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Big Mind: How Collective Intelligence Can Change Our World

Nesta Chief Executive Geoff Mulgan's 'Big Mind' describes the emerging field of collective intelligence that’s been prompted by a wave of digital technologies that make it possible for organisations and societies to think at large scale

A new field of collective intelligence has emerged in the last few years, prompted by a wave of digital technologies that make it possible for organisations and societies to think at large scale.

This “bigger mind”—human and machine capabilities working together—has the potential to solve the great challenges of our time. So why do smart technologies not automatically lead to smart results? Gathering insights from diverse fields, including philosophy, computer science, and biology, 'Big Mind' reveals how collective intelligence can guide corporations, governments, universities, and societies to make the most of human brains and digital technologies.

Nesta Chief Executive Geoff Mulgan explores how collective intelligence has to be consciously organised and orchestrated in order to harness its powers. He looks at recent experiments mobilising millions of people to solve problems, and at groundbreaking technology like Google Maps and Dove satellites. He also considers why organisations full of smart people and machines can make foolish mistakes—from investment banks losing billions to intelligence agencies misjudging geopolitical events—and shows how to avoid them.

“A fascinating and important book.” Financial Times

"Brilliant. . . . An essential primer on an important new discipline." Kirkus Reviews 

"Important … a sophisticated analysis of the various human and computational forms of collective intelligence." Howard Gardner, Harvard University, author of 'Multiple Intelligences'

"In 'Big Mind', Mulgan nails it yet again. …a smart, lucid, and compelling book." Julia Hobsbawm, author of Fully Connected

"Insightful and broad-ranging … will appeal to business leaders at all levels, from tech giants to start-ups." Martha Lane Fox, executive chair of Doteveryone

"important, wide-ranging ….It's enlightening - indeed inspiring - and should be read by all citizens" Lord Martin Rees, author of Our Cosmic Habitat, former President of the Royal Society and Astronomer-Royal

"Big Mind brims with pragmatic, unexpected insights. Mulgan filters his awe-inspiring breadth of academic knowledge through the lens of decades of practical experience." Scott Page, University of Michigan

"Geoff Mulgan’s Big Mind is the book the world needs… magnificent." Jeremy Heimans, founder of Purpose, GetUp, and Avaaz

"The trenchant questions and thoughtful discussion in 'Big Mind' ... will help us to reimagine our institutions and convince us of the urgency of doing so."  Beth Noveck, Nature

"A perfect introduction to collective intelligence, a little-known discipline that 'can change our world'."  Arab News

"In addition to getting the science right, Mulgan is also a gifted writer who draws upon literature and philosophy to illustrate his points [and] understands that collective intelligence should be designed to serve collective welfare, ultimately at the planetary scale. This is public policy for the future." David Sloan Wilson, Distinguished Professor of Biological Sciences and Anthropology, Binghamton University

"Geoff Mulgan is one of the most persistently creative policy thinkers of the past 25 years, and his latest offering 'Big Mind' is no exception. It charts the emergence of the new field of collective intelligence, which is harnessing human and digital capabilities for collaborative problem-solving on an unprecedented scale. It’s an argument with profound implications for the way we organise science, universities, businesses and governments".  James Wilsdon, Guardian, Favourite Reads 2017

Publisher: Princeton University Press, October 2017


Geoff Mulgan

Geoff Mulgan

Geoff Mulgan

Chief Executive Officer

Geoff Mulgan was Chief Executive of Nesta from 2011-2019.

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