Crowd guessing:
There has been a sea change in common wisdom.  It used to be that people would say a person entering a mob loses 20 effective IQ points for the duration.  There is a classical book Extraordinary Popular Delusions and The Madness of Crowds by Charles MacKay.  It is a wonderful read.  But nowadays the feeling is that crowds are smarter than individuals.  (Critical Mass, David Pogue SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN vol. 304 no. 6 June, 2011 page 36.)  The subject in point is that of rating various forms of entertainment.  People just put up a web site and anyone who cares to can rate the movie or whatever.  The result is a large number of critiques and the average is presumably close to what the average person would agree with. 

That’s fine for entertainment.  But even with entertainment it might be taken with just a little caution.  Indeed the article suggests some caution, but I have an example. 

Many years ago at the University of Florida the students were all required to pay a fee for cultural events.  The faculty would take the money and put their heads together to find interesting things.  Since it was a major university, that put a lot of talent onto the search.  The shows were wonderful.  We had one of the world’s greatest string quartets brought in from Yugoslavia.  Every year we had a Broadway musical put on by professional singers.  We had Roger Tory Peterson, the bird author, lecture us on nature.  One of his slides showed a parking lot with the Grand Canyon behind it.  He drew our attention to a man sitting on a curb.  Dr. Peterson said, “We are looking at a ravine a mile deep and 10 miles wide.  But that man is a geologist.  He is crying.  He is looking at a billion years.”  We had Robert Frost come in person.  We had Victor Borg.  It went on and on, the best of the best from the far corners of the culture. 

Then the hippies had their day and demanded everything.  The entertainment package did not seem to be worth fighting for, so the university let the students choose.  And now all they do is bring in the bands that the students are listening to already. 

So things have changed. 

Personally I don’t much mind.  I no longer live in Gainesville so I am not missing anything.  When I look for something to see or somewhere to go it is almost always with a particular goal in mind so how places rate with others means little to me.  I rarely say, “I think I’ll see a movie.  I wonder what is good.” 

Then of course there is the topic of the web log.  There is the issue that a population will crash if the mating pool gets large, like approaches a thousand.  The fact that nobody has ever quite seen it before (although the Covenant might be interpreted as coming close) does not trouble me. 

What does trouble me is that when I point it out to experts or intelligent people generally, they seem to brush me off with rare exceptions.  If the building were ablaze they might take an interest.  Perhaps this seems too far in the future, but there is serious reason to think it is already to late to fix. 

But I suspect the attitude is, “Nobody else says this, so it can’t be true.”

Yes it can.

There have been 16,812 visitors so far. 

Home page.