James Surowiecki, Author THE WISDOM OF CROWDS: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few Doubleday $24.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-385-50386-0

While our culture generally trusts experts and distrusts the wisdom of the masses, New Yorker business columnist Surowiecki argues that "under the right circumstances, groups are remarkably intelligent, and are often smarter than the smartest people in them." To support this almost counterintuitive proposition, Surowiecki explores problems involving cognition (we're all trying to identify a correct answer), coordination (we need to synchronize our individual activities with others) and cooperation (we have to act together despite our self-interest). His rubric, then, covers a range of problems, including driving in traffic, competing on TV game shows, maximizing stock market performance, voting for political candidates, navigating busy sidewalks, tracking SARS and designing Internet search engines like Google. If four basic conditions are met, a crowd's "collective intelligence" will produce better outcomes than a small group of experts, Surowiecki says, even if members of the crowd don't know all the facts or choose, individually, to act irrationally. "Wise crowds" need (1) diversity of opinion; (2) independence of members from one another; (3) decentralization; and (4) a good method for aggregating opinions. The diversity brings in different information; independence keeps people from being swayed by a single opinion leader; people's errors balance each other out; and including all opinions guarantees that the results are "smarter" than if a single expert had been in charge. Surowiecki's style is pleasantly informal, a tactical disguise for what might otherwise be rather dense material. He offers a great introduction to applied behavioral economics and game theory. Agent, Chris Calhoun. (On sale May 18)

Forecast: While armchair social scientists (e.g., readers of The Tipping Point) will find this book interesting, college economics, math, statistics and finance students could really profit from spending time with Surowiecki. National author promos and print ads will attract buyers.

Reviewed on: 03/29/2004
Release date: 05/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 295 pages - 978-0-349-11605-1
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-0-385-72170-7
Compact Disc - 978-0-7393-1196-7
Ebook - 978-0-385-51345-6
Downloadable Audio - 1 pages - 978-0-7393-5385-1
Hardcover - 607 pages - 978-0-375-43362-7
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-7393-1195-0
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-957-32-7281-6
Show other formats
Discover what to read next