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

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

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Overview

The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations by James Surowiecki, Erik Singer

In this endlessly fascinating book, New Yorker columnist James Surowiecki explores a deceptively simple idea that has profound implications: large groups of people are smarter than an elite few, no matter how brilliant - better at solving problems, fostering innovation, coming to wise decisions, even predicting the future.

This seemingly counterintuitive notion has endless and major ramifications for how businesses operate, how knowledge is advanced, how economies are (or should be) organized and how we live our daily lives. With seemingly boundless erudition and in delightfully clear prose, Surowiecki ranges across fields as diverse as popular culture, psychology, ant biology, economic behaviorism, artificial intelligence, military history and political theory to show just how this principle operates in the real world.

Despite the sophistication of his arguments, Surowiecki presents them in a wonderfully entertaining manner. The examples he uses are all down-to-earth, surprising, and fun to ponder. Why is the line in which you�re standing always the longest? Why is it that you can buy a screw anywhere in the world and it will fit a bolt bought ten-thousand miles away? Why is network television so awful? If you had to meet someone in Paris on a specific day but had no way of contacting them, when and where would you meet? Why are there traffic jams? What�s the best way to win money on a game show? Why, when you walk into a convenience store at 2:00 A.M. to buy a quart of orange juice, is it there waiting for you? What do Hollywood mafia movies have to teach us about why corporations exist?

The Wisdom of Crowds is a brilliant but accessible biography of an idea, one with important lessons for how we live our lives, select our leaders, conduct our business, and think about our world.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780739311967
Publisher: Random House Audio Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/25/2004
Edition description: Abridged, 5 CDs, 6 hrs.
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 6.20(h) x 1.00(d)

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Wisdom of Crowds 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 34 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is one of the most entertaining and intellectually engaging books I've come across in a long while. Surowiecki has a gift for making complex ideas accessible, and he has a wonderful eye for the telling anecdote. His thesis about the intelligence of groups made up of diverse, independent decision-makers seems initially counterintuitive, but by the end of the book it seems almost obvious, because of all the evidence Surowiecki piles up on its behalf. The book does cover a lot of ground in not very much space, and the pace of the argument is at times too fast. But the throughline of the argument is almost always clear, and the stories Surowiecki tells are often memorable. The chapter on NASA's mismanagement of the Columbia mission and the tale of how a man named John Craven relied on collective wisdom to find a lost submarine are especially striking. This is one of those books that I expect people will still be talking about and referring to years or even decades from now. It's also a book that I hope will have a concrete impact on the way that people make decisions, since the implications of Surowiecki's argument are radical in the best way. All in all, a terrific read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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_.
shenzi More than 1 year ago
This is an entertaining and engaging book. It's somewhat repetitive, yet Surowiecki uses a great variety of intriguing examples to prove his viewpoint.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
M_L_Gooch_SPHR More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed The Wisdom of Crowds. I found the book to be well researched and well written. While the arguments for crowd wisdom can often be very complex, Surowiecki presents them in a clear fashion so that even numbskulls like me can get the message. And while I agree with his arguments and positions on the wisdom of crowds and found truth is each of the 12 chapters I do not believe that I am fully sold on this idea. Certainly not when we look at a variety of other arenas. The stupidity of crowds is why our nation as a republic. God forbid that we were a true democracy and forged our laws passed strictly on the crowd sentiment. I also didn’t find a lot of wisdom in the recent OWS movement. I’m not saying this from a political point of view as I do not care either way but this movement couldn’t muster enough cognitive power to formulate a simple goal, much less the strategy to achieve the objective. And finally, from a personal viewpoint, I have found through years of collective bargaining that the wisdom of crowds is usually absent from these groups of contract voters. I have seen more than one manufacturing facility closed by management because the crowd would not pass a labor contract over a minor detail. Nope, no wisdom here. I could go on but this is suffice to say that while the book is excellent, the reader would be advised to approach these theories with a wide open mind. I do recommend as a thought provoking well executed tome on a very important subject. Michael L. Gooch, SPHR – Author of Wingtips with Spurs
Camejo More than 1 year ago
Worth the read to understand how we have evolved as a society through the technology. Working in IT and developing tools for info sharing it gave me insights into how these same technologies have permeated into every day life. Like many books of it's genre it did stretch the points a bit and could have been more concise.
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