The Wisdom of Crowds (James Surowiecki)

[The Wisdom of Crowds (James Surowiecki)] This is not an easy premise to buy into, judging by who the president is and what’s played on the radio. What it boils down to however is sample size. Even if it’s from the world’s leading expert, the judgment from a single person is at a disadvantage compared to the collected opinion of many. Surowiecki is a financial journalist, so he spends much of the book discussing the repercussions on markets and the best way to run a company. Google has innovatively applied this principle to the design of their search engine.

Of course, this has implications in politics and government as well. I immediately thought of the differences in how the Lincoln and Bush cabinets were constructed. Lincoln chose people that did not agree with him, i.e., people that thought independently of him. Bush surrounded himself with people that agree with him and suppresses independent thought. One of these presidents was successful in his war; one hasn’t been. Hillary Clinton has said that she will follow the Lincoln model. Whether she is given the opportunity or keeps this promise remains to be seen, but I hope that our next leader considers the wisdom of crowds.

Surowiecki appeared on WNYC’s RadioLab in 2005.

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