Distributed knowledge
Distributed knowledge is a term used in multi-agent system
Multi-agent system
A multi-agent system is a system composed of multiple interacting intelligent agents. Multi-agent systems can be used to solve problems that are difficult or impossible for an individual agent or a monolithic system to solve...

 research that refers to all the knowledge that a community of agents possesses and might apply in solving a problem. Distributed knowledge is approximately what "a wise man knows" or what someone who has complete knowledge of what each member of the communities knows. Distributed knowledge might also be called the aggregate knowledge of a community, as it represents all the knowledge that a community might bring to bear to solve a problem. Other related phrasings include cumulative knowledge, collective knowledge, pooled knowledge, or the wisdom of the crowd. Distributed knowledge is the union of all the knowledge of individuals in a community.


The logicians Alice and Bob are sitting in their dark office wondering whether or not it is raining outside. Now, none of them actually knows, but Alice knows something about her friend Carol, namely that Carol wears her red coat only if it is raining. Bob does not know this, but he just saw Carol, and noticed that she was wearing her red coat. Even though none of them knows whether or not it is raining, it is distributed knowledge amongst them that it is raining. If either one of them tells the other what they know, it will be clear to the other that it is raining.

If we denote by that Carol wears a red coat and with that if Carol wears a red coat, it is raining, we have

Directly translated: Bob knows that Carol wears a red coat and Alice knows that if Carol wears a red coat it is raining so together they know that it is raining.

Distributed knowledge is related to the concept Wisdom of the crowd
Wisdom of the crowd
The wisdom of the crowd refers to the process of taking into account the collective opinion of a group of individuals rather than a single expert to answer a question. This process, while not new to the information age, has been pushed into the mainstream spotlight by social information sites such...

. Distributed knowledge reflects the fact that "no one of us is smarter than all of us."

See also

  • common knowledge
    Common knowledge
    Common knowledge is knowledge that is known by everyone or nearly everyone, usually with reference to the community in which the term is used. Common knowledge need not concern one specific subject, e.g., science or history. Rather, common knowledge can be about a broad range of subjects, including...

  • dispersed knowledge
    Dispersed knowledge
    In economics, dispersed knowledge is information that is dispersed throughout the marketplace, and is not in the hands of any single agent. All agents in the market have imperfect knowledge; however, they all have a good indicator of everyone else's knowledge and intentions, and that is the...

  • disciplinary
    Disciplinary is a term used to describe types of knowledge, expertise, skills, people, projects, communities, problems, challenges, studies, inquiry, approaches, and research areas that are strongly associated with academic areas of study or areas of professional practice...

  • knowledge tags
    Knowledge tags
    A knowledge tag is a type of meta-information that describes or defines some aspect of an information resource . Knowledge tags are more than traditional non-hierarchical keywords or terms...

  • interactional expertise
    Interactional expertise
    Interactional expertise is part of a more complex classification of expertise developed by Harry Collins and Robert Evans and first published in Social Studies of Science in June 2002...

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