Is Collective Wisdom Better Than Individual Wisdom?
A Blog Post
There is a general belief that two
people are better than one, three better than two, and so
on. This is done to promote the idea of unity, synergy,
and team work. It is true that the sum of parts is better
than any individual parts. However, it looks like we often
over stretch the idea and ignore the importance of individuality.
I have serious doubts about the argument that more means
better and having more people working together guarantees
better results. I have seen in my life how collectively
people can be self-destructive in their choices and act
against their own collective interests. Now, no group would
willingly appoint a person as a driver who had never driven
a bus or driven but just a two wheeler, and then have the
audacity to not only appoint him as their chosen driver
but also travel in it when he drives. If it happens you
will consider the group insane. However, collectively people
in real life have done it many times and elected incompetent
and inexperienced leaders with little or no political or
leadership knowledge and experience. They not only elected
such people once, but gave them more chances by reelecting
them as if to make sure that the person they chose had a
magic wand which he or she forgot to use the first time.
It is a wonder how people can collectively hand over their
lives and destinies to someone who has no practical experience
in running a country and influence the future of millions
of people for generations to come.
If more people means better, our democracies must be
producing the best of the leaders with great knowledge and
wisdom. In my life, I hardly saw any great leader being
elected by people purely on merits. If they did, it was
mostly by mistake or purely out of frustration when their
choices were proved wrong beyond doubt. I believe people
elected better leaders half a century ago, when they were
less literate than the people now even though they are comparatively
better educated and better informed. Visit any social network
site. Who enjoy Maximum following and adulation? It is painful
to see that more people are driven by what is between their
legs than by what is between their ears. These choices do
not necessarily prove that the collective wisdom of the
humanity is any better than individual freedom. The progress
of our civilization is made possible mostly by brilliant
individuals who refused to go with the majority opinion.
They were largely ignored by their communities, and frequently
ridiculed, persecuted, threatened, and even burnt on stake.
So far, all the major experiments in collectivism, communism
and socialism produced mixed results and in some countries
proved to be a miserable failure. Yet we have many empty
heads in our universities who try to brainwash their students
into becoming little Mao's. The conclusion, crowds and communities
can collectively pull of off magic and produce good results
under some circumstances. And so do exceptional individuals,
when the crowd is willing to give them a chance and let
them be. There is some truth, when they say, "Too many cooks..."
And there is some, when you hear, "Two brains are better
than one." However, I am not sure if a thousand brains are.