Blog Post

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.