Thursday, August 11, 2011

August 21st dinner (a Sunday)

If you're attending our dinner on August 21st, please consider emailing me your questions about the book so I can add them here. I was hoping we would discuss 9 topic questions for an average of 10 minutes each from 5:30 to 7 pm. Then we could have a free for all after that.  Please try to arrive before 5:30 so we can start right at 5:30.   Previously we had a bit of a free for all first.  I'm suggesting we do the topic questions first then the free for all after we've finished all 9 topic questions for an average of 10 minutes each.

We have room for a total of 8.
1.Susan 2. Earl 3. Julie 4. Sandy 5. Harry 6. John 7. Fred 8.Michael F.

The book: The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki

I have more quotes in an earlier post but I reduced them down to these nine.

1.  Quote from page 1 (location 42)  "Breeding mattered to Galton because he believed that only a very few people had the characteristics necessary to keep societies healthy. He had devoted much of his career to measuring those characteristics," <==that is how he starts out the book...and I think he spends the next 272 pages disapproving that statement.   What do you think?  Do you think a society is better off with a few great philosopher kings in control or a society run by the wisdom of the crowds?
2. Page 126 Loc. 2060-62 The social benefits of trust and cooperation are, at this point, relatively unquestioned. But they do create a problem: the more people trust, the easier they are for others to exploit. And if trust is the most valuable social product of market interactions, corruption is its most damaging.
Page 126 Loc. 2070-71 Capitalism is healthiest when people believe that the long-term benefits of fair dealing outweigh the short-term benefits of sharp dealing.
3.  Page 1 Loc. 163-64 Diversity and independence are important because the best collective decisions are the product of disagreement and contest, not consensus or compromise.
Page 1 Loc. 167-68 Paradoxically, the best way for a group to be smart is for each person in it to think and act as independently as possible
4. Page 140 Loc. 2289 Law alone cannot induce cooperation, but it can make cooperation more likely to succeed.
Page 139 Loc. 2273-75 conditional consenters. They start out contributing at least some of their wealth, but watching others free ride makes them far less likely to keep putting money in.
5. Page 29 Loc. 595-97 What makes a system successful is its ability to recognize losers and kill them quickly. Or, rather, what makes a system successful is its ability to generate lots of losers and then to recognize them as such and kill them off. Sometimes the messiest approach is the wisest.
6. Page 30 Loc. 618-19 intelligence alone is not enough, because intelligence alone cannot guarantee you different perspectives on a problem.
7. Page 36 Loc. 716-20 Janis argued that when decision makers are too much alike—in worldview and mind-set—they easily fall prey to groupthink. Homogeneous groups become cohesive more easily than diverse groups, and as they become more cohesive they also become more dependent on the group, more insulated from outside opinions, and therefore more convinced that the group’s judgment on important issues must be right. These kinds of groups, Janis suggested, share an illusion of invulnerability, a willingness to rationalize away possible counterarguments to the group’s position, and a conviction that dissent is not useful.
8. Page 39 Loc. 756-57 Ultimately, diversity contributes not just by adding different perspectives to the group but also by making it easier for individuals to say what they really think.
9. Page 118 Loc. 1936-37 It may be, in the end, that a good society is defined more by how people treat strangers than by how they treat those they know.

That's nine.  If you'd like to substitute one of the below quotes for one of the above quotes, please let me know. 
Page 137 Loc. 2236-37
tax paying is a classic example of a cooperation problem. Everyone reaps benefits from the services that taxes fund.
Page 183 Loc. 2885-86
That matters because, in small groups, diversity of opinion is the single best guarantee that the group will reap benefits from face-to-face discussion.
Page 203 Loc. 3163-64
the search for consensus encourages tepid, lowest-common-denominator solutions which offend no one rather than exciting everyone.
on Page 264 Loc. 4089-90
If your vote doesn’t matter and the choice of the winner doesn’t make much of a difference either, why vote?
Page 265 Loc. 4104-5
ideology does a much better job of predicting attitudes on issues than self-interest does.
Page 268 Loc. 4153-58
The preamble of the U.S. Constitution defines the goal of the document as being, in part, to “establish justice” and “promote the general welfare.”
Quote from page 1 (location 127) If you put together a big enough and diverse enough group of people and ask them to “make decisions affecting matters of general interest,” that group’s decisions will, over time, be “intellectually [superior] to the isolated individual,” no matter how smart or well-informed he is.
page 11 Loc. 329-30 With most things, the average is mediocrity. With decision making, it’s often excellence. You could say it’s as if we’ve been programmed to be collectively smart.

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