There is a school of thought that suggests that, when in a crowd, we make better decisions than if we think as individuals. It’s an extension of Rousseau’s general will. It received its most recent iteration in 2004, with the publication of James Surowiecki’s book The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations, and is generally considered to derive from Galton’s observation that a crowd at a country fair guessed (on average) the weight of a bullock more accurately than most of the individual members. It’s an interesting concept, and naturally, it’s flawed. Its flaw is simple: no crowd ever makes a truly collective decision. Crowds are always susceptible to the loudest voice. And those with the loudest voices are often those with the least to say. Crowds simply want to be led. Continue reading
I recently finished a novel of the historical hue, called Killing Beauties. Set in 1655/6, slap bang in the middle of the interregnum, when Cromwell was Lord Protector of England (and brutaliser of Ireland, amongst other places) and Charles II was in exile, the book follows the adventures of two women, Susan Hyde and Diana Jennings, both of whom were she-intelligencers, or spies with broad portfolios.
It’s now live on Unbound, so go and pledge your support as a patron.