Got an email from my friend Carole suggesting I take a look at this video clip from TED.
It discusses using technology to link the collective images on the web to form one master image of the world. In other words, if I post a picture of my house and add a bit of meta data, people could come across it if they take a 3-D look at Tactic, Guatemala - and it could be connected to other pictures of the area. The video shows this effectively using photos from Flickr that are tagged with "Notre Dame" and composites these photos into a 3-D (sort of) image of the cathedral in Paris.
This is not a new idea, just a new application of the collective thought. The most successful application of it so far has been Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia that anyone can contribute to. There is also Project Gutenberg where people can submit and share eBooks for free that are free domain (over 50 years old).
This article in the NY Times (you might need a free subscription) shows how they are doing the same thing with maps.
The most important part of all this is that no one owns the information because everyone contributes and can share it for free. Those who put together the composite can charge advertisers to pay for their costs, but that doesn't hurt anyone or put controls on what is happening.
The idea of collective thought is a recent one for me. As social ideas shift and are moulded through time, it is believed that we all start to think the same thing and hold the same memories. Globally, this is a recent phenomena due to information and communication technology. I detect a serious danger in the way that social ideas can moulded by advertisers (or amoral corporations). These ideas can't be checked because once they are out there and permeate the culture, it takes time to dismantle.
Example: Many people in Guatemala feed Pepsi and coffee to their infants in bottles. This idea won't go away too quickly, but it will over time as it is introduced to a healthier idea through the collective thought - as long as that is the idea that is passed on from the majority.
Finally, there is the issue of collective guilt. If we all believe the same things and as a consequence do the same things (for example add to landfill sites), then we are all at fault and responsible for finding a solution (global warming, urbanization, use of water sources, etc.).