Thursday, 15 March 2012

The Wisdom of Crowds

This BBC Horizons programme, "Out of Control?", explores the role of the sub-conscious mind and concludes that it forms a bigger part of our mental activity than many may think. Interestingly it shows an experiment with a colony of ants finding a new home, introducing the phrase The Wisdom of Crowds (also a book by James Surowiecki). The ants found two suitable new nesting sites and together decided which was best. Perhaps this is a valid analogy for direct democracy, especially if our intuitions are more powerful than our rational minds would ever suppose.
In his book Surowiecki describes another experiment in which people are asked to guess the weight of something (I forget what). It was found that the average guess was far more accurate than any one guess. Perhaps this is also group intuition at work.... food for thought!

"In this endlessly fascinating book, New Yorker columnist James Surowiecki explores a deceptively simple idea that has profound implications: large groups of people are smarter than an elite few, no matter how brilliant—better at solving problems, fostering innovation, coming to wise decisions, even predicting the future."

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