Epidemics, the Statue That Didn’t Look Right, and the Wisdom of Crowds
The Statue That Didn’t Look Right J. Paul Getty Museum and the kouros “intuitive repulsion” and “fresh” Our brain uses two very different strategies to make sense of many situations: (1) conscious and (2) unconscious. The latter operates entirely below the surface of consciousness. “Fast and Frugal”: you often simply know before knowing why (e.g., Iowacarddecksexperiment). Unknown Greek about 530 B.C. or modern forgeryMarble H: 6 ft. 9 1/8 in.; W [greatest, at forearms]
The Adaptive Unconscious as an “Internal Computer” As a form of rapid cognition, it quickly and quietly processes a lot of the data we need in order to keep functioning. We toggle back and forth between conscious, deliberative decision-making and unconscious, more spontaneous decision-making. e.g., Nalini Ambady’s “teacher rating” experiment: started with 3 ten-second silent video clips, then five-second clips and then finally two-second clips . . . = end-of-the-semester full student evaluations Your adaptive unconscious still makes mistakes; it can be thrown off, distracted and disabled, but it tends to be for specific and consistent reasons (as we will see later on).
The Wisdom of Crowds Conventional wisdom: “beware of the masses,” “avoid the ‘herd mentality’,” Henry David Thoreau: “The mass never comes up to the standard of its best member, but on the contrary degrades itself to a level with the lowest.” Friedrich Nietzsche: “Madness is the exception in individuals but the rule in groups.” e.g., mobs, genocide Soren Kierkegaard: “Wherever the crowd is, there is untruth.” ---------------------------------------------------------- 15 questions in a row = $1 million Stumped? (1) Have 2 of the 4 multiple-choice questions removed (2) Call a friend or relative, a smart person (65% correct) (3) Poll the studio audience (91% correct) * key: individual guesses aggregated (no consulting on another)
The Wisdom of Crowds Norman L. Johnson (Los Alamos National Laboratory) In calculating what he called the group’s “collective solution,” he simply noted what a majority of the agents did at each node and then plotted a path through the maze based on the majority’s overall decisions. Instead of 34.3 steps, which was the average for each agent’s first trip, or 12.8 steps, the average for their second trip, the group’s path was, on average, just 9 steps long.
Stock Market as an “Individual Aggregator” Teacher Christa McAuliffe, 37 Rockwell International (shuttle/main engines) Lockheed (managed ground support) Martin Marietta (ship’s external fuel tank) Morton Thiokol (solid-fuel booster rocket) Within a half-an-hour, the stock market “knew” what company was responsible. How?
The Wisdom of Crowds Four Key Conditions that Characterize Wise Crowds: • Diversity of opinion(each person should have some private information, even if it’s just an eccentric interpretation of the known facts) • Independence(people’s opinions are not determined by the opinions of those around them) • Decentralization(people are able to specialize and draw on local knowledge) • Aggregation(some mechanism, like Wall Street or a casino, exists for turning private judgments into a collective decision) ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Ask a hundred people to run a 100-meter race, and then average their times. The average will be worse than many of the fastest runners. Ask a hundred people to answer a question or solve a problem, and the average answer will often be at least as good as the answer of the smartest member. With most things, the average is mediocrity. With decision-making, it’s often excellence.
The Wisdom of Crowds: Controversy The program, called theFutures Markets Applied to Prediction (FutureMAP),would have involved investors betting on the likelihood of the assassination of Yasser Arafat, the overthrow of the King of Jordan, or a missile attack from North Korea.
1995-1996: exponential increase Different explanations . . . increase in crack cocaine (overall context of the disease = the “Power of Context”) reduction in medical services (the disease itself = the “Stickiness Factor”) destruction of housing projects and exodus from old row houses (people carrying the disease = the “Law of the Few”) Syphilis Tipping Point, Baltimore
The “Law of the Few” • the 80/20 rule; the “Influentials” (the 1-2 Americans in 10 who tells the other 8-9 how to vote, where to eat, and what to buy); medical costs; costs of caring for the homeless; polluting cars; RA write-ups; Rx’s by MDs • The behavior of a few, unique individuals: - Darnell “Boss Man” McGee, Nushawn Williams, Gaetan Dugas
The “Stickiness Factor” • HIV strains in the 1950s vs. the 1980s • Influenza 1918 • “A diamond is ______”; “Frosted Flakes, they’re ___!”; “Got M----?”; “BMW, the ultimate driving _______”; Miller Lite: “Less Filling/…”
The “Power of Context” • Syphilis cases and weather patterns • Kitty Genovese’s death in Queens and the “bystander problem”