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Wisdom of crowds questioned?

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Holy crowdsourcing! This just in from Science:

Sometimes the crowd really is wiser than you. The classic examples are guessing the weight of a bull or the number of gumballs in a jar. Your guess is probably going to be far from the mark, whereas the average of many people’s choices is remarkably close to the true number.

But …

At least when it comes to comments on news sites, the crowd is more herdlike than wise. Comments that received fake positive votes from the researchers were 32% more likely to receive more positive votes compared with a control, the team reports online today in Science. And those comments were no more likely than the control to be down-voted by the next viewer to see them. By the end of the study, positively manipulated comments got an overall boost of about 25%. However, the same did not hold true for negative manipulation. The ratings of comments that got a fake down vote were usually negated by an up vote by the next user to see them.

“Our experiment does not reveal the psychology behind people’s decisions,” Aral says, “but an intuitive explanation is that people are more skeptical of negative social influence. They’re more willing to go along with positive opinions from other people.”

A lot probably depends on how much the commenter is personally invested in the positive or negative opinion. People may defend a trashed film they have never seen, out of pity, but rush to add their disapproval to a proposal to raise local road tolls, regardless of the rationale.

File under: Like Grandma said, it’s your life, so you need your own supply of good judgement. There is no real way of outsourcing good judgment over the long term. Just more sophisticated levels of self-deception.

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One Response to Wisdom of crowds questioned?

  1. OT: Researchers have finally develop a mathematical model for molecular biology that has actual predictive power by ignoring the Darwinian ‘historical accidents’ presupposition and using a ‘top down’ physiological perspective:

    Simple Math Sheds New Light On a Long-Studied Biological Process – Aug. 7, 2013
    Excerpt: Hwa and his team arrived at their surprising finding by employing a new approach called “quantitative biology,” in which scientists quantify biological data and discover mathematical patterns, which in turn guide them to develop predictive models of the underlying processes.
    “This mode of research, an iterative dialogue between data quantitation and model building, has driven the progress of physics for the past several centuries, starting with Kepler’s discovery of the law of planetary motion,” explains Hwa. “However, it was long thought that biology is so laden with historical accidents which render the application of quantitative deduction intractable.”,,,
    “When we plotted our results, our jaws dropped,” recalls Hwa. “The levels of the sugar uptake and utilization enzymes lined up remarkably into two crossing lines when plotted with the corresponding growth rates, with the enzyme level increasing upon carbon limitation and decreasing upon nitrogen and sulfur limitation. The enzyme levels followed the simple mathematical rules like a machine.” “From the overall pattern, it is clear that there’s nothing special about glucose,” he adds. “Now we know this process is not about the preference of glucose over other carbon compounds, but rather the fine coordination of carbon uptake in the cell with other minor, but essential nutrient elements such as nitrogen and sulfur.”
    Hwa points out that the physiological insights derived from simple mathematical relations guided them to figuring out both the strategy and molecular mechanisms their bacteria employ to coordinate carbon metabolism with those of other elements.,,
    Hwa says he and his team are now applying the same quantitative approaches to learn more about the response of bacteria to antibiotics and how cells transition from one state to another. “This kind of quantitative, physiological approach is really underutilized in biology,” he adds. “Because it’s so easy to manipulate molecules, biologists as well as biophysicists tend to jump immediately to a molecular view, often decoupled from the physiological context. Certainly the parts list is important and we could not have gotten to the bottom of our study without all of the molecular work that had been done before. But that in of itself is not enough, because the very same parts can be put to work in different ways to make systems with very different functions.”

    Of related mathematical note:

    “It is our contention that if ‘random’ is given a serious and crucial interpretation from a probabilistic point of view, the randomness postulate is highly implausible and that an adequate scientific theory of evolution must await the discovery and elucidation of new natural laws—physical, physico-chemical, and biological.” Murray Eden, “Inadequacies of Neo-Darwinian Evolution as a Scientific Theory,” Mathematical Challenges to the Neo-Darwinian Interpretation of Evolution, editors Paul S. Moorhead and Martin M. Kaplan, June 1967, p. 109.

