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How the wisdom of crowds created ebrown_p, a wisdom-of-crowds skeptic

 
 
Thomas
 
Reply Tue 19 Aug, 2008 04:38 pm
A fascinating insight occured to me ebrown's thread, "There is no wisdom in crowds": Although ebrown_p may not believe in the wisdom of crowds, he himself is one of its most impressive products! After all, his very existence derives from a crowd of near-identical stem cells, each equipped with with identical genomes.

How did these stem cells get from there to the extreme differentiation we see between brain cells, blood cells, and muscle cells? How did this ultra-diverse society of cells work together to form the organism that is ebrown p?

It was through the wisdom of crowds: In the process of growing and multiplying, each individual stem cell in that original crowd emitted chemicals that influenced the environment of other cells. Conversely, their rates of growth and divisions depended in part on the chemical environment they found themselves in. Thus, a complicated feedback process emerged in which cell forms shaped chemical environments and chemical environments shaped cell forms. Ebrown_p is the end result of that process -- and so is every single member on this forum. Notice that ebrown, however much we may disagree with his opinions, is much wiser than any of his cells. Also notice that we don't see any one intelligent agent in the process through which he came into being.

Morphogenesis is one wisdom-of-crowds effect to which ebrown p owes his existence. But underlying this effect is another: Remember when I said that each of the original stem cells are equipped with the same genome? Well, ebrown p's genome emerged from a wisdom-of-crowds effect, too. It's called Ne0-Darwinian evolution.

The information evolution acts on is stored in genes (which Darwin himself didn't know about, hence the prefix "neo"). Each gene survives and adapts according to its environment -- or not. This environment consists in large part of other genes -- in the case of ebrown p's genes, for example, they even share the same body. The mutual adaptation of genes, which again happens without any conscious agency directing it, is the second important wisdom-of-crowds effect to which ebrown_p owes his existence.

I don't begrudge ebrown_p his doubts about the wisdom-of-crowds concept. But one fact is undisputable: Without a wise crowd of wisdom-of-crowd effects, he wouldn't exist to doubt them.
 
ebrown p
 
  -1  
Reply Tue 19 Aug, 2008 05:09 pm
@Thomas,
This is a ridiculous stretch of logic and reason...

1) The question is one of intelligence of a crowd. The questions proposed in the original problems, each individual understands (and probably supports) the goal. Cells in an organism reacting to, or participating in, evolution is not at all an applicable example.

2) Cells certainly follow a set of institutional rules. Cells are not free to do as they will, in fact those that break from the expected behavior are generally punished (or cause a big problem). This violates the very premise of my arguments.

3) The idea that I am the end goal, or even an optimal result, of evolution, although it is appreciated by my ego, is silly.

After all, the primary question is not whether "crowd wisdom" can produce results... but whether it can produce "intelligent results" (i.e. comparable or better than an individual designer).

I am short, balding, have a congenital digestive problem, bad teeth and a boorish personality. An individual would certainly be able to come up with a more intelligent design.

If there is any merit to the voting system that started these discussions, this thread is going to rack up a negative score very quickly.

(damn... now is it in my interest to vote thumbs up? or thumbs down).
Thomas
 
  2  
Reply Tue 19 Aug, 2008 07:33 pm
@ebrown p,
Quote:
1) The question is one of intelligence of a crowd. The questions proposed in the original problems, each individual understands (and probably supports) the goal. Cells in an organism reacting to, or participating in, evolution is not at all an applicable example.

But that doesn't rebut what I'm saying -- it emphasizes and strengthens it! I had merely said that morphogenesis or in evolution, a crowd of dumb cells, or a crowd brings you into existence. And now, thanks to you, I can add: not only did a crowd of dumb cells and dumb genes into existence -- they didn't even have a clue, didn't even care, and didn't even try. What a stunning demonstration of the crowd effect!

ebrown_p wrote:
2) Cells certainly follow a set of institutional rules. Cells are not free to do as they will, in fact those that break from the expected behavior are generally punished (or cause a big problem). This violates the very premise of my arguments.

