Customer Reviews for

The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations

Average Rating 3.5
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Most Helpful Favorable Review

4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

Well-written explanation of why crowds are smart

This well-written bestseller explores the apparent anomaly that crowds of nonexperts seem to be collectively smarter than individual experts or even small groups of experts. This basic insight is at the heart of contemporary financial investment theory, with its emphasi...
This well-written bestseller explores the apparent anomaly that crowds of nonexperts seem to be collectively smarter than individual experts or even small groups of experts. This basic insight is at the heart of contemporary financial investment theory, with its emphasis on the difficulty of outguessing the market. Beginning with British scientist Francis Galton's remarkable discovery in 1906 that a crowd of nonexperts proved surprisingly competent at guessing the weight of an ox, financial columnist and author James Surowiecki skillfully recounts experiments, discoveries and anecdotes that demonstrate productive group thinking. The concept does not come as news to anyone reasonably well read in modern financial literature, but we recommend this comprehensive, fresh presentation.

posted by Anonymous on June 19, 2006

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Most Helpful Critical Review

4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

A huge disappointment

I had high expectations for this book because James Surowiecki's New Yorker column is usually so good. But THE WISDOM OF CROWDS is one of the most disappointing books I've read in years. (Indeed, I feel somewhat ripped off by having purchased it and devoted se...
I had high expectations for this book because James Surowiecki's New Yorker column is usually so good. But THE WISDOM OF CROWDS is one of the most disappointing books I've read in years. (Indeed, I feel somewhat ripped off by having purchased it and devoted several hours to reading it.) The main problem with this book is that despite Surowiecki's often breathless tone, nothing he says is new. Every point he makes has been made many times before by many other writers. For instance, the key theme of his book is that groups can solve certain 'cognition problems' better than individuals. No kidding. Ever hear the phrase 'Two heads are better than one?' The thesis is so self-evident and widely-known that it comes with its own cliché! Yet Surowiecki devotes more than one-third of the book essentially to arguing that two people can solve a crossword puzzle faster than one person. Amazing, no? What's more, Surowiecki's central point about the power of 'collective intelligence' has long been a staple of business education. If you've ever taken an organizational behavior class, you've done the exercise where groups of varying sizes are stuck on a desert island with a dozen supplies -- and then each group must devise a solution for escaping the island using those supplies. Inevitably, the larger the group, the better the solution -- because larger groups reflect the accumulated experience and expertise of more people. (In other words, five heads are even better than two.) Want another example of how threadbare this idea is? Google the phrase 'none of us is as smart as all of us' - and you'll discover that Surowiecki's supposedly 'counterintuitive' notion has been talked about in business circles since Bill Gates was in short pants. If that weren't bad enough, the rest of the book -- particularly Suriowiecki's discussion of 'coordination,' his second 'stunning' insight--- is essentially a retread of arguments that have been made elsewhere for more than a decade. James Gleick made many of these points in CHAOS. Kevin Kelly said everything that Surowiecki says ten years ago in OUT OF CONTROL. Steven Johnson said it again four years ago in EMERGENCE. Howard Rheingold said lots of it last year in SMART MOBS. And Surowiecki's third argument -- that sometimes cooperation is preferable to competition -- is even older. Charles Darwin told us this in the 19th century! Indeed, there's an entire branch of evolutionary psychology devoted to studying cooperation. Just read Robert Wright's THE MORAL ANIMAL if you want a more thorough and engaging account of this point. If this book were an undergraduate term paper that summarized the self-evident and reviewed what others had already had said, I'd give it a B. But for book that costs 20 bucks from a writer who's obviously got some talent, I'd have to give THE WISDOM OF CROWDS an Incomplete. Please try again, James. But next time, try a lot harder.

posted by Anonymous on May 26, 2004

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  • Posted February 14, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    "The Wisdom of Crowds": Relevant Suggested Reading

    I never do this--comment before having read the book. And I will read the book. But also consider Elias Canetti's "Crowds and Power" from many years ago. It will scare the daylights out of you when you think of crowds. To say nothing of the fact that the judiciary in this country was established to protect the individual against crowd rule.

    2 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2006

    try advanced phyics or math

    The crowd theory only works, and then only sometimes, in fields without rigor. Ten million people who have not studied calculus could not integrate a simple polynomial. How many would it take to come up with Maxwell's equations? The book is a poor answer to an unasked question.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2005

    Worst book that I've read in years

    This book is actually a fine example of the kind of 'cascading' systems talked about in the book. It is enormously overhyped and poorly argued. The author presents what amounts to a dumbed down explanation of game theory with pseudo-social science. Horrible book skip it. Excellent books that cover this topic (generall) and are accessible are Dixit and Nalebuff's _Thinking Strategically_ and Barabasi's _Linked_.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 11, 2011

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    Posted July 22, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 25, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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