Monday, December 06, 2004

CROWDS: Madness or Intelligence?

"Men, it has been well said, think in herds. It will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by on."

Charles Mackay (1841) in Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds

"In crowds it is stupidity and not mother wit that is accumulated……[crowds] can never accomplish acts demanding a high degree of intelligence …..[they] are always intellectually inferior to the insolated individual."

Gustave Le Bon (1895) in The Crowd: A study of the Popular Mind

Am fascinated with crowds' intelligence. Read the book 'The Wisdom of Crowd' and wrote a review on it. Feel free to comment http://knowledge.typepad.com/ikms_newsletter/2004/10/index.html

3 Comments:

Blogger Ivan Chew said...

Have not actually read the book, so I'm commenting based on your review posted in iKMS blog (have posted a short comment there as well).

While I don't dismiss the notion that there's "wisdom in crowds", I'd be very wary of utterly relying on such a concept for major decisions to be made, for 2 reasons: (1) There's something called "group-think" or the "herd-mentality"; (2) Humans don't always make rational decisions, i.e. emotions can overrule rationality; (3) "Rationality" is also dependent on the quality of information (i.e. the crowd can be intelligent & rational, but the information can be distorted at source).

I feel it's not so much that "crowds" make better decisions, but rather, DE-CENTRALISED decision-making is inherently better than centralised ones. That's the difference. Crowds do not necessarily make better decisions, but perhaps the probability for bad decisions are reduced.

Just my thoughts on the idea & concept -- to be fair, I have to read the book before commenting further.

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