You conveniently slip into the passive voice here. Consequently, you get around a confrontation with three inconvenient questions: (1) Who enforces the rules? (2) Who does the punishing? (3) Who does the expecting? The answer two (1) and (2) is: a crowd of other cells. The answer to (3) is: nobody. There is no conscious intelligence in this picture that would be physically capable of expecting anything. And that's exactly my point.

ebrown_p wrote:
3) The idea that I am the end goal, or even an optimal result, of evolution, although it is appreciated by my ego, is silly.

Of course it is silly! But again, this only reinforces my point. These smart crowds, made up of dumb genes and cells, brought you into being with no help from any individual intelligence -- and their dumb members weren't even trying!
0 Replies
 
Cycloptichorn
 
  0  
Reply Tue 19 Aug, 2008 07:34 pm
I suppose when you define words however you want, you can make anything sound great; and 'wisdom of crowds' is so poorly defined, you can use it for everything.

Cycloptichorn
0 Replies
 
DrewDad
 
  4  
Reply Tue 19 Aug, 2008 07:59 pm
My brain refuses to remember the name of a concept.

I read of it in Legacy of Herot by Niven and Pournelle. They described a function of evolution where most members of a group follow the same well-trodden path, but that there are others, the outlayers, that end up doing something different.
rosborne979
 
  2  
Reply Tue 19 Aug, 2008 09:40 pm
ebrown p wrote:
I would like to see examples where a crowd acts wisely to do or produce something of value (other than predict its own behavior).

In the 1800's there was a cattle baron who argued that the common rabble at a country fair could never guess the weight of a prize bull, but that an educated cattle man could do it.

So they had a contest. All the bumpkins at the fair got to guess at the weight of bull and anyone who got it right would win a prize. They ran the contest all day and had several hundred guesses, but nobody got it right. But when the baron averaged all the guesses, the average was dead-on. So even though no single individual in the crowd got it right, the crowd on average did.

I'll try to find the reference to this. I heard it on a PBS show and it was told as though it was a true story. But I wasn't paying much attention, so I don't remember the details.

ebrown p
 
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Reply Wed 20 Aug, 2008 04:09 am
This is absolutely ridiculous.

Random polling of a crowd is not a good way to tell the weight of a bull. It is not a good way to decide if Paris Hilton should be famous. Nor is it a good way to decide if Obama is a Muslim.

This wisdom of crowds elected George Bush... twice.

('nuff said).
ebrown p
 
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Reply Wed 20 Aug, 2008 04:18 am
@rosborne979,
Rosborne... this is bunkum based on a very bad understanding of math (ironically the book I was recommended had a similar story in the forward of his book).

This is a well known phenomenon. People find patterns in random data, after the fact, and make mistaken assumptions.

To test this, you would need to get 1000 such questions. Then you would need to compare the guesses of 1 or 2 people... with the guesses of the crowd.

Funny thing about these stories is that you only hear about the amazing successes (and even a fool will guess right sometimes). You don't hear about the failures.

I know of lots of times that crowds are fantastically wrong. In a fair scientific study of this mystical ability of crowds would not be seen.
0 Replies
 
Thomas
 
  1  
Reply Wed 20 Aug, 2008 07:54 am
@ebrown p,
Quote:
This wisdom of crowds elected George Bush... twice.

Not true. In 2000, the American people elected Gore. It was the Electoral College and the Supreme Court, who elected Bush. The big crowd got it right, the small crowd and the nine individuals got it wrong.
0 Replies
 
cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Wed 20 Aug, 2008 05:16 pm
@DrewDad,
Dewdad pretty much hit the proverbial needle on the head. That's the reason why religion and politics are perfect examples of crowds; wisdom has nothing to do with it.
0 Replies
 
 

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