Are we using the full potential of chatbots? While they're commonly used for everyday tasks, they could also be the key to unlocking the power of collective intelligence to solve complex problems.
Chatbots like ChatGPT are revolutionizing our daily work and life, but are we using them to their full potential? In this article, we'll explore how chatbots can be used to overcome the limitations of collective human intelligence in solving complex problems and how the EU MSCA ITN project Health CASCADE (CORDIS: 956501) is developing chatbots specifically for co-creation and hybrid collective intelligence.
Facing complex existential problems
Humanity faces unprecedented challenges that threaten our welfare and even our existence. Climate change, population aging, social inequalities, and pandemics are complex problems that seem to resist our best solutions. These problems are too entangled and have too many moving parts for any one person or discipline to solve.
a personal account
Sebastien Chastin is a Professor of Health Behaviour Dynamics in the School of Health and Life Sciences at Glasgow Caledonian University and in the Department of Movement and Sports Sciences at Ghent University. He received BSc in metrology and applied physics, a Master in Applied Physics, a Master in Rehabilitation Sciences and a PhD in Non-linear physics. Previously, he had posts at the British Antarctic Survey, Oxford and Edinburgh University. His research focuses on the dynamics of health behavior concerning aging, places and systems. Understanding why, when, and how people decide to move or not is crucial to promoting healthy movement behavior and aging. Sebastien works on co-creation and collective intelligence methods informed by data science and supported by technology. He coordinates the Health CASCADE Marie Skłodowska–Curie ITN on co-creation methodology. Sebastien is passionate about European Mobility and Research. His career is the result of taking part in one of the first ERASMUS exchanges.
They require collective intelligence and the co-creation of actions that involve diverse perspectives, expertise, and approaches. But how can we bring together the diverse knowledge, experience, and perspectives necessary?
The limits of collective intelligence
From ancient societies to modern-day corporations, collective intelligence has been a valuable tool for harnessing the power of group knowledge and experience. However, despite the many successes of collective intelligence and co-creation, there are still limits to what they can achieve, particularly when solving complex problems. Some of these limits include:
• Groupthink: It happens when group members, pushed by a strong desire for cohesiveness or poor coordination, make irrational or inadequate decisions for harmony and conformity.
• Cognitive biases: We all have biases (e.g., confirmation bias, self-serving bias) that we bring to the table, whether we are aware of them or not. These biases can prevent us from seeing the complete picture or considering alternative perspectives, limiting collective intelligence's effectiveness.
• Difficulty in communication: Achieving mutual understanding and effective communication is crucial for collective intelligence. Yet, humans often struggle with these aspects because we work in silos.
• Limits of the human brain: Whether we like it or not, our capacity to process information is limited. Notably, we can't synthesize large amounts of information and grapple with the scale and interdependencies of complex issues.
Exciting Chatbots for Collective Intelligence
Chatbots can help us overcome many of these limitations. Imagine a chatbot being an integral part of a co-creation team, like the artificial intelligence system on the starship Enterprise in the Star Trek series. In Star Trek, the android known as DATA assisted the crew in thinking through complex problems, ultimately helping them survive their adventures and thrive.
Chatbots can now gather, organize and summarize information from multiple sources and present it in an easily digestible and understandable format for different users. So, the co-creation team can access up-to-date and exhaustive knowledge and evidence base. Co-creation teams can use chatbots to stress-test their ideas and quickly produce digital prototypes and simulations. In addition, chatbots can also help to mitigate cognitive biases by detecting them, challenging points of view, and triggering reflection. Chatbots can listen and summarize discussions helping co-creation teams communicate better. This can help to overcome silo working and promote mutual understanding. Finally, chatbots can help with governance and prevent groupthink, encouraging diversity of thought and ensuring that all voices are heard, regardless of status or hierarchy within a group.
Not quite there yet
While chatbots have enormous potential to enhance collective intelligence, there are still several areas that need to be addressed to realize their potential fully:
• Quality and bias-free sources of information: It is crucial that Chatbots learn from high-quality and free from biased information. Otherwise, the chatbot could perpetuate false information and undermine the collective intelligence process.
• Understanding and adapting diversity of skills, views, and expertise: Chatbots need to be designed to recognise and appreciate differences in skills and opinions to ensure that all perspectives are considered in the decision-making process.
• Transparency, Privacy and data protection: There is a need for strict regulations and guidelines to ensure that data is protected and that privacy and transparency are maintained.
• Customisation and flexibility: Chatbots should be designed to be flexible and adaptable to different co-creation team needs.
Chatbots can augment and guide the co-creation teams and unleash their full collective intelligence potential. This is probably the most significant contribution that chatbots can make to humanity. However, we must design them for this purpose and learn how to integrate them as part of co-creation teams best. We are investigating this with www.healthcascade.eu.