Monday, October 24, 2005

Wisdom of The Crowd

WARNING: This is more of a rant than news and it's really only scrapple-related. I've been reading some stuff that's really, really irritating me.
The wisdom of The Crowd is a very popular notion just now and I'm in agreement with the idea in many situations--but not all.

Let's remember that Nazi Germany was brought to you by The Crowd. They didn't vote for Hitler but they voted for the guy who handed the government over to him.

I, for one, do not want a free-for-all discussion in the operating room on how to proceed with my surgery. I'd like one, single, very well educated, highly trained, expert on my problem to be in charge, to be wielding the knife and to be calling the plays.

I don't want riders on the bus debating whether or not we can make it across the train tracks before the train arrives.

My point is that we don't want to take an idea that's good in some situations and try to apply it everywhere. That kind of 'Well, it worked before, it ought to work now' thinking leads to abominations like Rocky XXXIV.

There is a time and a place for expertise. And you really shouldn't depend on volunteer work to develop a body of complex knowledge or make time limited decisions.

I'm just calling for a bit of balance.

But maybe you disagree...


Bea said...

Absolutely agree with you! I remember coursework on decision theory: decisions by groups only work in situations where someon'es life isn't on the line and you ahve plenty of time to go through and discuss the alternatives!

Eliz said...

I too agree. I think that the appearance of this book says a lot about the political climate here--jingoistic and threatening to all who disagree (although it's been interesting to watch the conservative opposition to H Miers, coming from a group that tars as unamerican any opposition from anyone else).

An interesting comparison would be Crowds and Power, which got Elias Canetti the Nobel Prize in Literature, and his novel Auto da fe. Both present the opposing view--that crowd "thought" is hardly wisdom. Both are informed by Canetti's life experience.

When I read about books like The Wisdom of Crowds, I wonder if anyone ever reads history.

And I'm not ever going to think that "Achy Breaky Heart" is a better piece of music than Respighi's "Rossiniana" simply because it sold more records.