exhibited by groups of people and computers working together. If you're like most people, you probably believe that humans are the most intelligent animals on our planet. But there's another kind of entity that can be far smarter: gr From the founding director of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence comes a fascinating look at the remarkable capacity for intelligence exhibited by groups of people and computers working together. If you're like most people, you probably believe that humans are the most intelligent animals on our planet. But there's another kind of entity that can be far smarter: groups of people. In this groundbreaking book, Thomas Malone, the founding director of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence, shows how groups of people working together in superminds -- like hierarchies, markets, democracies, and communities -- have been responsible for almost all human achievements in business, government, science, and beyond. And these collectively intelligent human groups are about to get much smarter. Using dozens of striking examples and case studies, Malone shows how computers can help create more intelligent superminds simply by connecting humans to one another in a variety of rich, new ways. And although it will probably happen more gradually than many people expect, artificially intelligent computers will amplify the power of these superminds by doing increasingly complex kinds of thinking. Together, these changes will have far-reaching implications for everything from the way we buy groceries and plan business strategies to how we respond to climate change, and even for democracy itself. By understanding how these collectively intelligent groups work, we can learn how to harness their genius to achieve our human goals. Drawing on cutting-edge science and insights from a remarkable range of disciplines, Superminds articulates a bold -- and utterly fascinating -- picture of the future that will change the ways you work and live, both with other people and with computers.

30 review for Superminds: The Surprising Power of People and Computers Thinking Together

  1. 5 out of 5

    Adnan Khaleel

    This book probably made sense 3 decades ago, but nothing new is really discussed here. The idea of super minds besides be a abstract construct, lacks any tangible practical use. I’ve wasted my time on this book, I’d advise you not do the same.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Terralynn Forsyth

    Pretty disappointing - felt like the explanations of "superminds" and collective intelligence were well laid out, but the arguments for why thinking in this way for the "future of work" were unclear. It was a pretty general and unoriginal overview of an highly discussed topic. Some interesting concepts, such as "integrated information theory", for understanding, measuring, and assessing consciousness are introduced, but practicality is missing from this book. Pretty disappointing - felt like the explanations of "superminds" and collective intelligence were well laid out, but the arguments for why thinking in this way for the "future of work" were unclear. It was a pretty general and unoriginal overview of an highly discussed topic. Some interesting concepts, such as "integrated information theory", for understanding, measuring, and assessing consciousness are introduced, but practicality is missing from this book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jim Crocker

    This one should get you thinking. No it's not about some kind of computer mind-meld. It's a serious discussion about the "intelligence" of groups of people. Here's a quote: "Groups have scientifically measurable properties. Psychologists can measure intelligence of groups. Some groups are smarter than others and we can understand why." All I can say is that I "knew" it all along. I'll be reading and re-reading this one for a while. This one should get you thinking. No it's not about some kind of computer mind-meld. It's a serious discussion about the "intelligence" of groups of people. Here's a quote: "Groups have scientifically measurable properties. Psychologists can measure intelligence of groups. Some groups are smarter than others and we can understand why." All I can say is that I "knew" it all along. I'll be reading and re-reading this one for a while.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kyle

    Reasonably well written, it is both too complicated to introduce someone to the topic and too broad to move the subject forward. The author has a particular view of intelligence and emergent thinking, which is fine, but it did not seem based on research. It seemed largely a stealth advertisement for his think tank.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mark Fallon

    We know that we're stronger together. research has proven that we're also smarter together. Now add the power of computer networking and AI..... We know that we're stronger together. research has proven that we're also smarter together. Now add the power of computer networking and AI.....

  6. 5 out of 5

    João

    Is a group conscious? How can we improve collective intelligence? The author offers non intuitive and tought provoking answers. Nice job.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jerrod Carter

    This felt like a book that was published under the "publish or perish" model. An MIT prof throwing in as many references to other MIT prof's studies as he could. Really, maybe the only takeaway I got from this book was that we should look at making computers part of groups, not just as personal assistants. Just as they can increase our individual productivity, they could also increase a group's productivity and decision making by including their insights into a decision making process. Probably This felt like a book that was published under the "publish or perish" model. An MIT prof throwing in as many references to other MIT prof's studies as he could. Really, maybe the only takeaway I got from this book was that we should look at making computers part of groups, not just as personal assistants. Just as they can increase our individual productivity, they could also increase a group's productivity and decision making by including their insights into a decision making process. Probably could have made that point in a good essay a lot better than in a book.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    Apparently I am not the target audience. It must be better suited for the fields of organizational dynamics, management, marketing and perhaps sociology. If you have experience in computer science, machine learning or are in the fields of engineering or biomedical engineering you will not find this book thought provoking or an interesting read. I was definitely disappointed.

