Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Suggestion Blocks

The idea of using collective intelligence aggregated through the Internet is nothing new. Whether it is editing a Wikipedia article or figuring out a good hotel in a strange city, the process of so-called "crowd sourcing" plays a role in many forms of decision-making.

Because of what researchers call the "availability heuristic," which makes information easily recalled overvalued, there is a tendency to make decisions based on a single vivid anecdote rather than a mass of information derived from as many data points as possible. In theory, the quantitative approach of crowd sourcing should derive either a broad consensus or the odds of a singular brilliant insight, as actual trends and truths would be more likely to be spotted.

Now this theory is being applied by the General Services Administration of the federal government, who -- according to "GSA aims to improve procurement process" -- have now embraced the approach of soliciting volunteer labor from amateur analysts and are using "rapidly expanding social-media tools -- such as Facebook, Twitter, and wikis" to foster changes in the government procurement system.

Do you have an idea for improving the government's $528 billion-a-year acquisition system? The General Services Administration wants you to share your plan with the world on an open Web site. It might even use your suggestion in a future procurement.

The article explains that the initiative involves two web addresses that are on .com domains rather than .gov sites. and (Sadly there is no as the latter site seems to imply.)

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Blogger Jardinero1 said...

I am always leery of the word, consensus. The concept of consensus rests on a logical fallacy.

I like the singular brilliant insight idea. If you increase the number of inputs you increase the likelihood of a positive outcome. What that implies, however, is that positive outcomes are arrived at by luck as much as by intellect and human effort. In fact, luck may play the greatest part.

This is a really good, short, seven page paper on that idea by Nasim Taleb in the Journal of the International Comparative Literature Association:

8:48 AM  

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