Would you let a crowd decide how to operate on your cancerous lesion/child’s appendix, etc? Never, yet I constantly hear references in the tech community to ‘the wisdom of crowds’.
When I was a young jackaroo I spent too much time (in my view) herding and counting sheep. Sheep can seem rather stupid and unpredictable, although like most largish animals they seem to possess certain characteristics that we anthropomorphize as ‘intelligence’. What I learned from sheep and older stockmen is that when sheep see a shadow or a barrier most jump the same way (a corkscrew of up and sideways). I remember an old aboriginal stockman saying once that sheep were like human voting, ‘most jump left or right depending on the shadows they see at their feet’.
This an almost perfect simile for the ‘wisdom of crowds’, in that rather than a group displaying some superior collective intellect, what is reflects is instead very similar to sheep jumping at shadows.
Yes, groups of people can be very smart and there are plenty examples, but rather than blithely believing in the wisdom of crowds, we also need to listen to a diversity of voices and by this I don’t just mean the usual scrum of media commentators, celebrities and ‘experts’ who all seem to think their views are Vox populi, vox Dei (the voice of the people [is] the voice of God). They aren’t and in any case the translation is probably incorrect. It most likely originated in a letter from Alcuin of York to Charlemagne in 798 that included the line, ‘Nec audiendi qui solent dicere, Vox populi, vox Dei, quum tumultuositas vulgi semper insaniae proxima sit. In modern English this translates as, ‘and those people should not be listened to who keep saying the voice of the people is the voice of God, since the riotousness of the crowd is always very close to madness’. Wisdom indeed and very applicable to edtech.
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