Speaking of crowds and their mindlessness, here’s an excerpt from an interesting interview, in the Boston Globe, in which Jaron Lanier discusses his recent and controversial essay “Digital Maoism”:
Globe: You’re contesting the idea of ”wise” crowds and the notion that genuine intelligence can somehow emerge from ”dumb” processes like those in a network, or a swarm.
Lanier: I reject the word ”wisdom” with regard to crowds. A crowd is not good with ideas. A crowd is absolutely inarticulate, vulnerable to going crazy. A crowd is actually idiotic. It’s a statistical accountant, a calculating device, a certain type of thermometer or barometer. You can use a crowd as a scientific instrument.
Globe: You worry that individuals are losing ground to such instruments?
Lanier: Yes. It’s almost a postmodern form of suicide. The motivations are easy to understand. There’s death denial. People die but computers and crowds, maybe, don’t. And there’s liability avoidance. As an individual, you have to be responsible. As a member of a crowd – or a user of information systems – you’re not responsible anymore.