Collective intelligence: an emergent semiotic system

Francesco Consiglio
Universidad de Granada, Spain |

Received: 10-September-2018 | Accepted: 22-December-2018 | Published: 31-December-2018
Disputatio [Dec. 2018], Vol. 7, No. 8, a009 | DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.2551881
Article | [EN] | Full Text | Statistics Copyright Notice [es] | Vol. 7 No. 8

How to cite this article:
Consiglio, Francesco (2018). «Collective intelligence: an emergent semiotic system». Disputatio. Philosophical Research Bulletin 7, no. 8: a009.

Abstract | The main idea I shall argue for in this article is that collective intelligence can be explained as a result emerging from the activity of a group of individual agents, all of which act within the framework of a common semiotic system, such as the cultural structures shared by them all and representing their common ground, the cultural niche where they born and grow up (their collective imagery, for instance).
The main deal, here, will be to detect the bases of the feedback loop mechanism which permits the development of this emergent semiotic structures. Also, I shall explain how human groups indeed constitute a very sophisticated case of multi-agent system, a collective intelligence whose main feature is its social ontology.
Keywords |
 Collective Intelligence · Multi-Agent Systems · Semiotic Systems · Niche Construction · Emergence.

Inteligencia colectiva: un sistema semiótico emergente

Resumen | La idea principal a favor de la que voy a argumentar en este artículo es que la inteligencia colectiva puede ser explicada como el resultado emergente de la actividad de un grupo de agentes individuales, los cuales actúan todos dentro del marco de un sistema semiótico común, como son las estructuras culturales compartidas por todos ellos y que representan su base común, el nicho cultural donde nacen y crecen (su imaginario colectivo, por ejemplo).
El mayor reto, aquí, será detectar las bases del mecanismo de retro-alimentación que permite el desarrollo de este sistema emergente de estructuras semióticas. Además, voy a explicar de qué manera los grupos humanos representan, ciertamente, un caso muy sofisticado de sistema multi-agente, una inteligencia colectiva cuya característica más importante es su ontología social.
Palabras Clave | Inteligencia colectiva · Sistemas multi-agente · Sistemas semióticos · Construcción del nicho · Emergencia.


Bonabeau, Eric et alii (1997). «Self–organization in social insects». Trends in Ecology & Evolution 12, no. 5: pp. 188–193.

Bonabeau, Eric et alii (1999). Swarm intelligence: from natural to artificial systems. Oxford: Oxford University Press. PMCid:PMC16356

Clark, Andy & Chalmers, David, (1998). «The Extended Mind». Analysis 58: pp. 10–23.

Consiglio, Francesco (2017). «Information networks and systemic properties. An epistemological perspective». Disputatio. Philosophical Research Bulletin 6, no. 7: pp. 309–321.

Consiglio, Francesco (Forthcoming). «Mindshaping through images».

Donald, Merlin (2010). «The Exographic Revolution: Neuropsychological Sequelae», in Malafouris & Renfrew (eds.) The cognitive life of things. Recasting the boundaries of the mind, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 71–80.

Ferber, Jacques (1995). Les Systèmes Multi–Agents: vers une intelligence collective. Paris: InterÉditions.

Gibson, James Jerome (1979). The ecological approach to visual perception. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Grassé, Pierre–Paul (1959). «La reconstruction du nid et les coordinations interindividuelles chez Bellicositermes natalensis et Cubitermes sp. la théorie de la stigmergie: Essai d’interprétation du comportement des termites constructeurs». Insectes Sociaux 6, no. 1: pp. 41–80.

Heylighen, Francis (2016a). «Stigmergy as a universal coordination mechanism I: Definition and components». Cognitive Systems Research 38: pp. 4–13.

Hölldobler, Bert & Wilson, Edward Osborne (2009). The Superorganism. The Beauty, Elegance, and Strangeness of Insect Societies. New York: Norton & Company.

Jonas, Hans (1958). The Gnostic Religion. Boston: Beacon Press.

Keesing, Roger Martin, (1974). «Theories of Culture». Annual Review of Anthropology 3: pp. 73–97.

Kendal, Jeremy, Tehrani, Jamie, & Odling–Smee, John (2011). «Human niche construction in interdisciplinary focus». Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 366: pp. 785–792.

Kirsh, David (1995). «The intelligent use of space». Artificial Intelligence 73: pp. 31–68.

Kirsh, David (1996). «Adapting the Environment instead of Oneself». Adaptive Behavior 4, no. 3–4: pp. 415–452.

Laland, Kevin Neville & O’Brien, Michael J. (2012a). «Cultural Niche Construction: An Introduction». Biological Theory 6, no. 3: pp. 191–202.

Laland, Kevin Neville & O’Brien, Michael J. (2012b). «Genes, Culture, and Agriculture. An Example of Human Niche Construction». Current Anthropology 53, no. 4: pp. 434–470.

Marsh, Leslie & Onof, Christian (2008). «Stigmergic epistemology, stigmergic cognition». Cognitive Systems Research 9, no. 1–2: pp. 136–149.

Parunak, H. Van Dyke (2006). «A survey of environments and mechanisms for human–human stigmergy». In Danny Weyns, H. Van Dyke Parunak, & Fabien Michel (Eds.), Environments for multi–agent systems II, Heidelberg: Springer, pp. 163–186.

Ryan, P. A., Powers, Simon T. & Watson, Richard A. (2016). «Social niche construction and evolutionary transitions in individuality». Biology & Philosophy 31, no. 1: pp. 59–79.

Remotti, Francesco (2011). Cultura. Dalla complessità all’impoverimento. Roma–Bari: Laterza.

Sterelny, Kim (2007). «Social intelligence, human intelligence and niche construction»: Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 362: pp. 719–730. Doi:

Sterelny, Kim (2010). «Minds: extended or scaffolded?». Phenom Cogn Sci 9: pp. 465–481.

Sutton, John (2006). «Distributed Cognition. Domain and dimensions». Pragmatics & Cognition 14/2: pp. 234–247.

Sutton, John (2010). «Exograms and Interdisciplinarity: History, the Extended Mind, and the Civilizing Process», in Menary, R. (ed.) The Extended Mind, Cambridge: MIT Press, pp. 189–226.

Turing, Alan M. (1950). «Computing Machinery and Intelligence». Mind 49: pp. 433–460.

Wilson, Edward Osborne (1975). Sociobiology: The new synthesis. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

© The author(s) 2018. This work, published by Disputatio [], is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons License [BY–NC–ND]. The copy, distribution and public communication of this work will be according to the copyright notice. For inquiries and permissions, please email: