The Wisdom of Crowds and the INFORMATION CASCADE

On the way back from Michigan last week I listened to the New Yorker’s James Surowiecki’s book The Wisdom of Crowds which Steven mentioned a few weeks ago. It was incredibly interesting and the four hour drive flew by.

Surowiecki gathers research from various disciplines concerning the idea that the wisdom of many is usually spot on — better in fact than the wisdom of say one or two geniuses.

Take a look at this for more:

An example: folks try plank roads in the 1800s… they seem ok and EVERYONE starts praising plank roads. “Plank roads will change the way of the world!” Some are built… etc and then it turns out they are hard to take care of, fall apart, don’t last, etc. That’s an information cascade.

Try this on for size: library folks try (insert new tech here — eBooks, RFID, Virtual reference) and things seem ok and EVERYONE starts praising said tech. You know the rest. Some new technologies roll out ok, others go bust…

That’s an information cascade.

As you make decisions for your library… as you attend conferences are hear the speakers praise biobliographic information inbedded on micro-organic chipsets surgically implanted in the brains of our patrons, stop for a second and ask yourself: is this an informatiuon cascade? Is this the future? What might the ROI be on this new tech…