    “In discussions with biologists I met large difficulties when they apply the concept of ‘natural selection’ in a rather wide field, without being able to estimate the probability of the occurrence in a empirically given time of just those events, which have been important for the biological evolution. Treating the empirical time scale of the evolution theoretically as infinity they have then an easy game, apparently to avoid the concept of purposesiveness. While they pretend to stay in this way completely ‘scientific’ and ‘rational,’ they become actually very irrational, particularly because they use the word ‘chance’, not any longer combined with estimations of a mathematically defined probability, in its application to very rare single events more or less synonymous with the old word ‘miracle.’” Wolfgang Pauli (pp. 27-28) –

    “On the other hand, I disagree that Darwin’s theory is as `solid as any explanation in science.; Disagree? I regard the claim as preposterous. Quantum electrodynamics is accurate to thirteen or so decimal places; so, too, general relativity. A leaf trembling in the wrong way would suffice to shatter either theory. What can Darwinian theory offer in comparison?”
    (Berlinski, D., “A Scientific Scandal?: David Berlinski & Critics,” Commentary, July 8, 2003)

    Of related note to ‘physiological insights’ giving useful guidance into the the workings of molecular biology, Professor Denis Noble, who is President of the International Union of Physiological Sciences, finds the modern synthesis of neo-Darwinism to be false:

    Physiology is rocking the foundations of evolutionary biology – Denis Noble – 17 MAY 2013
    Excerpt: The ‘Modern Synthesis’ (Neo-Darwinism) is a mid-20th century gene-centric view of evolution, based on random mutations accumulating to produce gradual change through natural selection.,,, We now know that genetic change is far from random and often not gradual.,,,

    “The genome is an ‘organ of the cell’, not its dictator”
    - Denis Nobel – President of the International Union of Physiological Sciences

    Modern Synthesis Of Neo-Darwinism Is False – Denis Nobel – video

    of related interest to physiology in general, The Vitruvian Man is a world-renowned drawing created by Leonardo da Vinci c. 1487. It is the one commonly associated with the science of physiology:

    Da Vinci Vitruve Luc Viatour – interactive image

    “Speaking as one who has examined the original Vitruvian Man drawing, I can say that Leonardo was looking for a numerical design scheme that informs the proportions of the human body.
    The drawing began as an illustration from Vitruvius’ book, De Architectura where Vitruvius justifies the use of the square and circle as design elements because those shapes are integral to the human body: a man’s height is equal to his width (with arms outstretched) as a square, and a circle drawn with the navel as center and feet as radius is coincident with the hands’ reach.
    Leonardo also notes the other proportional relationships from Vitruvius such as the head height measures to the whole as well as the arms and hand sections.
    Leonardo then continued measuring (from the evidence of pin point indentations made by walking dividers, especially along the left vertical edge) to find more proportional relationships. He would take a measure of a part of the figure with the dividers and walk that measure along the height to see if the measure would fit an even number of times.
    From this drawing and others where Leonardo was working on the same type of problem it is evident that Leonardo believed there was a something like a unified field theory of design where everything in nature was related by numerical and geometrical design systems.
    He was one of the original ID thinkers.”
    - Dr. Ford – UD blogger

    Human Anatomy – Impressive Transparent Visualization – Fearfully and Wonderfully Made – video

    “How came the Bodies of Animals to be contrived with so much Art…. Was the Eye contrived without skill in Opticks, and the Ear without Knowledge of Sounds?” -
    Sir Isaac Newton

    on discovering the laws of planetary motion, Johann Kepler declared this very ‘unscientific’ thought:

    ‘O God, I am thinking your thoughts after you!’

    Music and verse:

    For King & Country “The Proof Of Your Love” – Live Music

    John 1:3
    Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

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