Synopses & Reviews
The Wisdom of Crowds
If, years hence, people remember anything about the TV game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, they will probably remember the contestants' panicked phone calls to friends and relatives. Or they may have a faint memory of that short-lived moment when Regis Philbin became a fashion icon for his willingness to wear a dark blue tie with a dark blue shirt. What people probably won't remember is that every week Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? pitted group intelligence against individual intelligence, and that every week, group intelligence won.
Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? was a simple show in terms of structure: a contestant was asked multiple-choice questions, which got successively more difficult, and if she answered fifteen questions in a row correctly, she walked away with $1 million. The show's gimmick was that if a contestant got stumped by a question, she could pursue three avenues of assistance. First, she could have two of the four multiple-choice answers removed (so she'd have at least a fifty-fifty shot at the right response). Second, she could place a call to a friend or relative, a person whom, before the show, she had singled out as one of the smartest people she knew, and ask him or her for the answer. And third, she could poll the studio audience, which would immediately cast its votes by computer. Everything we think we know about intelligence suggests that the smart individual would offer the most help. And, in fact, the "experts" did okay, offering the right answer--under pressure--almost 65 percent of the time. But they paled in comparison to the audiences. Those random crowds of people with nothing better to do on a weekday afternoon than sit in a TV studio picked the right answer 91 percent of the time.
Now, the results of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? would never stand up to scientific scrutiny. We don't know how smart the experts were, so we don't
In this book, New Yorker columnist Surowiecki explores a deceptively simple idea that has profound implications: large groups of people are smarter than an elite few, no matter how brilliant--better at solving problems, fostering innovation, coming to wise decisions, even predicting the future. With seemingly boundless erudition and in clear, entertaining prose, Surowiecki ranges across fields as diverse as popular culture, psychology, ant biology, economic behaviorism, artificial intelligence, military history and political theory to show just how this principle offers important lessons for how e live our lives, select our leaders, run our companies, and think about our world.--From publisher description.
An analysis of how to understand the workings of the world as it is reflected by groups contends that large groups have more collective intelligence than a smaller number of experts, drawing on a wide range of disciplines to offer insight into such topics as politics, business, and the environment. Reprint. 25,000 first printing.
About the Author
James Surowiecki is a staff writer at The New Yorker,
where he writes the popular business column, “The Financial Page.” His work has appeared in a wide range of publications, including the New York Times,
the Wall Street Journal, Artforum, Wired,
He lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Table of Contents
The wisdom of crowds -- The difference difference makes : waggle dances, the Bay of Pigs, and the value of diversity -- Monkey see, monkey do : imitation, information cascades, and independence -- Putting the pieces together : the CIA, Linux, and the art of decentralization -- Shall we dance? : coordination in a complex world -- Society does exist : taxes, tipping, television, and trust -- Traffic : what we have here is a failure to coordinate -- Science : collaboration, competition, and reputation -- Committees, juries, and teams : the Columbia disaster and how small groups can be made to work -- The company : meet the new boss, same as the old boss? -- Markets : beauty contests, bowling alleys, and stock prices -- Democracy : dreams of the common good -- Afterword to Anchor Books edition.