Brownian thought space

Cognitive science, mostly, but more a sometimes structured random walk about things.

My Photo
Location: Rochester, United States

Chronically curious モ..

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Wisdom of the masses redux. (-> Fodor)

Some dude with a very Indian name on German telly runs a show called Quarks & Co; and this one Mr. Ranga Yogeshwar recently ~replicated an old old finding by Darwin's cousin, Francis Galton; famous for all kinds of quirky things from coining the term 'eugenics' to creating phrenology to determining the distribution of the inter-person distance while sitting watching passers-by on a park bench. Anyhow, Sig. Galton once went to a rural fair, where there was a game, consisting of guessing the weight of a bull (you could say it was a bullish market, that day). Anyhow, what FG did was to record the guesses of all the peasants, and looked at the mean value. As it turned out, the mean was pretty damn close to the actual weight. R. Yogeshwar now did the same thing with a beaker of 5,780 sweets: the average of the ~16,000 viewers who replied was 5,714: within 1% of the actual answer. So why is this? One possibility is that each person "knows" the correct answer, but there is some kind of system noise that interferes with the output. Another is that each person is very sure of his/her own answer, but that this answer draws on different sources of information about the physical properties of matter and stuff in general, built up over a lifetime. And while each individual might have a slightly distorted version of "reality", the fact that on average these versions correspond to reality seems to suggest that these versions of reality are derived from the input. How else could it be? Well, if you have been reading Fodor, it is not clear how concepts are acquired. In fact, it's not clear how the external world drives the formation of concepts in the way that we seem to have them. And that's harsh. But to me this wisdom o.t. masses expt indicates that the world does impinge; perhaps in tuning the concepts.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home