The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki. This book discusses the theory that a larger group of diverse people can make better decisions, and display more intelligence than any smaller collection of experts. Surowiecki's central concept is that the insights of a diverse group of individuals working independently can be aggregated together. He contrasts this with the group dynamics/social psychology studies done by Stanley Milgram in previous decades, which looked at how large groups of people can be influenced by the actions of a few, causing information cascades, and "Tipping Point" effects. Suroweicki's concept avoids the "tipping point", and information cascade effects by employing a diverse group of individuals who work largely independently of one another.
Some examples of Crowd Wisdom that Surowiecki gives are:
- Prediction Markets
- Aggregating Insights of a Diverse Group of Individuals
- Decentralization (like Open Source Software Development, for example)
The late Clare W. Graves's Emergent-Cyclical theory
shows that crowd wisdom can also be affected by the deep structural
world-views that guide individuals who make up groups. Graves signified
these world views as "Levels of existence". So, each of the "levels" discovered by
Graves will tend to employ crowd wisdom in different ways. For
instance, Graves's "E-R" level tends to look at crowd wisdom from both a
materialistic and control perspective (a science-economics world view).
An example of an "E-R" developed Crowd Wisdom application is The Delphi Method, which was originally developed as a forecasting tool.
Graves's book, The Never
discusses in-depth how Graves created his "Emergent-Cyclical"(E-C)
theory. He first approached his research by asking a diverse group of
people to independently conceptualize their idea of a "mature adult".
His second phase is directly relevant to the concepts covered in The
Wisdom of Crowds. Graves handed his data conceptualizations about human
nature and maturity over to independent judges, who were asked to "take
these conceptions of mature personality, study them, and sort them into
the fewest categories possible". These independent judges had no
relationship to Graves's project, his framework, or theory. In another
phase he grouped his subjects according to their conceptions of
maturity, and gave them tasks to solve while watching the forms their
interactions, problem-solving, communication, and approach took. Each
group organized, interacted and solved problems differently. Thus,
Graves employed the "wisdom of crowds" concept over four decades ago
to understand the nature of the deep fundamental assumptions of humans.
It turns out that, to date, there is still no better way to sort
through the nuances of the human mind than by employing the human mind
itself in a systematic way, as Graves did. That said, technology
impacts individuals and crowds in different ways.
Emerging technology can enhance "The Wisdom of Crowds". I recently reported
in another weblog about the concept of "Grid-Blogging".
The concept of "Grid-Blogging" (more recently called
has so far consisted of creating a starter-subject, like the word "brand", and getting a huge
amount of different (diverse) people to write about it, building conceptions about the subject. Then either using the
"trackback" feature in the blog software, or a social
to track the participants posting about the subject. So far,
"Grid-blogging" has not yet gone beyond this first Wisdom of Crowds
step of having a diverse group create conceptualizations about a
subject. Nor has anyone employed Graves's method of independent judges
to "classify" Grid-Blogs "anyway that they can". This method could
reveal some interesting patterns from the way a diverse group of people
conceptualize about many different subject. Classifying things in this
way can give insights into why people conceptualize things in the way
that they do.
Also, there is increasingly the possibility that machine intelligence could compare and look for patterns as another analytical layer. Amazon.com employs a recommendation system, for instance, that compares patterns of humans, and this could be developed to aid in sorting through a "grid-blog" type experiment as well. There's lots of room for exploration in many of these concepts, and The Wisdom of Crowds is a highly recommended book even for just for these reasons alone.