’Collective intelligence’ tool enters European Parliament

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Interactive tools have made their way into the European Parliament for the first time, facilitating large-scale deliberation during a high-level conference on climate change yesterday (11 November).

The goal of the international high-level conference, entitled ‘A Global Contract based on Climate Justice: The need for a new approach to international relations’ and hosted by several MEPs, was to shape a joint memorandum in view of negotiations on a post-2012 global agreement on climate change. Parliamentarians, experts and other stakeholders are quickly realising that only a participative approach can tackle timely challenges like climate change. 

“The complexity and dynamics in the world are increasingly overrunning the capacity of individual intelligence,” psychologist Professor Peter Kruse told yesterday’s conference. “The time for a single great mind solving problems is over,” he added. 

‘Social brain’ to enable large-scale deliberation 

The deliberation, facilitated by a newly developed online discussion and consultation tool called ‘Nextmoderator’, allowed participants in the conference to share their opinions and experiences, reflect on ideas presented and express their views interactively. 

According to Kruse, it is almost impossible to fully understand and predict all the effects of climate change. “No single economist was able to predict the financial crisis as we experience it today,” said the expert. “That creates enormous pressure on decision-makers.” 

“An international meeting of experts is always a very precious opportunity to give insights and reflect upon solutions by sharing experiences, but the bigger the group, the more difficult it is to access the full potential,” explained Kruse, underlining that structured and fully documented large deliberation could only be handled by information technology. 

Online deliberation: How does it work? 

The Nextmoderator is a computer-supported moderation methodology that applies the techniques and methods of small group moderation to a larger group via a computer network (LAN). 

During the conference, two participants shared one laptop to give their personal input. All the laptops were connected and part of a local network. Any idea which was typed in immediately became open to the whole group. 

Simultaneous access reduced the number of similar ideas emerging and filtered topics of interest by using a simple ratings procedure. 

While brainstorming, participants were asked to focus on conflicts and promising approaches to problem-solving from the environmental, economic and equality perspectives. Because participants covered all three perspectives, the overall picture at the end of the conference represented the experts’ common view, explained a note from Nextmoderator, run by German company Nextpractice. 

Collective intelligence: an MIT concept

Collective intellingence basics have been developed by the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence, a research center at the US-based Massachusetts Institute of Technology, founded in 2006 by Professor Thomas Malone. 

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