Collective Intelligence -

Impact on Science, the Environment, and Health


Sometimes just one person can't have every answer to every question. Sometimes they need other people's educated contributions, or just opinions, to help them along. This new Collective Intelligence, a product of the World Wide Web, is a way to reach these people. Examples include sites organized around a certain topic, open to public input and comments, or even blogs. With the world constantly in flux, Collective Intelligence provides a forum for scientists, and specialists in the environment and health, as well as amateurs, to stay current and informed across the globe. Collective Intelligence, if used with good intention, could lead to fantastic results: cures, environmental awareness, and problem solving. But if miss-used, can end up as a disaster: suicide and many deaths, or even a spread of false information.


Innocentive is a site where more than 125 000 of the greatest creative thinkers (such as engineers, scientists, inventors, other people with expertise in life science, chemistry, math, computer science) have gathered to try and help other people around the world to solve their scientific problems. Once they become members of Innocentive, they are able to post their own conundrums, and also post their original, possible solutions to other people's problems. With so many people working together, we can all apply our knowledge to working towards a faster and cheaper solution.

Of course though, this site has positives and negatives. A good thing about doing this over the net is that it saves traveling to another country to help out. You can just do it from home. And working together on something that will brighten our future can be quite uplifting. The reason why people invent things is so that we can have some benefit from it. A down point about people working on these things over the net together is that they could be working on an experiment, or on an invention that will not be of any benefit to the community, or the environment and could be destructive and we would not know anything about it. Additionally, these types of collaborative networks steal or make it very hard to appropriate credit for inventions or innovation. As great as fighting for the common ideal together is, scientists need to make money, and might be dissuaded from participating for that reason.

Likewise, the Massachusetts Institue of Technology (MIT), involves 5 different schools and 1 college, that allows students to work together and apply their knowledge on the world challenges of today. MIT aims to improve the community's 'passion to work wisely, creatively, and effectively for the betterment of humankind.'

In the MIT Museum this year (2008), you will be able to find many multimedia works showing the pioneering work of MIT engineers and oceanographers who were working with the areas of the deep ocean. These works show new technoligies of undersea robots in ocean exploration, national security and offshore energy production. You will also find the 'CityCar', which was created by a graduate student. it is a new city transportation ecosystem which shows the concept of an 'intelligent, stackable electric car' which will hopefully assist with the reduction of traffic congestion and pollution. The graduate has also included a video game that simulates what the driver would experience while driving it.

All these new ideas that these people involved with MIT were working on together have a good potential that will be of benefit to the world.

The Environment

GoZero Footprint City Calculator

Issues concerning global warming carbon emissions have been a concern around the world for the past few years. While there are many environmentalist organizations and groups such as the United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA), WebEx, and that offer Web carbon calculators, Ron Dembo, chief executive of Zerofootprint, says of the new GoZero Footprint City Calculator, “this is serious software, serious quantitative methods and social networking technology brought to the green world.” [1] He also commented on the idea behind the site saying, “[it] is something that will address millions of people and is infinitely customizable to any culture or lifestyle.” [1]
Zerofootprint is a Canadian non-profit organization whose goal is “to mobilize and empower large groups of individuals and organizations worldwide, [and] to reduce their collective carbon and ecological footprint.” [2] They do this “by harnessing the power of social networking, the Internet and software,” and then implementing it into such projects as the One Minute Calculator, Personal Carbon Manager, Enterprise Carbon Manager, Kids Calculator and others.[2] Zerofootprint and Business Objects collaboration resulted in the new GoZero Footprint City Calculator, which is essentially collective intelligence centered on humanitarian issues.

The New York Times reports that “on the interactive climate site, people will be able to enter data, see the carbon effect and how their carbon footprint compares with averages in their city and in cities worldwide.”[1] The site also has the capabilities to perform “what-if simulations, to see how changes in their activities affect carbon emissions.” [1] Then, “the anonymous [user’s emission] data will be collected for analysis by climate change scientists and others.”[1]

As another example, Mark Klein, working in the Center for Collective Intelligence, is at work on a project with many other people. This project is working towards harnessing the collective intelligence of many people in order to deal with the global climate changes. Different people have different approaches to problems and by letting other people have a say, it gives us new ideas on how to handle these current problems.


While collective intelligence can be very positive in terms of science and health, there are also many cases where it is detrimental.
An example of this exists on wikis that support and provide methods of suicide to thousands of impressionable people. Since anyone can insert information easily on a wiki that is accessible to most people, we need to think about the ideal method of fostering collective intelligence and the reaction of what we actually say has on those that are listening.

For example many people have been committing suicide by Hydrogen Sulfide Gas in Japan, as it is related to collective intelligence. Recently, this new method of suicide was posted and advised on the Internet. The site said "It's easy and everyone can do it," and people who wanted to kill themselves used this new technique. Even worse, this method of suicide effected many innocent bystanders because the Hydrogen Sulfide Gas spread over a wide area. Anyone in the neighborhood who inhales the gas, will suffer terrible after effects of the accident, and if worst comes to worst, they might lose their own lives due to someone else's suicide.

To solve these problems, Japanese government decided to ban the suicide sites. But the number of suicides are still increasing. Now in Japan not only the government but also the public participates in the campaign of suicide sites extermination for example, there is a suicide consultation center in Japan. This site is for people who are thinking about suicide and can not consult anybody. If people contribute their troubles on the site, a counselor will return an answer by mail immediately. The good point of the site is that their contents of consultations is not seen by anyone, so people consult about anything comfortably. Thanks to the site, a great number of people reconsider to commit suicide.

Therefore one internet site relieve their troubles, but on the other hand, another sites are promoting people to commit suicide, such is the paradox of the health sector of collective intelligence.

But not everything has a negative connotation in terms of health and collective intelligence. Eventually doctors will come together and discuss certain symptoms, gather information and also find new information and “make predictions” [3] for other patients all over the world. “Three key elements are needed to make a scenario like this possible: (1) computer programs to make automated predictions in certain cases, (2) methods for combining predictions from multiple people and computer programs and, (3) an incentive system that motivates people and organizations to contribute their time, information, and other resources to a system." [3] We must realize that incorporating total collective intelligence into our lives is an arduous process that comes with time, patience, and a lack of ignorance toward learning how to operate collectively.

Team Members

Gillian F (WHS), Ashley C (GHS) Asuza S (KGHS), Gabby S (PLC)


[1] Lohr, Steve. "On the Web, an Advanced Carbon Calculator for Personal Use." Technology. 15 May 2007. The New York Times. 18 Apr 2008 <>.
[2] zerofootprint. 18 Apr 2008 <>.</span>
Malone , Thomas W.. " Healthcare - Harnessing the World's Collective Intelligence to Cure My Cancer." Center for Collective Intelligence . Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 22 Apr 2008 <>.</span>
[4] Main Picture Main Picture
[5]"Does the internet influence suicidal behavor ? " News-Medical.Net, 19 Apr 2008 <>
[6]"Japan sees wava of suicides using detergent." USA TODAY 19 apr 2008 <>
[7]Healthpart picture 10 May 2008<>

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