The theory of an encyclopedia built through the collective contribution of thousands of laypersons seems to defy logic. After all, how can you rely on individuals to work together with relatively few rules in order to develop a common encyclopaedic view of the world? But despite the obvious problems, Wikipedia works – an online measure of proof for James Surowiecki’s theory presented in his book, The Wisdom of Crowds. In it, he explores how a group of individuals can often emerge with thinking smarter and more reasoned than even the most intelligent individuals within the group.
Exploring this idea online, there are many trends that echo of the wisdom of crowds. Geotagging the Earth, online reviews and ratings of products, online speech translation — all are examples where the collective approach is leading to advances far greater than possible from any individual. Peer to peer networks promise the ability for users to participate in a supercomputer networked model where the collective computing power could be used to analyze complex and vast amounts of data, such as that received through satellites and NASA space probes. In each case, the Internet represents a way for many unique voices to unify themselves into a meaningful result for all.
So, what of the bloggers? Those oddly independent individuals who post about everything, nothing or anything – of which I count myself a part. What is the emerging wisdom from our crowd? While the answer may not yet be clear, services such as Technorati new blog directory and method for tagging blogs, and Google’s new blogsearch are working to help answer these questions. As time goes on, one can only hope that the collective voice will emerge like a Euro … uniform enough to use a single currency, but diverse enough to contain each of our cultural heritage on the back of each note.