Big Mind

Big Mind Book Cover Big Mind
Princeton University Press

You may have heard about ‘big data’, the buzzword de jour that promises a lot of benefits, but perhaps not so much the phrase ‘big mind’. The concept of using collective intelligence to think at scale shouldn’t be so unclear. What it means and how it is utilised, however, can be something else.
Enter this book, providing a credible and accessible look at the field of collective intelligence, considering how human and machine-minds can be harnessed to solve the big problems of the future. It is not, however, just a case of throwing resources at the problems. So-called smart technologies may be smart, in a limited scale, but they are not miracle workers. A multidisciplinary, multi-format approach is needed, and even then nothing is guaranteed. A room full of smart people does not necessarily mean that only smart decisions will emerge either: often the inverse happens!
Yet developments are happening at a seemingly breakneck speed. Even in my soon half-decade on this earth, things I couldn’t imagine as a child as being reality are existing today. It is not so long ago that even getting live video, on a postage stamp-sized computer window, connected by modem was seen as amazing. Now we may complain when our high-definition or 4K video buffers or has an artefact, streamed from a 4G mobile phone when sitting in our garden. The ability to process massive amounts of data for good (and at times less-good) things is amazing too. All this is here today, but oh-so-much-more is waiting for the future and the real smart stuff may come with the next-generation of business, education and human thinking, aided by the technology developed at the same time.
Getting there, however… So, this is a timely, enjoyable book. It gave a lot for both specialist and generalist alike. It was written to service both audiences and can really draw you in. The author has credibly analysed the status quo today and sought to consider how this evolution may continue to leverage tomorrow’s benefits, with collective collaborative intelligence at its core.
Consider this to be more of an essay about the scope and potential of the collective mind. It is not a typical textbook, although it can certainly be used to sustain and extend debate. Mankind has a great potential ahead of it, but also it has displayed the ability time after time to pursue evil rather than good. Inevitably some of the ‘big mind’ developments will be used in a negative way, but hopefully positive developments will prevail. Of course, if the nirvana or threat of machines thinking for themselves and operating truly independently takes place – a machine with a brain and conscience – there is a risk that the fight between good and evil will then take place at the system level… the stuff science-fiction can be made of.
This book is not a whacky science-fiction dreaming book. It has its collective insight firmly anchored to the ground, provoking thought and interest into a subject that has a lot of yet-to-be-realised potential. It is highly recommended and very more-ish!