At the center of every screen with a question is a clear "puck." Each member of the swarm has a golden magnet icon that she uses as a cursor to pull the puck toward her answer. She can see everyone else's magnet and react in real-time if the crowd's decision isn't going her way.
For instance, if the most important issue in the presidential campaign was the military, but few people appeared to be dragging the puck that way, she could switch to her second most important issue, healthcare. And if the crowd doesn't seem to be leaning that way, she can chose her third most important issue, jobs.
In this way, each member of the swarm is inspired to find common ground. Eventually, a larger number of participants begin to coalesce around one answer, which becomes the winner.
The algorithm is inspired by animals that swarm in nature, like fish that school, birds that flock and bees that swarm. Alone, any one of these animals may not be smart enough to evade a predator or fine a new location for a hive, but together they maximize their collective intelligence.
"In nature if a flock of birds can't agree on a new nesting ground, that's a life or death decision," said Rosenberg.
Although the Time magazine question wasn't a life or death decision, UNU showed that its approach was beneficial because it's efficient. Instead of gathering opinions from thousands of people and taking days to answer, UNU asked just 75 and the answer was generated in a few minutes.