A test for the “Wisdom of Crowds”

Tomorrow (that’s Monday, 11th January 2010), I shall be giving a talk about James Surowiecki’s excellent little book, The Wisdom of Crowds, at the Institute of Education in London, at an event organised by “the other LA.”

Given the inclement weather, the fact it’s the first meeting of the year, there’s a new venue, I only told friends about it this evening, and the problem that either the speaker or the subject might not be as exciting to others as it is to me, I consider this a good test.

If no one shows up, how can I possibly argue that crowds lack wisdom? But then if I’m right, surely lots of people will want to know more about it.

I shall be talking about markets, taxes, voting, opinion polls and fairness. There will also be a little quiz.

If you cannot (or will not!) make it, I suggest Surowiecki’s book to anyone remotely interested in psychology, economics or epistemology, or to use less fancy language: how people think, work together and acquire and use knowledge.

It’s very readable, it has only one error of reasoning in my opinion [not fair to tell yet] and the only technical flaw is the lack of an index.

[UPDATE 8 Feb 2010: The flaw mentioned above is the claim that taxpayers consent to being taxed. The missing ingredient is the extent to which coercion (actual or potential) affect one’s decision to comply with taxation or not. If the various tax authorities of the world did not have the power to drag people before courts, confiscate assets and prison sentences weren’t relatively longer than say, for stealing food, I imagine that tax revenue rates would plummet.]


4 Responses to “A test for the “Wisdom of Crowds””

  1. Oliver Deckard Says:

    Was it recorded? I really wanted to go as did Max Andronichuk. David McDonaugh put me onto the Wisdom of Crowds.
    I was especially fascinated by the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster example which seemed to stray beyond mere ‘wisdom of crowds’ and into perhaps morphic resonance territory…

    If your talk was NOT recorded – at my suggestion the ‘other LA’ DID start recoding talks – might I suggest you take your own recording equipment in future to any talks you give (eg mobile phone). It is a great pity that the Putney Debates ran for some 20 years(?) yet so few talks were recorded (I know Sean has been videoing talks for some while now but he’s not always around).

    These talks – I remember the last Putney Debate talk you gave on Pharmaceuticals – are far too valuable as podcasts to be lost.

  2. Oliver Deckard Says:

    Thanks! 🙂

  3. Testing the Wisdom of Crowds « Antoine Clarke Says:

    […] Testing the Wisdom of Crowds By Antoine Clarke On January 11th, I spoke at a gathering of the Libertarian Alliance about James Surowiecki’s The Wisdom of Crowds book (previous post here). […]

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