Lancet Planetary Health: An argument for the naturalistic study of collective intelligence

7 May, 2021

Citation, extracts and a comment from me below. Full text here:

CITATION: An argument for the naturalistic study of collective intelligence

Jonathan Nattel, David Akullian

Comment| volume 5, issue 5, e247-e248, may 01, 2021

Published:May, 2021 DOI:


Over the past decade, corporate-owned digital media—minimally regulated, geared towards profit, and willing to engage a broad range of psychological techniques to command an expansive swath of human attention5—have increasingly caused information to flow around, rather than through, the structures of professional journalism as it makes its way from politicians to the public at large.

The circumvention of professional journalism as a means for filtering, organising, and distributing information has led to multiple distortions of collective perception, including the decontextualisation of information, propagation of false information, and the manipulation of public opinion by agents with a broad variety of interests.

the overall result has been an increase in polarisation, fragmented collective perceptions of reality, and the ensuing failures of collective discourse and decision making. All in all, ideal conditions for the emergence of populist, fascist, or dictatorial leadership.

A study of how information is channelled within a society to support collective wellbeing and decision making might allow us to ask crucial questions, such as when a new technology for communication arrives, in what way is it healthy? In what way is it unhealthy? And in what ways must it be contained?... Given the critical juncture at which humanity currently finds itself, the timing of such a project could hardly be more crucial.


Comment (NPW): 'The circumvention of professional journalism... has led to multiple distortions'. The same could be said for the circumvention of processes required for reliable and actionalble healthcare information to be made available to end users (whether the public, health workers, or policymakers).

Neil Pakenham-Walsh, HIFA Coordinator,