Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Wisdom of Crowds

Yes, it's a very interesting premise: groups of individuals working independently for a solution will come up, as a whole, with the right answer more often than one expert or even a few experts can. This applies, Surowiecki claims, in very diverse matters--from correctly guessing the outcome of a horse race, for instance, to finding sunken submarines. If you have a group of people who each have a little bit of knowledge, their collective knowledge will be enormous.

But how exactly does this apply to me? What crowds am I a part of? According to Surowiecki in a Q&A session, a crowd is "really any group of people who can act collectively to make decisions and solve problems." (The full Q&A session is here.) Here's my first brainstormed list of "crowds" I belong to:

English 295
My roommates
My ward/FHE
My study groups
The people I work with

This seemed kind of boring, so I waxed creative:

Frisbee-playing groups
Y-hiking groups
Professor-bashing groups in the halls outside of class
My siblings
The crowd at my apartment deciding which movie to watch on a Friday night

And the list goes on...but what does it matter that I belong to these groups? Is it possible, as Surowiecki postulates, that if the group of riled-up young adults in my apartment on Friday night--instead of forming a mobocracy and caving to group pressure when deciding which movie to watch--actually cast private votes of which movie to watch, we might end up watching something halfway interesting like Dead Poets' Society instead of something idiotic like Shrek? Is it possible that wisdom can be found in my crowds? It's an interesting thought.

1 comment:

  1. Thank goodness someone else find Shrek idiotic.

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