April 27, 2006 - kenshinjeff

Psychohistory & wisdom of crowds

Some people gather that since I read/watch/write nearly everything I deem interesting, I might as well be a rubbish collector. In my defense, I am doing what every other person in the world is doing, but more selectively of course : )

So currently, I’m reading the following book, which I happened to find in the bookstore, it was a tough fight between Freakonomics and Wisdom of Crowds, but as always, I rationalise that most people would buy Freakonomics rather than Wisdom of Crowds, and thus making it easier to borrow. [1]

By the way, books are excellent sources of knowledge, though no one should really entirely believe everything they read/see/feel, especially from me. [2] A good example would be, “Scientifically, it is proven that a person in love has the same neurosignals as a mad person, hence the term, madly in love.”

If you don’t know what Psychohistory is, you should look it up in the wiki, or read Issac Asimov’s Foundation Series, it’s a pretty interesting read, if looked at from a scientific view point. Basically, in the Foundation, there exists a mathematically proven method to predict what a huge mass of people is likely to do in the future, collectively. ( This is not the scientific view point I’m reffering to, Psychohistory is sci-fi. I’m talking about the way danger is adverted using balance of power, religion and economics, and the way solutions are arrived at )

In the Wisdom of Crowds, it talks about why a huge bunch of people are statiscally smarter than a few experts. Of course, there are certain conditions to be met before this can be achieved. An example would be, I quote, estimating the number of jellybeans in a huge jar. There could exist a bunch of people who fill jellybeans in huge jars for a living, their answers would be close, or even correct. There are also people in the sample who cannot count for nuts, or jellybeans in this case, which are way off scale for various other reasons. And, of course, the sample includes everyone who thinks they know how many jellybeans there are in the jar.

Anyways, it is proven statically that the mean number of beans in the jar is pretty close to the real number of beans. And with enough test cases, it can be statistically proven that crowds have a higher chance of getting it correct than the few jar filling experts.

Some people might say that, “That’s old news”, or “That’s common sense”, or “I already know that”. Like duh. Obviously, if I wanted to read cutting edge stuff I would read it online, or if it is common sense, I must have an obvious lack of it, or if I already knew that, I wouldn’t be commenting about the book, would I?

To me, the objective of reading a book is not to have an egotrip when I see something familiar. Well, not most of the time at least.

  • Reading could done be for leisure
  • or branding, I read DaVinci therefore I will fit in
  • or gain knowledge
  • or critise
  • or studies
  • or to understand the author
  • I’ll leave the rest up to the marketing people

Freakonomics : A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of EverythingThe Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations

[1] Of course, on the other hand, I don’t usually borrow books, I buy to keep, maybe that’s why I’m always broke. Then again, it is better to be broke while enriching your knowledge than to be broke doing something else

[2] I don’t lie, and I keep my promises, that’s why it’s hard to make me promise something. But then again, it is because that it is perceived that I don’t lie that makes me a candidate to be really good liar.

geeky stuff / interesting stuff / really cool geeky stuff / what i read / yang

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