Sunday, September 03, 2006

The dark side of a world of infinite choice

Recently Evan Tishuk of OrangeCoat sent me a link to DIGITAL MAOISM: The Hazards of the New Online Collectivism. He criticizes Wikipedia as
part of... a new online collectivism that is nothing less than a resurgence of the idea that the collective is all-wise, that it is desirable to have influence concentrated in a bottleneck that can channel the collective with the most verity and force.
He comments that:
A variety of "Consensus Web filters" such as "Digg" and "Reddit"... assemble material every day from all the myriad of other aggregating sites. Such sites intend to be more Meta than the sites they aggregate. There is no person taking responsibility for what appears on them, only an algorithm. The hope seems to be that the most Meta site will become the mother of all bottlenecks and receive infinite funding.
His coup de grĂ¢ce is:
The hive mind is for the most part stupid and boring. Why pay attention to it?... The beauty of the Internet is that it connects people. The value is in the other people. If we start to believe that the Internet itself is an entity that has something to say, we're devaluing those people and making ourselves into idiots.

What makes a market work, for instance, is the marriage of collective and individual intelligence. A marketplace can't exist only on the basis of having prices determined by competition. It also needs entrepreneurs to come up with the products that are competing in the first place. In other words, clever individuals, the heroes of the marketplace, ask the questions which are answered by collective behavior.

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