Boing-boing has an entry about the article that quotes the part I find the most interesting...even though I don't agree with O'Reilly.
From the article:
TIME: WHAT INNOVATION WILL MOST ALTER HOW WE LIVE IN THE NEXT FEW YEARS?
TIM O'REILLY, publisher and technology advocate: Collective intelligence. Think of how Wikipedia works, how Amazon harnesses user annotation on its site, the way photo-sharing sites like Flickr are bleeding out into other applications. I think we're at the first stages of something that will be profoundly different from anything we have seen before, in terms of the ability of connected computers to deliver results. We're entering an era in which software learns from its users and all of the users are connected.
DON'T WE ALSO RUN THE RISK OF HARNESSING OUR COLLECTIVE IDIOCY? EVERYONE WHO HAS BEEN ON THE WEB KNOWS THAT THE RATIO OF SIGNAL TO NOISE IS NOT ALWAYS OPTIMAL.
O'REILLY: Right, but remember what Google did. They basically said, let's look at what all the millions of individual users are linking to, and let's use that information to get the good stuff to float to the top. That turned out to be a very powerful idea, the ramifications of which we're exploring in other areas, such as with tagging on Flickr or blogs. People are finding more ways to have the wisdom of crowds filter that signal-to-noise.
MARK DERY, author and cultural critic: I find the fetishization of the wisdom of crowds fascinating. It has a whiff of '90s cyberhype about it. I'm fascinated by the way in which it contrasts with individual subjectivity. A lot of technologies, such as Flickr, blogging, the iPod, seem to turn the psyche inside out, to extrude the private self into the public sphere. You have people walking down the street listening to iPods, seemingly oblivious to the world, singing. More and more, we're alone in public.
I have to say that I find the current treatment of the wisdom of crowds to be a bit droll. It's like saying that we're always going to go with the audience a la Who Wants to be a Millionaire. What happened to self-determination?
I think there is distinction to be drawn between wisdom of the crowd and the effects of social power on a society. Remember that blue eye vs. brown eye experiment or the failed prison experiment?