I'm curious, has anybody ever done a hard scientific study to determine if there's any truth to the claims being made for the "wisdom of crowds?" Most of what I've heard advanced as 'evidence' supporting this idea amounts to little more than parables, assertions, and anecdotes.
I can understand how it could work for something like an open software development project where "many eyes make for quick debugging." But in this case, the many eyes are programmers (most with formal training) who are focusing on something very specific and well within their area of expertise.
I wonder how well that same crowd would perform if you turned them loose on a problem that was outside their scope of knowledge and experience?
Increasing the number of something applied to something else doesn't automatically accomplish a goal. Very often, simply increasing the amount of input (money, ideas, time, voices, nuclear warheads) exacerbates the original problem and further clouds the issue. Our government's tendency to go out and "throw big money at the problem" repeatedly demonstrates just how ineffective applying 'more' can be.
And not everything benefits from a group approach. Some issues are far better handled by small, tightly focused and highly trained individuals or small teams. Especially in critical areas where consistency, speed, and accountability are important.
From my perspective, I can't really see how a group one hundred idiots automatically becomes smarter than a group of ten idiots. I'd expect you'd more likely see an increase in erroneous thinking and logical error as the crowd got bigger.
When you consider that all distributions tend towards the mean, increasing the number in the group should have the effect of dragging the overall level of the group towards the middle rather than boosting it on the high end. We've seen this happen in committee meetings where the dumbest members tend to drag the overall performance of the group down to their level far more often than the brighter members succeed in pulling it up to theirs.
I'm not saying there's no truth to the 'wisdom of crowds.' All I'm saying is that there's a big difference between asserting something is true and proving it is.
So I think we need to be careful about too easily accepting something as valid before we find out if it actually is. Especially when dealing with something that "sounds so right" as this notion.
While group wisdom may have the capability of bringing about major social and information breakthroughs, it also has a dark side. Ideas such as ethnic cleansing, master race, apartheid, burn the witch, and thought crime all came out of crowd thinking.
And sometimes, there's very little real difference between a crowd - and a mob.