To see the surges of hatred on the social networks, the slippages of the football supporters or the gangs of young people, it is allowed to doubt the collective intelligence. And yet ... Isabelle Taubes
You hoped to enjoy the weekend to rest a week of work. But here it is: 2 o'clock in the morning and under your windows a bunch of teenagers decided to party. Music, loud voices, laughter, chuckles of girls teased by their friends. It only misses the firecrackers ... It is understood, we are not serious when we are 17 years old and especially not on Saturday night. But from the bottom of your bed, to occupy your insomnia, your mind wanders. He wonders about the very fashionable concept of collective intelligence: the idea that the group makes more awesome, what you are doubting, faced with this teenage din.
"Collective Intelligence". The notion is born from the observation of ants and bees that, like humans, rely on the common work to survive, then developed under the influence of new technologies, the Internet, social networks. Promoted by thinkers like Pierre Lévy and Jean-François Noubel, it is now widely used by trainers and management specialists. So, in companies, meetings, meetings, videoconferences are multiplying, the open space appears as a privileged work environment: it is necessary to communicate, stay connected to each other at any time to be smarter, more effective , more efficient.
The shy are penalized
Are we really more creative to many? This seems to be the case for the band of good friends who set up a start-up to produce the software of the century. For the ordinary employees that we are almost all, the answer is less clear. "I can not stand these meetings where, under the pretext of allowing everyone to express themselves, no one can listen to themselves, deplores Laure, 38, employee of a large bank.With multiple opinions, I lose the thread of my ideas, I can not make myself heard.The most extroverts are not necessarily the smartest, so finally, here, it is is rather the reign of the mediocracy. " Recent studies show that the collective inhibits the creativity and intellectual abilities of those of us who do not feel very comfortable. To achieve these results, the researchers observed, using medical imagery, the brain activity of volunteers placed under the conditions of a work with several. And it turned out that the activation of the zones used to think and solve difficulties - what is required of us at work - was less for those who lack self-confidence, do not like to impose themselves, to speak in public or do not feel able to convince others.In short, loners, introverts who underestimate themselves are handicapped in companies that favor group work. As historians, poets, thinkers and inventors of genius have always been aware of, it is in the solitude and intimacy that we create best. In addition, researchers in Berlin have shown that sitting in front of our workstation in open space, almost immobile to avoid disturbing others, is also a danger for our intellectual activity. We are smarter and remember better when we are free to move and move at our own pace.
Crowds are too sentimental
If collective work poses risks for the elevation of thought, ideological engagement is also likely to make us stupid. Dan Kahan, a professor of psychology at Yale Law School in the United States, demonstrates this in all of his work on social norms. In the political field, the emotional, the emotional, outweigh the reasoning. We only listen to the opinions that confirm ours - and those of our party. We can see that political groups, claiming to be humanists, concerned about the well-being of the weakest, tend to take anti-social measures, we prefer to blind ourselves. "In my family, we fight and we vote on the left, it's a tradition, "says Sandra, a 52-year-old teacher," I can see that my expectations are regularly disappointed, but it's stronger than me, it's a reflex, I can not help it. "
Not to to betray our group of belonging, we do not hesitate to deny known facts, to reduce our reason to silence. Dan Kahan notes that in the United States a Republican Party member is statistically more likely to be climate-skeptical (refusing to believe in global warming) because it is the majority position of this political party. We imagine that the most cultured activists are likely to change their position when they receive scientific evidence. Not at all: being a republican graduate of a university increases the chances of being ... climate-skeptical. The crowds are too sentimental, and often for the worse. The group, especially when it counts thousands, millions of members, willingly loses reason. The work of Dan Kahan only confirms the analysis, at the end of the nineteenth century, of the psychologist and sociologist Gustave Le Bon and Sigmund Freud on the psychology of crowds. According to them, they feed on the ego of individuals, swallow them, absorb them. From this cannibal feast is born the soul of crowds, dangerous for individual souls, because they belittle them, make them regress at an archaic stage of civilization. Engulfed in the collective, we no longer listen to our superego: we are no longer responsible for anything, everything is allowed.Just remember the excesses of football fans. It's not the sport that turns us into wild beasts: it's the group! And when, after a night of riot, everyone goes home, reintegrates their ego, the awakening is brutal: shame, remorse invade us.
In the organized crowds, the army, the religious groups, intelligence has also quickly disappeared, according to Freud. All brothers, prisoners of a collective fantasy, we abdicate our own will. Hypnotized by our love for the chef, we are ready for anything for him. Here again, the good or the bad no longer exist, the critical mind falls asleep. It is this process that explains that a country that gave birth to the greatest philosophers, so many wonderful musicians and artists could have sunk into the Nazi madness, and how a monument of thought, the philosopher Martin Heidegger, responded at the call of the Third Reich. Because in this context, neither culture nor education serve as a safeguard. However, the collective can happily produce the best too. Moreover, it is the people, when they have an intention to manifest themselves on the world stage, who invent the languages, the customs, the real inventions. There is no individual intelligence out of nowhere. But it is important to think against the common thought, because this thought "against" is the thought in short, in the noble sense of the term. However, those who can produce statements that belong to them alone are counted on the fingers of the hand. We are easily more stupid to many. In order not to be, the collective must manifest an intention, a will, carry an authentic desire. The opposite of the brutishness produced by the gregarious instinct of the crowd. This carrier energy is at work in research laboratories, and wherever complementary skills recognized as such are invited to play their own score. Giving the best of oneself within the group, without our voice being drowned in the blah-blah of the mass, is also the condition for the emergence of a collective intelligence.