Note: These are my notes from this panel, and are not edited very well.

Panelist: James Surowiecki The author of the book “The Wisdom of Crowds,” Surowiecki writes the popular businss column “The Financial Page” for the New Yorker.

Under the right circumstances, groups of people can be extremely intelligent. Under the right conditions.

Google: example of the wisdom of groups.

Collective intelligence, regarding future events (predictions). The favorites win most often (e.g., horse races).

When you put everyone’s judgment together, the errors fade away.

Needed: Some form of aggregating peoples’ opinions.
(Two most important characteristics: diversity and independence.)


Bringing in new blood. What those people know, will likely be different. But that will make the group smarter.

It’s a mistake to try to find the one or two or three experts that you believe have the right information. Experts don’t know their blind spots. Expert judgments are very poorly calibrated. Don’t know what they know, and what they don’t know.

Diversity helps us get around group think. Allows the group as a whole to think more keenly (devil’s advocate). Do not want the same person to be the devil’s advocate.


Want people making judgments on their own knowledge.

Groups do things that an individual would not usually do.

We put too much of a premium of consensus. That’s when you end of with a watered down decision.

Groups are smartest when everyone is acting as much as an individual as possible. Independence paramount.

Difficulty: human beings imitate. Easy to look at what others are doing and do the same.

Imitation is problematic in groups. People who make the judgments early on influence the collective thought of the group.

Independence is a hard hurdle to get over.

Net: double edged sword. Offers possibilities to harness collective intelligence. Can tap into the knowledge of people all over the world. Great thing: lack of filters. All you need is desire and ability to tap into the discussion.

We overestimate our ability to figure out who the experts are. We don’t.

Problem: great tool for breaking down independence. Easy to pay attention to small number of sites. People get locked into small worlds.

Lesson of collection intelligence on the net: keep connection weak.