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The Sum of the Parts


By Anteater

The idea of an emergent intelligence formed by a group of less intelligent members working in an apparently coordinated way has been around for a long time, long before Wikipedia. We all know about ants, and about new categories like “hive” or “colony” formed from the simpler category of “bug”, with a level of complexity beyond the complexity of any of its members. The army of bugs has no commander, no project managers or design teams, yet they form themselves into a highly complex organisation building large complex structures.

The analogy between insect hives and networked computers has long impressed visionaries like Kevin Kelly, who has hailed the Internet as a new era in the history of humankind. Inert objects were being animated with “tiny slivers of intelligence”, linking individual minds into a globally interconnected single thing. “This will be recognized as the largest, most

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