Sunday, August 14, 2016

None of Us is as Dumb as All of Us

People love to talk about the 'combined knowledge' of group of random or similarly skilled people, and supposedly how setting that group to focus on and tackle a singular goal can achieve greater knowledge and understanding. Of course, this ignores all of the psychological research done and history in trying to understand the destructive collective phenomenon of groupthink, and the publicly-traded corporate world (which I thankfully escaped) really did me in, big-time on this whole concept. It's used often in 'team building exercises' (ugh), corporate outings (puke), and democratic-styled decision-making (double-puke). The idea is that if in a group of 5 people, each person has 20% of 'knowledge', that 5 people x 20% knowledge equals 100% combined knowledge, right?
But they don't qualify the knowledge. The logic assumes they've all got unique, specialized knowledge, when that's very, very rarely the case. So let's have some fun with this bizarro-world 'combined knowledge' logic, huh? It's very likely that out of 5 random or similarly skilled people, they each have 20% similar or the same knowledge. If we must talk about their 'combined knowledge', then what about their 'combined ignorance'? If you've got 5 people, each person with 20% 'knowledge', then by extension they also have 80% ignorance. By the logic, here, 5 people x 80% equals 400% combined ignorance.

No wonder this stuff turns out to be such a mess, and I'm actually fine with this old pseudo-maxim as long as the other side of the coin is presented.

So if we're to have more rigorous logic with this, then maybe it'll look better with averages instead, right? Actually, it still comes out to look like a bad idea. If you've got 5 people with about 20% knowledge each, then that leaves you with, naturally, about 20% knowledge in a group. However, now you've got a lot more hands in the pot and people wanting to feel 'important' or 'useful'. You've now made that ineffective 20% knowledge even less effective than it was in the first place. Now, take this logic, and expand it to a democracy of over 230 million eligible voters, or hundreds of representatives, and what do you get? Fucking chaos, that's what.

Great movie this scene taken from, by the way.

Indeed, none of us is as dumb as all of us.

I can hear it all, already. "Hey, Steve, you're such a negative nancy! All I hear are criticisms, Steve, with no solutions! At least we're trying! What do you suggest, then?!"

Oh, you're a good little corporate or state drone, aren't you? Ah, and I bet your 'intentions are good', too, right? Yeah, I know it feels good -- but you're still wrong. I do have a suggestion, actually, and it's not particularly controversial or special. Stop trying to impose your decisions and subjective value judgements on other people with your measly 20% 'knowledge'. If you have 20% 'knowledge' and want to properly get something done, hire a professional, or at least find someone with more knowledge than you to do it or figure it out, or get your ass to 60%, 70%, or 90% knowledge before you DIY. Don't let other people with the same or less knowledge than you be able to dictate or mix their hands in the pot of the work to be done. Acknowledge and embrace the all-important comparative advantages and division of labor and have specialized tasks done by specialized people in a marketplace.

See? Easy peasy -- and it didn't even take any tax-funded 'studies' to figure it out.


  1. Very good and I think accurate, but still not complete.

    This applies to the government just as much as Corporate, in fact I think it would apply more to the government since in a Corporate world they want to make a profit, the smaller the business the more this holds true. In government they just want to feel important and powerful. In the government, failure is 'punished' with more money and power but in a Corporate environment failure is punished with less power and money.

  2. I absolutely agree, hence the statement "Now, take this logic, and expand it to a democracy of over 230 million eligible voters, or hundreds of representatives, and what do you get? Fucking chaos, that's what." It was a larger point I wanted to touch on briefly but could have ran with more.

    You're definitely right to want to expand on the incorporation of this concept into a state system where 'combined ignorance' can do a lot of economic and personal damage to third parties.

  3. Hard pressed to locate 20% intelligence in centalized government. I believe they stand by guns as the most effective way to blow up competing statistics.


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