You’ve probably heard of Fark.com. For the uninitiated, Fark is an irreverent, community run news site powered by user submissions. Like many places on the internet, Fark can be equal parts childish and serious. Unlike many places on the internet, Fark is so popular that to be “farked” means that the site has driven so much traffic to an unsuspecting website that it crashes under the load.
Fark’s founder recently decided to run for Governor of Kentucky as an independent candidate. As Drew wrote in Wired last week, he based his campaign on the belief that “the internet and Social Media have finally made it possible for a third party candidate to win.”
Let’s put the spoilers right up front. Curtis did not win. But, Curtis’s loss does not mean that he was wrong about the Collective power of the internet. In fact, his campaign just might provide a template for shaping the future of politics.
One of the tenets of Curtis’s political philosophy is that he had none. He describes his approach to tackling issues as a two-step process, “1) I’ve seen an implementation that works and we should copy it or 2) I have yet to see an implementation that works but do you have one you could share with me?”
This community-based process might remind you of websites like Fark or Reddit, but it dates back to Aristotle. In short, Aristotle believed that the many, when thinking together, would almost always outperform the individual, no matter how well-educated or intelligent.
This is the basis of Swarm Intelligence and we see it everywhere in nature. Animals of all kinds have evolved to literally think together in a way that allows them to make collective decisions like where to look for food, or set up their nests, that no individual among them could have worked out on his own.
But humans did not evolve this way. And that’s why Curtis’s pragmatic approach to problem-solving might have struck voters as strange. We’ve grown accustomed to people promising us that they have the answers. Donald Trump has risen to the top of Presidential polls by shouting, “I will make America great again!” while Curtis’s pitch – “let’s figure this out together” – won only 3% of the votes in Kentucky.
And yet studies have shown that tapping Swarm Intelligence allows groups to perform better than individuals. Using their Swarming Intelligence platform called “UNU”, researchers at Unanimous AI have demonstrated this ability in groups, enabling them to accurately predict events as varied as the Oscars and the NHL Playoffs. In fact, ABC News recently called this technology “the cutting edge of group-decision making.”
Thinking together feels natural. Even though we didn’t evolve this way, once people try thinking together, be it in a unifying social platform like UNU or in response to Curtis’ attempts at collective decision-making, the power of the group is undeniable. As Curtis writes, “I found that voters responded very strongly to this strategy. It allowed people who didn’t agree 100 percent with my viewpoints to realize that even though we weren’t entirely aligned, all ideas had a place at the table.”
And groups of networked users experience the same thing in UNU. Even if the group has assembled to discuss something fun like Starcraft gaming strategy or something serious like the Syrian refugee crisis, one thing is clear, thinking together feels right, for it cuts through biases, neutralizes entrenchment, and reveals the genuine sentiments held by groups. How does it do this? By converging upon the common ground we can agree upon.
Nothing is as polarizing as politics. And few things are as divisive as political polls – and yet, when a group of 58 random people (of mixed party, age, and gender) formed a swarm after a recent GOP debate, they were able to find common ground on highly charged issues. This is what it looks like when a group thinks together in real time:
As Drew Curtis noted, the internet connects us. Innovative technologies like UNU allow us to think together as one. Curtis may have lost his election, but how long will it be until his ideas are validated?
If you want to experience UNU for yourself, just drop us a line below. The team that runs UNU is inviting beta users to ‘swarm’ on all kinds of topics, from sports and politics to gaming and entertainment. It should be fun…
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