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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Yeay, that's what I am talking about...

Coturnix has a nice post about a favourite childhood book series of his, but most specifically on the pyramidal scheme of information dissemination used by the three detective boys in the books to gather information. Every boy would phone up to five friends, and they would answer the question or in turn phone five more, and so on.

This comes just right with my discovery of Yahoo Answers, which sucks when you want some scientific knowledge but rocks when, like this morning, you want to know what kind of shirt color I can match to a brown suite and black shoes and belts.

For Science, seed is much better, as are many other places.

Pyramid schemes are a very efficient method of disseminating information, although they came at the price of disseminating it to a majority of people who most certainly do not know the answer asked for.

In the book that I am reading, "The wisdom of the crowds", the same thing is pointed out for decision making: although aggregating individual decision in a collective one is a very good way of finding the right solution to a problem, in practical terms this isn't always possible. It's often better if the decision is left to a group of 'expert' at the condition that they be diverse enough, and they do not influence each other by being aware of the decisions made by others at different times (a phenomenon known as 'cascade').

That's the limit of what's called partecipative democracy, i.e. a political system where every decision is taken through a vote by the citizens. The parliamentary alternative is not necessarily better, and if the theory underlying the book is correct, it would be better for us to randomly select our representatives than to elect them. this way, we'd get a better cut of the population. Now, I am not one hundrd per cent sure but I believe this is how it happened in at least one country of the past, where the member of the "senate" were drawn and had the civic duty of leaving their jobs (I believe with compensation for it). Much like the juries system in the US. May be it was Athens? I don't remember.

Anyway, all this seems to be ticking together, I really love when I find myself involved in such synchronicities.

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