I gave a talk a couple of weeks ago at the Paradiso Conference in Brussels on the subject of collective intelligence. It's a topic that's going to be an important one for NESTA over the next year or two (we'll soon be publishing an overview paper on concepts, theories and uses of CI).
It's a topic that's going to be an important one for NESTA over the next year or two and we'll soon be publishing an overview paper on concepts, theories and uses of CI.
The event I took part in was about how collaborative platforms can contribute to solving social problems, such as cutting carbon emissions or obesity.
It had a fascinating mix of speakers from Luc Jacquet (director of March of the Penguins) to Nobel Prize winner Elinor Ostrom.
The Big Challenges
At the conference I spoke about NESTA projects such as Who owns my Neighbourhood? and some of the lessons learned from now famous sites like Intellipedia, Buzzcar, Ushahidi and CouchSurfing.
The big challenge is to move these platforms from aggregation and sensing to more complex tasks, like judgement and wisdom.
Just as important is the challenge of ensuring that very open sites don't accelerate the circulation of misinformation. The wisdom of crowds is a nice idea but not very accurate.
I knew the academic critiques but I was even more impressed by reading Jaron Lanier's remarkable book You are not a gadget, in which the creator of virtual reality gives us a powerful reality check on where the web may be going wrong.
I'm not quite sure how it fits but one of strangest things I saw at the event was a site called RateMyNetworkDiagram.com, where people post diagrams of their home networks and rate each others' - an odd use of time and energy.
The event was followed by a sad lunch in Brussels to remember Diogo Vasconcelos.
Diogo had a meteoric career as entrepreneur, publisher, minister and social entrepreneur, latterly under the umbrella of Cisco. From Lebanon and Palestine to Poland or Portugal he was brilliant at linking things up and making things happen.
Over the last few years I worked very closely with him, and we often appeared as a double act, thinking the same thoughts and finishing each others' sentences.
The fact that many parts of the European Commission have taken up the challenge of social innovation is largely his achievement.
His sudden death in July has left a great hole; an extraordinary number of people in many countries have been touched by his inspiration and generosity.
A Vehicle in Motion
At the lunch we discussed how to build on his legacy and it was his father, with a background in trains, who gave us our metaphor:
To remember him we needed not a statue or a memorial but a vehicle in motion.
The combination of several of the organisations he helped establish (such as Dialogue Cafe and SIX) and a likely new prize for social innovators across Europe hopefully mean that his influence will continue for many years to come.