Jill's Reviews > The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few

The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki
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's review
Oct 08, 2009

it was ok
bookshelves: sociology-anthropology
Read in October, 2009

The problem with the Wisdom of Crowds is that it tries to make its point - that groups are smarter than even the smartest individual within them - in a meandering book of 335 pages, when it could have done so in 30:
1. Groups are smart.
2. They manage to coordinate their actions in complex situations and collaborate, even if individuals are acting in self-interest. Culture and "prosocial behaviour" help ensure this.
3. You just have to ensure that group members are diverse and are able to make decisions independently.

These are essentially the points that Surowiecki is trying to make - in various guises - across 12 chapters. The rest is just padding up with various examples, some more interesting than others. Don't get me wrong, it's not an entirely bad read. Surowiecki makes a convincing case, and some of the anecdotes, like the IEM and Scorpion examples are fascinating. But Surowiecki might have done better to have made his case in a New Yorker column or two, rather than a full blown book.

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