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Bugs of collective intelligence: why the best ideas aren’t selected? Blog Essay


Nice piece by member (and friend) alex3f, talking about group dynamics in decision making.  Alex has done a lot of work in this field and it's always interesting to hear his take on some of these studies..

Collective problem solving involves iterated innovation and selection of solutions. In his experiment, Matt decoupled the two by ensuring that the right solution was injected into the pool of solutions that group considered and yet he repeatedly observed that the group rejected the right solution. Apparently, the group evaluation of ideas was seriously biased towards accepting the inferior ideas of the senior members at the expense of other ideas, i.e. the senior status of the idea source overweighted the intrinsic merits of the idea. This is an example of subjective selectionist bias. Another common type of bias is temporal bias. For example, solutions proposed earlier can be preferred to solutions proposed later (or the other way around).

We can see these sources of bias working in many “collective intelligence” web 2.0 platforms, where people are supposed to select the fittest among several versions of the content based on the merit of the content. However, in reality, the selection is heavily biased by other factors that has little to do with the quality of the content.

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It's a very important and fascinating subject (and Matthew E. May's experiment is tragically revealing...). Thanks for sharing!

Sad but true. Having spent a great many years in mechanical design I've come to the conclusion there are 3 stages to a "good" idea...

1) It will never work
2) You're crazy
3) Next time you need another "good" idea like that, come and see me

Even more bothersome, for those who recognise and pursue good ideas they are soon labelled as rebels, trouble makers etc (& worse) in the group-think environment despite a history of successful accomplishments.

Somehow we muddle thru, but you have to wonder where we would be if it were not for those who will pursue good ideas, however & whatever it takes, the entrepreneurs.

When I read the excerpt I was expecting digg to be an example  8)

Nonetheless a very good essay. I shall see what other essays the site's feed will bring.   :Thmbsup:


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