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   Re: [xml-dev] Invitation to metadata dictionary wiki - meaningfuel.org

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Klaus Backert wrote:

> Let's assume: I have to go to a hospital to get a surgical treatment. 
> Then I'm inside the operational theater. On the one side there is a 
> "well educated and credential" surgeon. On the other side there ist a 
> "self-selected group of people interested enough in surgical tools to 
> participate in a discussion of surgical tools". Whom will I count on, 
> when it comes to the selection of the proper surgical tool for treating ME?

I don't know who you'd pick, but I'd put more faith in the self-selected 
group. This is the stunning revelation of Wikipedia, open source, and 
the Net: the wisdom of the self-selected crowd is usually better than 
the wisdom of the single expert.

There are all sorts of caveats you can put on that. For instance, I'd be 
quite concerned if the self-selected crowd were only employees of a 
single manufacturer of surgical tools. I'd also be concerned if the 
single expert had been extensively winded and dined by that same 
manufacturer. I don't happen to know if surgical tools vendors do this 
or not. Drug companies, however, certainly do this with a documented 
negative effect on patient treatment.  Frankly it's harder to bias a 
group acting together than individuals acting singly.

I don't think I would have believed this a few years ago myself, but 
I've seen too much evidence lately of the effectiveness of this approach 
to deny it.

Perhaps this is just another variation of the invisible hand of the 
market Adam Smith write about two centuries ago. More likely, but the 
the invisible hand of the market, the superior wisdom of Wikipedia, and 
the ability to count jelly beans by averaging guesses are specific 
instances of a more general principle about the wisdom of crowds. A 
thermodynamics of sociology perhaps?

´╗┐Elliotte Rusty Harold  elharo@metalab.unc.edu
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