In James Surowieki's book The Wisdom of Crowds
, he explores the concept that large groups of people are smarter than the most brilliant individuals when it comes to solving problems, making wise decisions, and predicting the future. Several examples that support this notion are discussed in the book, which I highly recommend as it's one of my favorites. In one example, Surowieki tells how in 1906, a crowd of almost 800 people at an English county fair guessed the weight of a slaughtered and dressed ox. The average guess of the crowd was off by only one pound, closer than any individual guess.
In another example cited in the book, the author tells how in 1968 the USS Scorpion
disappeared in the North Atlantic. With only a few pieces of information that might help to locate the lost sub, a number of people in different fields were asked to individually make their best guess at the sub's exact location. When their answers were combined to form a collective guess, the location was a mere 220 yards
from the submarine, closer than any single individual guess, allowing the Navy recover the submarine.
Following the "wisdom of crowds" concept, Google has created their own predictive market within the company, and their early results show surprising accuracy.
"The markets were designed to forecast product launch dates, new office openings, and many other things of strategic importance to Google."
I think this is one of Google's most intriguing projects yet, and it begs the question: What exactly are they up to at the Googleplex? How and when will they roll a "Google Wisdom" service out to the public, and what would they use it for? Please vote in the poll to show how much wisdom there is in the MobileRead crowd, and please don't view the results before voting.
[via Official Google Blog