More Wisdom of Crowds

February 22, 2006 at 2:12 pm Leave a comment

P. 35 chasing the expert is a waste of time.  If a group is so unintelligent that it will founder without the right expert…why would the group be intelligent enough to find him? 

P. 37 groupthink doesn’t censor dissent as much as make it improbable.  Even if no consensus exists, only the appearance on one, a group’s sense of cohesiveness turns appearance into reality.  Deliberation in a groupthink setting doesn’t open people’s minds; it enforces the assumed consensus and closes minds.  Groupthink is a result of a homogenous group. 

P.40 Describes ant colonies and ‘circular mills’ where ants get lost, follow the ant in front of them, and get caught in a circle until they drop dead.  Mentions Stephen Johnson‘s book Emergence.  

P.41 one of the quickest ways to make people’s judgments biased is to make them dependent on each other for information.  Independent individuals are more likely to have new information rather than the same old data everyone is familiar with.  You can be biased and irrational but as long as you’re independent you won’t make the group dumber.

P. 49 When ones peers are all following the same strategy it’s difficult to follow a different one.  Sticking with the crowd and failing small is easier than running the risk of failing big and publicly. 

P. 74 Instead of pre-picking the route to travel, or picking the smartest person to come up with a solution, generate a lot of alternatives and winnow them down: let a thousand flowers bloom, then pick the sweetest.  But in a decentralized system we need a way to aggregate the results. 

P. 92 coordination problems often have shared-reality cultural solutions: drive on the right, meet at Grand Central Station if you’re lost in New York, first-come first-served.  Conventions help us reduce the amount of cognitive work we need to do to get through the day.  They allow groups of disparate, unconnected people to organize themselves with relative ease. 

P. 94 described an experiment where grad students asked people on the subway to give up their seat for no apparent reason.  About half the time, people did.  The hardest part was mustering the courage to ask.  The norm of first-come first-served was so ingrained that violating it required real labor. 

P. 117 why do people cooperate when it’s not in their best interests?  The canonical explanation is ‘the shadow of the future,’ they’ll be punished for poor behavior.  Mr. Surowiecki puts forth the suggestion that capitalism helps explain this.  He relates business in 18-19th century Britain and dealing with Quakers.  They were honest; everyone wanted to do business with them, honesty paid.  

P.123 The lubrication of commerce that trust provides became moe than desirable.  It became necessary.  Trust had become impersonal.  Previously you trusted your family, your in-group relationships.  Modern capitalism required trusting people with no personal ties.  Trust with ‘thick relationships’ doesn’t scale.  This reminds me of Accelerando, by Stross where he describes the reputation market, a sort of stock market where people could look up your reputation and decide whether or not to deal with you. 

P.162 Scientists who collaborate with each other are more productive 

P. 167 Since the scientific revolution open science has emerged, scientific knowledge became a public good, publishing led to recognition, one’s private property is established by giving its substance away. But this is at odds with commerce 

Overall a very interesting book.  As much as it’s talked about with regard to the web or on-the-web, I expected more web related discussion, but there was a lot of pure sociology here, talking about people being people, not people on line.  And there is a difference.  I was not really interested in the stock market or politics examples, but they illustrated the thesis well.  The key is to make sure you meet the criteria of the wise group.  This is not always common and it’s the reason we’re skeptical of group decisions, I think. 



Entry filed under: wisdom of crowds.

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