In collective intelligence, what does expert mean? Or, in other words: is (or can be) expertise (as traditionally known) unfavourable to collective intelligence?

In collective intelligence, what does expert mean? Or, in other words: is (or can be) expertise (as traditionally known) unfavourable to collective intelligence?

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I think there is a wide potential for collective intelligence for public collectivity/community because it allows for collaboration between levels of expertise. As mentioned by Roxane, there are other initiatives in which skill sharing is allowed. A diverse discipline that comes to mind is citizens’ science. Citizen science is a collaborative process where volunteers work with professional scientists to study real world problems. Different types of citizen science projects include action projects, where citizens intervene in community concerns, conservation projects that support natural resources management, investigation projects where data is collected to advance scientific goals, technology-mediated virtual projects, projects that support educational outreach, and biodiversity curation projects.

This model has also been taken by artists such as Beatriz Da Costa and Kavita Phillip, who use “Tactical biopolitics” as “a creative terminological misappropriation”, drawing inspiration from “the assembly of resistant cultural practices referred to as tactical media, and the intellectual ferment around the history of biopolitics”. This intersection traces creative practices from technoscience, art, and activism, to combines it with the history of biopolitics. In their writings, Beatriz Da Costa and Kavita Phillip claim that the strongest possible aspect of tactical media is the “inter/un-disciplinary” exchanges among practitioners and theorists from various backgrounds. This attribute always privileges collaboration and coordination with larger strategy-based movements of resistance against hegemonic forces with inclusion and cooperation of the scientific community. They also refer to the notion of public amateurism as a task which a number of artists have undertaken in recent years which allows them to “rather than attempting to achieve expert status within the sciences, artists have ventured to find help in the realm of hobbyism and do-it-yourself home recipes for conducting scientific experiments” (Da Costa & Phillip 2010: 373).

Da Costa, Beatriz and Kavita Philip. 2008. Tactical biopolitics: Art, activism, and technoscience. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press.

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Probably you have some specific thing in mind, otherwise the natural answer would be that experts are good for collective intelligence. I am worried about collective stupidity (like electing for president a person totally unfit to be president) and misinformation, such as fake-news. Since this weekend this also goes under the name “alternative facts”.

Education has an important task to teach where to find reliable information (written by experts, or near-experts). In the context of collective intelligence, I would like to venture the following opinion. It seems to be a commonly held truth, or belief, that since knowledge in various fields has expanded so much, no one person can know everything and therefore we can be good at only one specific thing, expert on that, and rely on other experts or collective intelligence for the rest. I think it is a too defensive ambition. Certain essential things to know are not so many, and therefore not so hard to have an overview of a few things. (This overview must be essential in finding knowledge.) In this regard the American college system, the idea of liberal arts education in the modern sense, is great. The trend world-wide seems to be the opposite, toward more specialized university degrees.

Here is a striking example. Some years ago, one prominent medical school started requiring its students to take a course in art history:

(The link is supposed to be nytimes.com/2002/05/19/nyregion/yale-s-life-or-death-course-in-art-criticism)

This has now spread to most top American medical schools and there have also appeared studies indicating that these art classes make medical doctors better at diagnosing patients.

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I’m not sure about if expert could be a good or a bad thing in itself but maybe it can depends on the organisation of the group in which this specialised knowledge is spread. I think to this linked to Mathieu O’neil text Cyberchief  in which he argues that on the internet, in contrary of what one might think, not everybody is equal. Each can « become equal » by learning but in fact the ones who have more (technical)skills gains in authority because they are the ones everybody are listening to and trusting.

Actually, I’m just asking myself the inverse 🙂 if collective intelligence is sharing a specific knowledge (more than just information) and by doing it the collective gains more capability than the sum of each member’s intelligence, would a kind of expertise not be good for the community ?

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