Editor in Chief, Wired Magazine; Author, The Long Tail

Metcalfe's Law of Minds

Our species is unique in its ability to use communications to spread learning across populations, allowing us to get smarter and more capable far more quickly than evolution alone would allow. What makes me continually hopeful is that those tools of communications continue to get so much better, so much faster. Anyone who can explore Wikipedia and not be both humbled and filled with confidence in the collective potential in the people all around us is a cynic indeed. And we've only just scratched the surface of such networked intelligence.

Metcalfe's Law says that value of a networks grows with the square of the number of nodes. Today's Web, which is as much about contributing as it is consuming — two-way links, as opposed to the old one-way networks of broadcast and traditional media — allows the same to apply to people. Connecting minds allows our collective intelligence to grow with each person who joins the global conversation. This information propagation process, which was once found in just a few cultures of shared knowledge, such as academic science, is now seen online in everything from hobbies to history. The result, I think, will be the fastest increasing in human knowledge in history.

This morning I was explaining to a nine-year-old about Moore's Law and the magical power of the continuous learning curve. "Will it ever end?" he asked. "I don't see why it should," I answered. That's optimism for you.