Tag Archives: distributed cognition

Ancient Wisdom from the Forums: Failures of Collective Intelligence

A while back, I wrote about how the shame you are supposed to feel when someone uses Let Me Google That For You illustrates how finding answers to your questions on the knowledge base that is the internet has become a distinct literacy. That sort of thing is really an example of how making use of collective intelligence for work and life is becoming something we expect people to be able to do.

I thought this XKCD from a few days back gets at the same idea.

The collective intelligence point is also evident in what you see when you mouse over the comic on XKCD. “All long help threads should have a sticky globally-editable post at the top saying ‘DEAR PEOPLE FROM THE FUTURE: Here’s what we’ve figured out so far …'”

Like the answer is on the tip of our collective tongue

Discussion threads are not simply records of conversations, they are part of the global knowledge base. When we get so close, like finding the thread, finding the same question, but can’t find the answer, we experience something a bit like the feeling of having a word on the tip of your tongue. At some other moment of time someone else had this problem, and if someone had just answered it for them it would be answered for me too.