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Reinventing Discovery by Michael Nielsen

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CHAPTER 5

The Limits and the Potential of Collective Intelligence

Collective intelligence is not a problem-solving panacea. In this chapter we’ll identify a fundamental criterion that divides problems where collective intelligence can be applied from problems where it cannot. We’ll then use that criterion to understand why scientific problems are especially well suited for attack by collective intelligence. To understand the criterion, let’s first turn to an experiment done in 1985 by the psychologists Garold Stasser and William Titus. What Stasser and Titus showed is that groups discussing a certain type of problem—a political decision—often do surprisingly badly at using all the information they possess. This perhaps doesn’t sound so surprising: ...

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