Connective intelligence is a term coined by Derrick de Kerckhove (1997) that describes a form of distributed and more evolved intelligence that goes beyond the abilities of a single user in an interconnected environment (such as the internet). It is a form of intelligence manifested by a large number of people who share their knowledge through a connecting medium such as a social network, but it must differentiated from collective intelligence.
Collective intelligence is, in fact, the search for a common solution achieved by joining the collective efforts of a number of individuals. As more people join their forces to achieve a goal, their shared efforts, ideas and knowledge represent the “collective intelligence” that is now something more than just the sum of their individual ideas. Connective intelligence, instead, allows the individual to grow and improve on a personal level by harnessing the discoveries achieved by all the other people who are part of that interconnected environment.
To give a practical example, the annual United Nations Climate Change Conference is a form of collective intelligence, where some of the greatest minds of the world meet to share their solutions to save the planet from imminent destruction. A Facebook cat-lovers group where everyone shares his or her experience about taking care of pets, how to feed them or how to parent them is a form of connective intelligence, as every individual user amplifies his own knowledge about cats by drawing from this net of connections.
Connective intelligence is part of the evolution of humankind as much as Web 3.0 is. To fully understand a deeply interconnected world where every single aspect of both the digital and the real world share an intertwined relationship, humans must redefine their approach to everything. Think about the many difficulties and struggles faced by older people to even just understand the World Wide Web or their distorted perception of what social media is and can do. Why do people keep clicking or reading phishing emails when 78% of internet users are well informed about this form of attack? Millennials, on the other hand, are able to exploit connective intelligence to its full potential to obtain resources and information by connecting people and ideas that allow them to move much more nimbly in the digital environment. Connective intelligence is a form of social intelligence that will allow people to make sense of the immense amount of information that is going to hit all of us as soon as the Web 3.0 reshapes our society forever*.
*Or we will simply become a mass of smartphone-dependent zombies who cannot tell the difference between truth and propaganda because we learn about the world through collective and connective stupidity.