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Wisdom of the Masses

By Joel Matthews

In the early 1900s, British scientist Sir Francis Galton thought he was proving the ignorance of the masses when he noted that no one got the right answer at a country-fair competition in which entrants were asked to guess the exact weight of an ox. What Galton failed to realize was that the median of all the guesses produced close to the right answer (within 3lbs) and showed the “wisdom of the crowd.”

This same experiment has been reproduced hundreds of times, usually with jelly beans in a jar, with very similar results. Where am I going with this? Participation. Participation in your community, in elections, in education, in the arts, in life. Many of us become so wrapped up in our own “survival” that we lose connection with the world around us. The problem with our “survival” is that in today’s world, for many of us, what is of our own making? Our own emphasis on fears that never materialize, on goals that are selfish at their core and judgment of life in our victimhood.

One of the easiest answers for society to heal itself as a whole is getting more participation from its individuals. We will then find the best answers from the median of the masses. Unfortunately it appears right now that we only have the participation of the extremes of society. Politically the right and the left refer to other as “extremists”. Both sides appear to be intransient, unmoving, “my way or the highway”. Too bad it isn’t a highway, it is more like a tar pit. Everyone stuck in their own belief system without regard to others. No matter at which end of the extremity you stand you will be unable to find an answer that a majority of your fellow citizens are willing to live with. Finding that “median” point is the only way to slowly create a more inclusive, functioning society.

So that leaves the questions, how much do you participate? How intransient are you in your position? The more we participate, the faster we get to a more satisfying solution. Then we can open the jar and share the jelly beans!

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