Individual Expertise vs. Collective Wisdom
To quote James Surowiecki’s book, The Wisdom of Crowds, “Groups do not need to be dominated by exceptionally intelligent people in order to be smart.”(Surowiecki xiii) Surowiecki’s claim offers the argument that when a crowd consists of diverse, independent, decentralized individuals, their aggregated responses will be more accurate than even the predictions of experts. Although I find myself agreeing with Surowiecki’s findings, I am now of the two minds about his claim that the wisdom of crowds is likely better than the wisest person in the crowd. On the one hand I agree that crowds are wiser than the wisest individual in the crowd. On the other hand, I’m not sure if the additional consideration of monetary gain or personal incentive may have just as a significant impact on the totality of his final results. (Graff and Birkenstein 66)
In an effort to prove the theory that there is wisdom in crowds, I decided to start with one of Surowiecki’s direct quotes “The real key, it turns out, is not so much perfecting a particular method, but satisfying the conditions—diversity, independence, and decentralization—that a group needs to be smart. In pursuit of proving this argument true, I’ve conducted my own experiment involving a small group of people, who were asked the following question: “What would you consider the five most vital items needed from an emergency preparedness kit, which would provide you the greatest chances of survival the first 72 hours following a catastrophic event? Although none of my group’s members are considered an expert in emergency or natural disasters, I felt that each of them had resided in California long enough, if not their entire lives, to have a reasonable amount of experience or personal testimony to consider their responses credible.
Prior to my conducting the experiment, I went onto several websites, researched various emergency agency databases and other...