Networking – the global brain

Illustration: Wikipedia logo
The wisdom of the many as the Internet's guiding principle: puzzle piece logo of Wikipedia, the popular online encyclopaedia

Networking – the global brain

Global data access via digital clouds

Unlike intelligence in the usual sense, swarm intelligence refers to the way a group works together towards a goal. This can encourage new, unseen qualities. But it need not – and it requires an appropriate balance between individual performance and group behaviour.

Sascha Lobo at Spiegel Online, 2 April 2013

People working together online form complex social entities, which have often been ascribed – perhaps too enthusiastically at times – to the advantages of digital swarm intelligence. One brilliant textbook example of jointly exerted effort is Wikipedia, the international encyclopaedia of knowledge, which is open to contributions from anyone and continues to grow by the year. Yet even it would not work without the dedication of specialists and administrators who write, review, discuss and approve content. The idea of a completely unmoderated expansion of knowledge remains a pleasant flight of fancy.

That aside, online networking enables new cutting-edge options for exchanging information and opinions. Online readers use the comment function to rate and discuss digital newspaper articles; fastidious researchers use plagiarism platforms to compile proof of academic fraud cases; and bereaved friends and family members use memorial pages to commemorate their lost loved ones. Thanks to web services such as Dropbox, Google Drive and RapidShare, documents and files can be retrieved at any time, worldwide. Thus the era of bulky file folders and local hard drives seems to be drawing to a close. Data is increasingly being stored without a hard drive in the digital cloud. The age of digital clouds, of "Cloud computing", has arrived.