Monday, 14 September 2009

Great TV ratings, but a disservice to the wisdom of crowds

Like many, I was enthralled to see Derren Brown attempt to predict the National Lottery numbers last week 'live on TV'. The 'how it was done' follow-up however, looked to me like the very worst kind of pseudo-science. I've always been a fan of Brown, and admired his honesty in admitting misdirection and manipulation. By persuading an open-mouthed audience that it was done with 'automatic writing' and 'The Wisdom of Crowds', he lost all credibility in my eyes. The wisdom of just 24 people, all sitting in the same room?
This article from a member of the British Psychological Society neatly captures the essence of crowdsourcing 'The group must be independent and diverse, with members having unique insights into the problem at hand'. The article perfectly sums up why this was a missed opportunity to explore to a proven and useful phenomenon.
As it happens, the KIN Members' Winter Workshop on 2nd December will include an examination of Prediction Markets. This takes Surowiecki's principle examined in his book the Wisdom of Crowds and applies it to a commercial context. With the help of Jed Christiansen, we will look at several case-studies that have successfully been undertaken. Snake oil will not be available.
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