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April 24, 2014
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The madness of mobs, the wisdom of crowds and the paradoxes of democracy


If memory serves, it was just a few days after the election that WJFF rebroadcast an early Radiolab episode (www.radiolab.org/story/91500-emergence/) about the property of “emergence,” which describes how groups of seemingly independent and unconnected agents can sometimes arrive at surprisingly correct answers.

I’d like to suggest that Socrates looked at things—well, not in a wrong way, exactly, but, let’s say—in an incomplete way. An individual may have many different wants and desires, but still we are able to construct logical arguments and come to more or less rational decisions despite being pulled in many different directions. Similarly, the “body politic” can learn how to be aware of, and account for, the factors that distort collective thinking. Just as we can each learn (hopefully) from our individual mistakes, so too can we compile a kind of wisdom en masse.

Indeed, we might have been doing this all along. I promulgate an idea I call “VOTE OTHER” (see voteotherproject.wordpress.com) as a way to show our dissatisfaction with the existing system—but guess who was the last President to actually recieve more votes than the number of voters who stayed home and refrained from voting?

Prepare to be surprised when you check out the answer at www.dailykos.com/story/2013/11/04/1250949/-Who-Was-the-Last-President-to....

We’ve been revolting all along. The problem is simple: we can’t hear ourselves think.