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The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter than the Few | [James Surowiecki]

The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter than the Few

In this endlessly fascinating book, New Yorker columnist James Surowiecki explores a deceptively simple idea that has profound implications: large groups of people are smarter than an elite few, no matter how brilliant. Groups are better at solving problems, fostering innovation, coming to wise decisions, even predicting the future.
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Audible Editor Reviews

Why we think it's Essential: James Surowiecki offers an interesting theory: that answers to difficult questions are best reached by a group of alert, intelligent individuals rather than by single, even respected, experts alone. The author highlights tragedies that could have been avoided had a greater number of persons been consulted before crucial decisions were made. Veteran narrator Grover Gardner does a fine job engaging the listener with Surowiecki's extended case studies. –Corey Thrasher

Publisher's Summary

In this endlessly fascinating book, New Yorker columnist James Surowiecki explores a deceptively simple idea that has profound implications: large groups of people are smarter than an elite few, no matter how brilliant. Groups are better at solving problems, fostering innovation, coming to wise decisions, even predicting the future.

This seemingly counterintuitive notion has endless and major ramifications for how businesses operate, how knowledge is advanced, how economies are (or should be) organized and how we live our daily lives. With seemingly boundless erudition and in delightfully clear prose, Surowiecki ranges across fields as diverse as popular culture, psychology, economic behaviorism, artificial intelligence, military history, and political theory to show just how this principle operates in the real world.

Despite the sophistication of his arguments, Surowiecki presents them in a wonderfully entertaining manner. The examples he uses are all down-to-earth, surprising, and fun to ponder. Why is the line in which you're standing always the longest? Why is it that you can buy a screw anywhere in the world and it will fit a bolt bought ten-thousand miles away? Why is network television so awful? If you had to meet someone in Paris on a specific day but had no way of contacting them, when and where would you meet? Why are there traffic jams? What's the best way to win money on a game show? Why, when you walk into a convenience store at 2:00 A.M. to buy a quart of orange juice, is it there waiting for you? What do Hollywood mafia movies have to teach us about why corporations exist?

The Wisdom of Crowds is a brilliant but accessible biography of an idea, one with important lessons for how we live our lives, select our leaders, conduct our business, and think about our world.

©2004 James Surowiecki; (P)2004 Random House, Inc. Random House Audio, a division of Random House, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"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." (Publishers Weekly)

What Members Say

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3.9 (169 )
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  •  
    Hamad Springfield Gardens, NY, USA 08-12-04
    Hamad Springfield Gardens, NY, USA 08-12-04
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "great discourse on group dynamics...."

    i liked this book and to be honest (as i "read" this in audible format) i kept drifting from time to time so i will definitely go through it again.

    surowiecki makes the point - in short - that diverse groups of people (crowds), regardless of how uninformed they are, are the best way to get the best answers and make the wisest decisions.

    the book contains a ton of anecdotes and examples (and i got the abridged edition too!) like the fact that 40% of americans polled during the height of the cold war thought the Soviet Union was a member of NATO but then goes on to prove that this is immaterial in the larger scheme of things.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    D Olympia, WA, USA 10-03-05
    D Olympia, WA, USA 10-03-05
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    "One interesting idea, but this book lacks wisdom"

    I kept hoping after hours of listening I there would be a pay off. No luck. the most interesting finding, that certain crowds, if they are diverse enough are wiser, than their wisest member, is revealed at the beginning. Many anecdotes, and little wisdow, in fact a suprising level of ignorance about capitalism and people, fill the following ten hours. Well narrated.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Andrew Brisbane, QLD, Australia 11-19-08
    Andrew Brisbane, QLD, Australia 11-19-08 Member Since 2007
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    "Good topic but weakly presented"

    The topic is excellent and I was interested in it to try to get some insight into what drives web based social networking and wikipedia style systems. The idea that having more people solving a problem (providing that they work together) is better than any individual is solid.

    However that's really as far as the book gets. There are a huge number of examples and the author has clearly spent a lot of time reading up. However, sometimes the point of quite lengthy anecdotes is either weakly made, or actually illustrates points counter to the author's intent that are not explored.

    The language makes use of "can", "may" and "should" liberally rather than "is", "does" and "will". This comes across as an attempt to mitigate against counter examples by suggesting a trend rather than a rule. This makes me think that the title would be better "The wisdom of some crowds some of the time".

    As a previous reviewer said, the basic premise is explained at the start and the stream of examples fails to add much, in some cases actually making you rethink some of the author's statements.

    In my estimation it does not try to credit or explain anomalies like warren buffet or steve jobs. But maybe I'm wrong.

    I give it three stars for having a good topic and for the time it must have taken researching the examples.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Wade T. Brooks Portland, OR, USA 06-25-12
    Wade T. Brooks Portland, OR, USA 06-25-12 Member Since 2010
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    "Non-intuitive insightful stuff, certainly worth it"

    Non-intuitive insightful stuff - certainly worth reading. A good case is made for why diverse groups in knowledge, expertise and experience, etc. perform better than homogeneous group, even a group of experts, in making predictions and finding solutions. The types of problems that can be addressed by groups (cognition, coordination, and cooperation) and the best framework for accurate results.

    Practical examples from historical problems including the space shuttle accident, 9/11 intelligence gathering, finding a lost US Navy sub filled with nuclear warheads, stock market bubbles and crashes, etc.

    Some useful information on why and how prediction markets works.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jason Summerset, SD, USA 05-26-10
    Jason Summerset, SD, USA 05-26-10
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    "Good"

    The book and the details are very good the only issue I had was it rambles on and gets a little repetitive but better then many books out there.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    hspskm Woodbridge, VA 05-26-07
    hspskm Woodbridge, VA 05-26-07 Member Since 2004
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    "Interesting"

    Great read

    1 of 5 people found this review helpful
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