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Infotopia: How Many Minds Produce Knowledge

3.6  ·  Rating details ·  292 Ratings  ·  24 Reviews
The rise of the "information society" offers not only considerable peril but also great promise. Beset from all sides by a never-ending barrage of media, how can we ensure that the most accurate information emerges and is heeded? In this book, Cass R. Sunstein develops a deeply optimistic understanding of the human potential to pool information, and to use that knowledge t ...more
Hardcover, 271 pages
Published September 1st 2006 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 2006)
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Dec 11, 2008 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: folks who enjoy a good skim
Shelves: social-science
Here is Cass R. Sunstein in a Wired spirit bloviating about five different models of decision-making or intelligence (as in fact-finding and analysis): statistical treatment of poll data, deliberation (your basic committee), wikis, blogs, and prediction markets. He offers a variety of examples of each, cites study results analyzing their respective success rates and failure conditions, and concludes by rehashing his conclusions for the nth time. Only a law professor could turn 6 pages of content ...more
Kirk Battle
Mar 29, 2013 rated it it was ok
A lot of this stuff is now severely outdated or woefully wrong. I'll just summarize the most useful part:

Condorcet Jury Theorem: the probability of a correct answer by a majority of the group increases toward 100 percent as the size of the group increased. They key point is that groups will do better than individuals, and big groups better than littles ones, so long as two conditions are met: Majority rule is used, and each person is more likely than not to be correct. Some fun caveats to this
Sep 22, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: comm-coll
This book is great for understanding group psychology and how it applies to communication and collaboration such as predictive markets, deliberation, wikis, open-source software, blogs, et al.

The cons of such collaboration being groupthink, polarization, hidden profiles, and information cocoons. The pros being Condorcet Jury theorem, Hayek theorem, and information aggregation.
Deane Barker
Aug 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An enjoyable look at how people collaborate to produce information, with particular emphasis on the fallacies that groups fall for, and the use of competitive markets for information aggregation.
Jan 22, 2008 rated it really liked it

Have you had your tonsils removed? Did you ever eat an order of freedom fries? Has your government ever invaded a country on the mistaken impression that it had weapons of mass destruction? If you answered yes, you may have fallen victim to one of the dozens of follies Cass Sunstein says can emerge in group decision-making. In his new book Infotopia: How Many Minds Produce Knowledge, Sunstein explores how people can gather accurate information from groups,
May 14, 2009 rated it liked it
This book may be more interesting and valuable than my 3-star rating would indicate. What Cass Sunstein does well here is critique different methods of group decision-making, including statistical groups (taking the average assessment from a group of people as the answer), deliberation, and the relatively under-utilized concept of prediction markets (where informed users can place a bet on a particular outcome). What he does not do well in this book is explain the nuts-and-bolts operation of pre ...more
Mar 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Discussion of information sharing and collective thought

In this delightful book, Cass R. Sunstein offers a cogent, compact and gently witty discussion of information sharing. His explanations of how different knowledge-aggregation processes work are extremely useful. They range from the theoretical (laying out the philosophical structures underpinning deliberation) to the practical (offering focused and specific suggestions for improvement). This certainly isn’t the first book on how groups crea
Jan 19, 2008 rated it liked it
Infotopia dealt with how groups make decisions and have a collective knowledge. It spoke to a collection of recent changes that in this field: wikis, blogs, predictive markets, and the open source movement. While I am already fairly well versed on these changes I still found this section to be a good overview and fairly interesting.

For me, the most interesting part of the book was the first 75%, which dealt with the common ways groups make decisions and have collective knowledge and the strengt
Lance Cahill
May 16, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2013
A good overview of how information is aggregated for decision-making purposes. While Sunstein gushes about prediction markets, I have always been skeptical given past experience. They tend to reflect CW and not dispersed information aggregated in imputed probabilities - and the factors which make asset markets possibly information ally inefficient easily applies to prediction markets. At various times Sunstein refers to information cascades in group decision making processes but fails to discuss ...more
Jan 03, 2008 rated it really liked it
A very interesting discussion of how groups make bad decisions. It is a relatively quick read, and you have to skip over some of the Chicago wackiness, but there is a lot there. Highly recommended for the student of information management and the web 2.0 crowd. It should inform all our ideas about the design of systems that allow people to collaborate on decisions, ratings, or the creation of other public goods. Designed poorly, these system will behave badly for reasons Sunstein explores.
The 4
Hunter Johnson
Infotopia, by Cass R. Sunstein, has a little dry statistics textbook vibe, but the material is great. How groups make decisions, how sometimes groups make better (or worse) decisions than the average of their members, and how to make it better in the information age: prediction markets, wikis, open source projects, blogs. Psychology, statistics, information technology, good stuff. Now he just needs Stephen Hawking as a ghost writer to de-textbook-ify the prose.
Feb 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is a very smart book that discusses in a straightforward way the group dynamics behind various forms of knowledge aggregation such as wikis, public opinion polls and the like. Does a nice job of explaining in simple terms "how deliberation works." There are many other treatments of comparable topics, but this is very readable and clear. I'm going to try it with a class next term, in fact.
Hollis Fishelson-holstine
Jul 04, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Hollis Fishelson-holstine by: From Mark H - bus book
Shelves: non-fiction
While the topic (ways to aggregate information across multiple people to improve decision making) is interesting and relevant and he does a nice job of outlining the pros and cons of various alternatives, I didn't find it as engaging as Wisdom of Crowds. I ended up just skimming it, and you can get the main points by reading the prologue.
Aug 18, 2008 rated it really liked it
I found this very insightful, especially since he grounded the discussion in the Jury system -- not in wikipedia. The issues are not new, and they can be understood from multiple perspectives. Sunstein shares his, and I found it fascinating and very helpful.
Feb 21, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: audio-books
Surely relevant for some, but kind of feels like a compilation of research on the topic. It was difficult to understand the thesis, the implications, and the 'So what?'. Felt like it would have been clearer if instead of a book, this was a 20 page paper.
Dec 16, 2009 rated it liked it
The first part is great, especially the insights about biases in deliberative groups, and prediction markets (although it needs a revisit due to the economic crisis). The second part is a little dated, but the examples are still valid.
Oct 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Really interesting, and enlightening book. It really opened by eyes to how groups and discussion can impact decisions and what people believe. If you are at all interested in information and knowledge creation, you should read this book.
Mar 26, 2010 added it
In the middle of it, not too impressed so far. A bit dated for a cyberworld piece, published in 2006, but explains some central concepts of open source software, crowdsourcing, wikis, etc.
Nov 29, 2016 rated it liked it
It was really interesting, but I dragged, so took me forever to finish it. It could have been an article online, honestly. Worth a read.
Apr 30, 2010 marked it as abandoned
Shelves: lis
I read this book in a rather desultory manner-- never really getting engaged and giving up on it eventually.
Nov 28, 2008 marked it as to-read
my new academic crush?
Dec 22, 2007 added it
Apr 19, 2010 is currently reading it
Good overall review of crowd sourcing - the considerable pros, but the pitfalls as well, and how to mitigate them.
Zachary Harless
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Jun 22, 2015
Jason K
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Will Clarke
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Cass R. Sunstein is an American legal scholar, particularly in the fields of constitutional law, administrative law, environmental law, and law and behavioral economics, who currently is the Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Obama administration. For 27 years, Sunstein taught at the University of Chicago Law School, where he continues to teach as ...more