And there was a map…

Collective intellect (or stupidity) has always fascinated me and the Web allows curious people to test many such concepts with ease. Such interest was in part the reason for making my Are you random? test. Now, Douwe Osinga has come up with a brilliant collective mind project, where Internet users try to draw a map of the world. His introduction to the project touches some interesting subjects. Please cast a few votes to help the project (the site has been experiencing some trouble because of overload, so it might need some patience).

I remember a few earlier projects of similar sort:

  • In 1999, two years after being beat by Deep Blue, Gary Kasparov took on the World in a match where a team of young chess experts suggested strategies that surfers would then vote on. Kasparov won, but met significant resistance. In earlier attempts where simply the move with the highest number of votes would be played, the collective consensus proved to be very poor.
  • Osinga mentions The Smaller Picture, where web surfers collectively are making a font. It is very similar to Osinga’s project but more straight forward, as the world map project includes questions like different world views (where do you place the center? Do Americans draw America proportionally larger than it really is? etc.)
  • And a discussion of such projects cannot be completed without mentioning the work of Loren Carpenter, beautifully portrayed in chapter 2 of Kevin Kelly’s (Wired editor) book Out of control. (The chapter is a must read!)

Projects like these can probably tell us quite a lot about democracy and whether or not the majority vote necessarily yields the best outcome but I’ll leave you to judge as you browse through these projects. Enjoy!

Linked: The New Science of Networks Book by Physicist Albert-Lszl Barabsi on networks and emergent behavior
Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software Brilliant book on emergence and complexity