  9. 4 out of 5

    JB Lynn

    A highly interesting look at how groups think and work together to problem-solve. Probably my favorite sections of the book were all the different real-world scenarios of some interesting experiments and studies that have been going on in the effort to study and improve upon AI technology and how that's been incorporated into our lives. There's also a lengthy references section at the end with plenty of options for anyone who might want to read more on a particular idea/study mentioned in the boo A highly interesting look at how groups think and work together to problem-solve. Probably my favorite sections of the book were all the different real-world scenarios of some interesting experiments and studies that have been going on in the effort to study and improve upon AI technology and how that's been incorporated into our lives. There's also a lengthy references section at the end with plenty of options for anyone who might want to read more on a particular idea/study mentioned in the book.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lorenzo Barberis Canonico

    Amazing! Full of examples that will blow your mind, while also providing a really robust framework to think about collective intelligence across a variety of domains

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ken Hamner

    Good overall summary of the inevitable and accelerating ability of people to leverage machine learning and artificial intelligence in the advancement of knowledge and ideas. Pretty good book.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Douglas Summers-Stay

    This brings together a lot of threads about how groups of people can work together to solve problems. The author was the first to try to measure the intelligence quotient of a group. I have issues with how they did it, though-- instead of using an established intelligence test, they made up their own tests, which seems like it would be less useful information. Also, the data that shows that the intelligence of the group depends on the social perceptiveness of the group (and because of strong cor This brings together a lot of threads about how groups of people can work together to solve problems. The author was the first to try to measure the intelligence quotient of a group. I have issues with how they did it, though-- instead of using an established intelligence test, they made up their own tests, which seems like it would be less useful information. Also, the data that shows that the intelligence of the group depends on the social perceptiveness of the group (and because of strong correlation, the number of women in the group) is sketchy: it looks like random noise with a trend-line drawn through it to me. I would bet it won't replicate. The writing could have been quite a bit denser and I would have been okay with it, even though this isn't really my field. I did like his point that building an AI is like building an intelligent community, only moreso because the individual units are so dumb. The thought I had when reading was that the difference between political systems isn't fundamentally about different goals, it's about different choice-making architectures. Democracy is about making choices by ballot. Libertarianism is about making choices by market. Fascism is about making decision by hierarchy. Communitarianism (?) is about making choices by community agreement-- I've been told that Quakers decide by unanimous voice. Communism-- I'm not sure exactly, but it's still a different way of choosing how resources get allocated, and how it is decided.

  13. 4 out of 5

    D.L. Morrese

    The idea of a group mind isn't new. A business, an army, a musical band, a nation... Many such groups can be viewed as unique entities that possesses information, goals, and attitudes that help define them but which are not necessarily the same as those of their constituent members. (For example, ask your heart its opinion of your last bacon cheeseburger.) There is also nothing new about intelligent behavior emerging from a mixed group of humans and non-humans. (A sheriff, a bloodhound, and a ma The idea of a group mind isn't new. A business, an army, a musical band, a nation... Many such groups can be viewed as unique entities that possesses information, goals, and attitudes that help define them but which are not necessarily the same as those of their constituent members. (For example, ask your heart its opinion of your last bacon cheeseburger.) There is also nothing new about intelligent behavior emerging from a mixed group of humans and non-humans. (A sheriff, a bloodhound, and a map can find an escaped prisoner far better than any of them alone.) And that's pretty much my take on this book. There's nothing new here, no insights, no new information, no fresh perspective.... It's an interesting subject, and if I had chosen to write about it, I'd probably have used the word 'emergent' a lot, and talked considerably more about how difficult it can be to pin down precisely what 'mind' may be generating seemingly intelligent behavior. But, I didn't, and I'm unlikely to. No one would pay me for the effort, and it doesn't sound like enough fun to do it without being paid.... Which makes me wonder why I'm bothering to write this review. Another good question.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Darnell

    There are some insights here, but they're buried under a lot of generic chapters. The book's formula is to call a system (like a company or market) a supermind, make some basic observations, then suggest that technology will probably have an impact on it. The number of chapters that actually dealt with computer/human interactions was very small. I felt many of the takes on other subjects weren't great either. He is bizarrely optimistic about China's social credit score system, and has an enthusia There are some insights here, but they're buried under a lot of generic chapters. The book's formula is to call a system (like a company or market) a supermind, make some basic observations, then suggest that technology will probably have an impact on it. The number of chapters that actually dealt with computer/human interactions was very small. I felt many of the takes on other subjects weren't great either. He is bizarrely optimistic about China's social credit score system, and has an enthusiasm for microtask sysems like Mechanical Turk that I can't generate. Also, not a single chapter about cooperative human/computer chess, which was honestly the main thing I wanted.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sambasivan

    An ok read. No fresh insights for me. Seems more of a synthesis of current ideas.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Potehin Ruslan

    There's one useful idea in this book - concept of collective intelligence. Everything else - wasting your time. Extremely bad written, not interesting. There's one useful idea in this book - concept of collective intelligence. Everything else - wasting your time. Extremely bad written, not interesting.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Carlos Bianchi

    A simple concept so over explained

  18. 5 out of 5

    Julia

    Nothing ground-breaking here but I did enjoy it. A bit of food for thought and helped me some connections that I never considered in detail before.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Maxelsen

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sorin Tudor

  21. 4 out of 5

    Trailplodder

  22. 4 out of 5

    Philip Orange

  23. 4 out of 5

    Faris

  24. 5 out of 5

    Thk

  25. 5 out of 5

    Stanislas

  26. 5 out of 5

    T

  27. 5 out of 5

    Codethrift

  28. 5 out of 5

    Gaurang

  29. 5 out of 5

    Adele J

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ty Wilkins

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