Wisdom of the Individual

I was recently reading an essay by P.J. O’Rourke titledĀ Individualism ‘R’ Us, and it made me realise that we must specify a rather important point.

Here at DumbAgent.com we speak often and highly of the so-called “wisdom of crowds”: the opinions of many people will be closer to the truth than the one opinion of a single “expert”. The important thing to note here is the plural use of “opinions”. In other words, the accumulation of many individual opinions, made independently of one another. This is the opposite of a single collectivised opinion. Otherwise, as O’Rourke says, “the system that elected the prom queen at your high school is in charge of your whole life”.

So to use the wisdom of crowds, you have to ensure each individual is not aware of, or influenced by, the decisions, thoughts and guesses of the other individuals involved.

3 thoughts on “Wisdom of the Individual

  1. bear

    Ahh… there’s the rub: “… ensure each individual is not aware of, or influenced by, the decisions, thoughts and guesses of the other individuals involved. ”
    So how do we stand back from Carl Jung’s “collective unconsciousness,” let alone the communal, tribal, and familial consciousness that seems to influence us, even when we are alone at night with only the distant stars for companions?
    Is there ever a moment when we are “not aware of, or influenced by, the decisions, thoughts and guesses of the other individuals involved?” I really don’t have the answer to that question, but it is a valid question, yes?

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  2. Senectus

    Yes, we do belong to groups/families/ethnicities/nations with shared values, which will influence the decisions we make as individuals. But that does not mean that we must take decisions only as a group or find unanimity on all decisions.
    O’Rourke sums it up thus: “Think of all the considerations that go into each decision you make: Is it ethical? Is it good in the long run? Who benefits? Who is harmed? What will it cost? Does it go with the couch? Now imagine a large group – imagine a very large group, say, 250 million people – trying to agree on every decision made by every person in the country. The result would be stupid, silly and hugely wasteful – in short, the result would be government.”

    Reply
  3. Ocean

    The culture we are part of influences our outlook on life. On the other hand this is what makes the whole process interesting. If the town of Pecos, Texas is voting on something, the residents of Pecos, Texas will decide. One could argue they share much with each other in their culture, but then again, the decision they are looking for should probably reflect their culture. The residents of Bangalore will have a different culture, and will make different decisions, which will satisfy them more than the decision made in Pecos, Texas would have.

    What is interesting is when we veer outside and have many cultures, as we discussed here: http://dumbagent.com/dumb-culture-theory/

    Reply

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