Wednesday, August 3, 2011

August 21st dinner--We're discussing 'The Wisdom of Crowds'

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.

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 f Crowds by James Surowiecki

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.  Do you agree?

 Earl said he'd help me reduce these down to 9 by August 21st.
I was hoping we could discuss the following quotes:
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. IV

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

Page 5 Loc. 233-35
They were making individual guesses, which were aggregated and then averaged. This is exactly what Galton did, and it is likely to produce excellent results. (In a later chapter, we’ll see how having members interact changes things, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.)

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.

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.

page 30 Loc. 607-9
cognitive diversity needs to be actively selected, and it’s important to do so because in small groups it’s easy for a few biased individuals to exert undue influence and skew the group’s collective decision.

Page 30 Loc. 618-19
intelligence alone is not enough, because intelligence alone cannot guarantee you different perspectives on a problem.

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.

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.

Page 41 Loc. 774-75
Independence doesn’t mean isolation, but it does mean relative freedom from the influence o others

Page 42 Loc. 791-92
For all this, though, independence is hard to come by. We are autonomous beings, but we are also social beings.

Page 59 Loc. 1053-54
Mimicry is so central to the way we live that economist Herbert Simon speculated that humans were genetically predisposed to be imitation machines.

Page 63  Loc. 1110-11
The same might also be said, though less definitively, about cultural products (like TV shows) where part of why we watch the show is to talk about it with our friends,

Page 93 Loc. 1563-64
Conventions allow us to deal with certain situations without thinking much about them, and when it comes to coordination problems in particular, they allow groups of disparate, unconnected people to organize themselves with relative ease and an absence of conflict.
Page 95 Loc. 1591-92
The most successful norms are internalized.

Page 115 Loc. 1898-1900
One reason for this is that Americans are far more likely to believe that wealth is the result of initiative and skill, while Europeans are far more likely to attribute it to luck. Americans still think, perhaps inaccurately, of the United States as a relatively mobile society, in which it’s possible for a working-class kid to become rich.

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.

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.

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 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.
Page 141

The mystery of cooperation, after all, is that Olson was right: it is rational to free ride. And yet cooperation, on both a small and a large scale, permeates any healthy society
Page 162 Loc. 2565-66
“Today’s complex problem solving requires multiple perspectives.

Page 180 Loc. 2827
One of the real dangers that small groups face is emphasizing consensus over dissent.

Page 182 Loc. 2866-67
One of the consistent findings from decades of small-group research is that group deliberations are more successful when they have a clear agenda and when leaders take an active role in making sure that everyone gets a chance to speak.
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.

Page 213 Loc. 3311-13
Similar results from both experimental and empirical studies show that allowing people to make decisions about their own working conditions often makes a material difference in how they perform.

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.”

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