Mandevillian intelligence is a specific form of collective intelligence in which individual cognitive vices (i.e., shortcomings, limitations, constraints and biases) are seen to play a positive functional role in yielding collective forms of cognitive success. In this talk, I will introduce the concept of mandevillian intelligence and review a number of strands of empirical research that help to shed light on the phenomenon. I will also attempt to highlight the value of the concept of mandevillian intelligence from a philosophical, scientific and engineering perspective. Inasmuch as we accept the notion of mandevillian intelligence, then it seems that the cognitive and epistemic value of a specific social or technological intervention will vary according to whether our attention is focused at the individual or collective level of analysis. This has a number of important implications for how we think about the cognitive impacts of a number of Web-based technologies (e.g., personalized search mechanisms). It also forces us to take seriously the idea that the exploitation (or even the accentuation!) of individual cognitive shortcomings could, in some situations, provide a productive route to collective forms of cognitive and epistemic success.
Paul Smart is a senior research fellow in the Web and Internet Science research group at the University of Southampton in the UK. He is a Fellow of the British Computer Society, a professional member of the Association of Computing Machinery, and a member of the Cognitive Science Society. Paul’s research interests span a number of disciplines, including philosophy, cognitive science, social science, and computer science. His primary area of research interest relates to the social and cognitive implications of Web and Internet technologies. Paul received his bachelors degree in Psychology from the University of Nottingham. He also holds a PhD in Experimental Psychology from the University of Sussex.