James Surowiecki

A Quote by James Surowiecki on google, search engine, internet searching, searching, internet, and pagerank algorithm

Google started in 1998, at a time when Yahoo! Seemed to have a stranglehold on the search business – and if Yahoo! Stumbled, then AltaVista or Lycos looked certain to be the last man standing.  But within a couple of years, Google had become the default search engine for anyone who used the internet regularly, simply because it was able to do a better job of finding the right page quickly.  And the way it does that – and does it while surveying three billion Web pages – is built on the wisdom of crowds.

            Google keeps the details of it’s technology to itself, but the core of the Google system is the PageRank algorithm, which was first defined by the company’s founders, Sergey Brin and Lawrence Page, in a now-legendary 1998 paper called “The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine.”  PageRank is an algorithm – a calculating method – that attempts to let all the Web pages on the Internet decide which pages are most relevant to a particular search.  Here’s how Google puts it:

PageRank capitalizes on the uniquely democratic characteristic of the web by using it’s vast link structure as an organizational tool.  In essence, Google interprets a link from  page A to page B as a vote, by page A, for page B.  Google assesses a page’s importance by the votes it receives.  But Google looks at more than sheer volume of votes, or links; it also analyses the page that casts the vote.  Votes cast by pages that are themselves “important” weigh more heavily and help to make other pages “important.”

In that 0.12 seconds, what Google is doing is asking the entire Web to decide which page contains the most useful information, and the page that gets the most votes goes first on the list.  And that page, or the one immediately beneath it, more often than not is in fact the one with the most useful information.

            Now, Google is a republic, not a perfect democracy.  As the description says, the more people that have linked to a page, the more influence that page has on the final decision.  The final vote is a “weighted average” – just as stock price or an NFL point spread is – rather than a simple average like the ox-weighers’ estimate.  Nonetheless, the big sites that have the more influence over the crowd’s final verdict have that influence only because of all the votes that smaller sites have given them.  If smaller sites were giving the wrong sites too much influence, Google’s search results would not be accurate.  In the end, the crowd still rules.  To be smart at the top, the system has to be smart all the way through.

James Surowiecki

Source: The Wisdom of Crowds, Pages: 16..17

Contributed by: HeyOK

A Quote by James Surowiecki on crowds, wisdom, intelligent, collective intelligence, collaborative intelligence, groups, and decision-making

...there's no real evidence that one can become expert in something as broad as "decision making" or "policy" or "strategy." Auto repair, piloting, skiing, perhaps even management: these are skills that yield to application, hard work, and native talent. But forecasting an uncertain future and deciding the best course of action in the face of that future are much less likely to do so. And much of what we've seen so far suggests that a large group of diverse individuals will come up with better and more robust forecasts and make more intelligent decisions than even the most skilled "decision maker."

James Surowiecki

Source: The Wisdom of Crowds, Pages: 32

Contributed by: ~C4Chaos

A Quote by James Surowiecki on judgement, diversity, and decision making

In part because individual judgement is not accurate enough or consistent enough, cognitive diversity is essential to good decision making.

James Surowiecki

Contributed by: ~C4Chaos

A Quote by James Surowiecki on groups, crowds, independence, diversity, decision making, decisions, judgement, collective, and intelligence

Independence is important to intelligent decision making for two reasons. First, it keeps the mistakes that people make from becoming correlated. Errors in individual judgement won't wreck the group's collective judgement as long as those errors aren't systematically pointing in the same direction. One of the quickest ways to make people's judgements systematically biased is to make them dependent on each other for information. Second, independent individuals are more likely to have a new information rather than the same old data everyone is already familiar with. The smartest groups, then, are made up of people with diverse perspectives who are able to stay independent of each other. Independence doesn't imply rationality or impartiality though. You can be biased and irrational, but as long as you're independent, you won't make the group any dumber.

James Surowiecki

Contributed by: ~C4Chaos

A Quote by James Surowiecki on decision, strategy, complexiy, and uncertainty

No decision-making system is going to guarantee corporate success. The strategic decisions that corporations have to make are of mind-numbing complexity. But we know that the more power you give a single individual in the face of complexity and uncertainty, the more likely it is that bad decisions will get made.

James Surowiecki

Source: The Wisdom of Crowds, Pages: 220

Contributed by: ~C4Chaos

A Quote by James Surowiecki on market, fear, and greed

It's a familiar truism that at any one moment, financial markets are dominated by either fear or greed. But the healthiest markets are those that are animated by both fear and greed at the same time.

James Surowiecki

Source: The Wisdom of Crowds, Pages: 241

Contributed by: ~C4Chaos

A Quote by James Surowiecki on bubble, group, intelligence, independence, diversity, and judgement

Bubbles and crashes are textbook examples of collective decision making gone wrong. In a bubble, all of the conditions that make groups intelligent -- independence, diversity, private judgement--disappear.

James Surowiecki

Source: The Wisdom of Crowds, Pages: 244

Contributed by: ~C4Chaos

A Quote by James Surowiecki on group, attention, and decision

One key to successful group decisions is getting people to pay much less attention to what everyone else is saying.

James Surowiecki

Source: The Wisdom of Crowds, Pages: 65

Contributed by: ~C4Chaos

A Quote by James Surowiecki on science, scientists, and sciientific community

Unfortunately, there is something of a flaw in this idealized picture of the way the scientific community discovers truth. And the flaw is that most scientific work never gets noticed. Study after study has shown that most scientific papers are read by almost no one, while a small number of papers are read by many people.

James Surowiecki

Source: The Wisdom of Crowds, Pages: 170

Contributed by: ~C4Chaos

A Quote by James Surowiecki on group, team, collective, and wisdom

If small groups are included in the decision-making process, then they should be allowed to make decisions. If an organization sets up teams and then uses them for purely advisory purposes, it loses the true advantage that a team has: namely, collective wisdom.

James Surowiecki

Source: The Wisdom of Crowds, Pages: 190-191

Contributed by: ~C4Chaos

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