What can be done to maximize the use of Collective Intelligence?
Frank Thun

I love the idea of everybody rating everybody’s input. My input is that voting should be replaced with spending. Spending money is a sacrifice so it’s more meaningful. Then each and every person’s input could be ranked by the total amount of money that was spent on it. The cream would rise to the top.

This is the same system that bees use. Well, they spend calories instead of money. Let’s say that Samantha the bee discovers a big patch of blooming Aloes. After collecting as much pollen and nectar as she can, she quickly flies back to the patch to report her discovery. She dances to signal the direction, distance and usefulness of the patch. The longer/harder that she dances, the more calories that she is willing to sacrifice, the more useful that she perceives the patch to be. Onlooking bees consider Samantha’s valuation of the patch and use it to decide whether it’s worth it to inspect/valuate the patch for themselves. The bees that decide to inspect the patch report their own valuation of it when they return to the hive. Many different perspectives on the same patch results in a more realistic assessment of its true usefulness.

Of course it’s not usually the case that there’s only one flower patch. Samantha probably isn’t going to be the only bee shaking her booty on the dance floor. There probably are going to be numerous bees competing for the hive’s attention. The bees that are willing to make the biggest personal sacrifices are going to attract the most attention to the most useful patches.

An example with humans is how Edmond Halley discovered Isaac Newton’s ideas. Halley perceived that Newton’s ideas were very useful so he wanted them to be more widely known. To facilitate this, Halley spent his own money to publish Newton’s book… Principia. Halley’s sacrifice was the equivalent of Samantha’s sacrifice. They both were willing to make a sacrifice in order to help draw more attention to something that was very useful to them.

Recently I shared this example with Michael Andrew Haines. Unfortunately, he really struggled with it


I never once argued that other people valuated the worth of Newton’s ideas by the amount of money that Halley was willing to spend on them. My argument is simply that other people only learned of Newton’s ideas because Halley was willing to sacrifice his money to help promote them. This is the same exact thing with the bees. The other bees only learned about the Aloe patch because Samantha was willing to sacrifice her calories to help promote it.

It should be the easiest thing to understand that you can’t valuate ideas that you don’t even know about!

It should also be easy to understand that you can’t possibly valuate every idea in the world!

There has to be some prioritization process. From my perspective, voting isn’t a good way to prioritize ideas. This is simply because there’s no sacrifice. If you’re not willing to sacrifice even a penny for an idea, then it really can’t be that useful to you. Therefore, the more money that you’re personally willing to sacrifice for an idea, the more useful that it must be to you.

To some extent we do use our money to rank ideas. Every time you go to the grocery store you essentially use your money to rank ideas. Each product is an idea. The more money that you spend on a product/idea, the more useful that it is to you. The more useful that a product/idea is to us, the more resources that are available to it.

So the point of using money to rank ideas is to determine how society’s limited resources are divided between them.

The issue is that we really don’t think about this process. When you buy bagels you don’t think to yourself, “Bagels are useful to me so I want more resources available for their production.” Because people really aren’t aware of this process, they greatly underestimate its usefulness.

Right now a few of my friends and I are working on a website. Participants will be able to submit links and rank them with their money. This way everybody will be able to clearly see the prioritization process. As a result, people will be able to correctly estimate the usefulness of markets.

The very basic code for the website is already written. All that’s left is to pick a domain name. Right now we have a list of over 400 potential names. Logically we’re going to use our money to choose the most valuable name. Since there are only 4 of us, the chances are slim that we will pick the most valuable name. But once the site is up and running, then people could use it to suggest and valuate other names. The website will use the most highly ranked name.

The plan is for the market to make every decision for the website. In theory, because a lot more thought will go into every decision, it means that the most useful decisions will be made.

What do you think?