Thousands of years ago, we had the wisdom of our elders. This served us well. We slept. We hunted and gathered. We ate. We stared at the sky for awhile before going back to sleep. Our decisions and choices were personal, instinctive, and unconsciously spiritual.
A few hundred years ago, we began to share our knowledge and wisdom through mass-produced books and pamphlets. This was huge. People learned how to read and write and share. We invented Book Clubs so that small groups could eat while they talked over others’ ideas. We also learned how different we can be, and how to argue, fight, and make up. As we became more modern, we created processes to collect the wisdom of groups by using elections and suggestion boxes. These did not always work out so well, but it was the best we could come up with.
Now, we are told that communication technologies such as telephones and the Internet can capture the “wisdom of crowds.” This means collecting, analyzing, and making decisions based on what a vast and diverse mob thinks about new products, politicians, company stocks, or really any topic.
At popular web sites like MySpace and Facebook--or TV shows like American Idol, crowds can “swarm” around people or things it does not know personally, and rate them. The idea is to poll millions of regular people on some topic, such as “best colleges” or “hottest new hip hop songs,” and then use the crowd’s wisdom to sell or buy stuff, or make other choices.
If crowd technology turns out to be right enough of the time, we will no longer need to hone our instincts or further educate ourselves. We will no longer need to listen to our elders or stare into the sky, deep in thought...no longer need to trust ourselves to make our own decisions.
We will have crowds to make them.