“Under the right circumstances,” Surowiecki argues, “groups are remarkably intelligent, and are often smarter than the smartest people in them.”
For evidence, he cites how groups have been used to find lost submarines, correct the spread on a sporting event, locate a Web page, even predict the president of the United States. So why aren’t we using groups more?
the TV studio audience of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” guessed the right answer to questions 91 percent of the time, torching the “experts,” who guessed the right answer only 65 percent of the time.
Hmm… I personally would go to the studio audience first on matters of pop culture, so there may be some filter that means the audience gets more of the questions for which a crowd would be good.
I think it’s a bit misleading to say that the studio audience was right 91% of the time. If 96% of the audience guessed randomly, and only 4% actually knew the right answer, that would leave the 3 wrong answers with 24% each, or 72% in toto, and the right answer with 28%. Thus, almost 3/4 of the audience could be wrong, but according to the passage I excerpted above, “the audience” could still be credited with getting the “right” answer. By contrast, the single expert had to be 100% accurate in order to get the “right” answer.
I imagine that Surowiecki covers all this in his book, but the way it’s presented in the article seems somewhat misleading.