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The Essential Power of the Hive Mind

Mar 09, 2017
Ideas
Sarah Begley is a staff writer for TIME.

Western society tends to lionize individual intelligence--pilots who fly planes and architects who design skyscrapers, the thinking goes, must surely possess powerful brains. While that may be true, Steven Sloman and Philip Fernbach argue in their new book The Knowledge Illusion: Why We Never Think Alone that even the greatest thinkers do not think in a vacuum; we all rely on a "hive mind"--not just our own intellect--to get stuff done, even if we don't realize it. Pilots, for instance, collaborate with co-pilots, instruments and system designers in order to seamlessly fill any gaps in their understanding of flight. Architects, too, depend on various sub-experts to bring their ideas to fruition. So yes, it's good to be smart. But ultimately, Sloman and Fernbach conclude, "the contributions we make as individuals depend more on our ability to work with others than on our individual mental horsepower."


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