Friday, June 04, 2004

Here's a link to an interesting article that someone forwarded along to me:

Need to Make a Good Decision? Join the Crowd

The article is a commentary piece from the LA Times, you need to register on their site to read articles.

The author, James Surowiecki, is a columnist for the New Yorker, and also the author of the just-published The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations. The book title just about sums up the content of the commentary piece.

"To be intelligent, crowds have to be made up of people relying on diverse sources of information who make their choices relatively independently of each other. Diversity is so important, in fact, that without it, we have a hard time being intelligent."

It sounds like an example of emergence. But the author also somewhat suspect when he talks about the market as an efficient vox populi feedback system. Like much pop-science in the same vein, e.g., Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point, or even Barabasi and Buchanan's network books, he looks to be glossing over the social and political context of the process or the law system at work:

"For all of the dismissal of crowds, we do rely on collective decision-making to guide our economy (the market, not a politburo, dictates how much orange juice will be produced in the next month), and we entrust our government to voters."

To suggest that markets and elections in the U.S. are free and democratic processes is absurd.


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