More isn’t always better

November 25th, 2008

I found the following quote in a Newsweek article about the Internet and the power of the Presidency:

“An open system means more voices; more voices mean more discussion, cialis usa malady which leads to a better decision, discount cialis ” Google CEO and Obama adviser Eric Schmidt told a roomful of policy thinkers in Washington last week, gathered for a discussion on the role technology will play in government. “A community will always make a better decision than an individual.”

Whenever I hear someone singing the praises of the wisdom of crowds, I can’t help but think that another name for “crowd” is “mob.”

Entry Filed under: Internet

11 Comments Add your own

  • 1. MommaBlogger  |  November 25th, 2008 at 10:25 am

    Another name for “mob” is “herd”. The herd mentality in these types of situations is downright sickening.

    “A community will always make a better decision than an individual.”

    That’s rarely ever true. Anything that forces an individual to give up their personal freedoms for the “greater good” is usually not a good thing in the end. That’s how we got into a lot of the messes we’re in today.

    Ps To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favorite books :)

  • 2. Wonder Woman  |  November 25th, 2008 at 11:32 am

    To Kill a Mockingbird, it’s really THAT good huh? I was supposed to read that in grade 12 – and didn’t. I still have the book; three of my children have read it and loved it. Yet, I can’t decide why I have this desire to keep dodging it…

    Maybe I will have to pick it up and dust it off some evening…

  • 3. MommaBlogger  |  November 25th, 2008 at 11:44 am

    It’s a quick read, and well worth it. A very good illustration on how african americans were treated and viewed during that time period, and how the father was ostracized for treating the man like a human being. Just a good book overall, and the movie was pretty good too. As usual, not as good as the book, but they did a pretty good job.

  • 4. grumps  |  November 25th, 2008 at 11:50 am

    Another name for “mob” would be “we the people.”

  • 5. jesusisjustalrightwithme  |  November 25th, 2008 at 1:40 pm

    You should check out James Suroweicki’s book “The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many are Smarter than the Few.” He offers a lot of different case studies that refute your idea that crowds tend to think like mobs. Although he does discuss how mob mentality works and how some institutions work to reduce the wisdom of the crowds–party politics for example.

    http://www.amazon.com/Wisdom-Crowds-James-Surowiecki/dp/0385721706/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1227638384&sr=8-1

  • 6. JJ  |  November 25th, 2008 at 2:15 pm

    “A community will always make a better decision than an individual”

    Not necessarily.

    Anybody ever work in a company that does Management by committee or Management by consensus. They are usually not all that successful. Usually because not everyone has the same information or personal goals in mind.

    Sometimes you need input and buy-in. Sometimes you just need to make a decison. Kind of like parenting. I don’t always ask my kids for their input. Sometimes I just tell them what to do. Because I am older, more experienced, and in charge.

    One must also keep in mind the potential “slippery-slope” of intrusion of government into one’s private life. Google is really good at advancing the technology, but is a little weak on reading the potential pitfalls.

  • 7. jesusisjustalrightwithme  |  November 25th, 2008 at 2:30 pm

    Of course the statement is false, simply because he used the word “always.” That said, Mr. Suroweicki’s book makes a very strong argument that more often than not, a large group of average people will make more accurate predictions than any individual expert. BOCTAOE

  • 8. elliot  |  November 25th, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    Consensus is a wonderful thing…unless the consensus is to persecute the jews, rid China of its “liberal bourgeoisie” elements or lynch the black guy.

    Are crowds always bad? Of course not. Prediction markets are interesting, for example.

    But I honestly think “crowds” have caused more trouble than they’ve cured.

    And Grumps, at the time of “we the people,” the “people” were white guys with land. Chicks and blacks need not apply. I know neither you nor I would call that “wisdom.” ;)

  • 9. jesusisjustalrightwithme  |  November 25th, 2008 at 3:36 pm

    I think the context in which Mr. Schmidt is talking is a lot closer to what I’m talking about then it is to Nazis.

  • 10. elliot  |  November 25th, 2008 at 4:08 pm

    Actually, J, I wasn’t talking about the Nazis. (Or, at least, not just the Nazis.) Many cultures have concluded that anti-semitism is a “wise” course.

    I’m not denying that there is something to the idea of the “wisdom of crowds,” but – as a card-carrying cynic – I think it’s overhyped and overrated.

  • 11. elliot  |  November 25th, 2008 at 4:13 pm

    By the way, To Kill A Mockingbird is my favorite movie and one of my favorite books.

    There’s no better moment on film than after Atticus loses Jim’s case and the black pastor tells Scout to stand up because her father’s passing.

    Gregory Peck claimed it was that single scene that one him the Academy Award that year.

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Being in a wheelchair gives you a unique perspective on the world. This blog features many of my views on politics, art, science, and entertainment. My name is Elliot Stearns. More...

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