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July 19, 2005

Good Head Fake If Not Clement

Rumors are that now it's not Clement.  So we will see.

So this seems like a good reason to link to Cass Sunstein at LessigBlog discussing aggregation of information, or the wisdom of crowds.  He notes that aggregated information only works when people have some reason to be smarter than random results:

Here's a problem, though. If group members are less than 50% likely to be right, the likelihood that the average will be right approaches ZERO as the size of the group increases. (I asked members of the faculty at the University of Chicago Law School to estimate the weight of the horse who won the Kentucky Derby, the number of lines in Antigone, and the number of Supreme Court invalidations of state and federal law. The group average did really well with the first question, pretty badly with the second, and horrendously with the third!) Condorcet was well aware of this point, and hence he emphasized that we can't rely on the wisdom of group averages when most group members are likely to be biased or wrong. 

Which means that rumor and even deliberately manipulated information can easily create a completely wrong consensus.

See today for a perfect example.

Posted by Nathan at July 19, 2005 05:28 PM