Collective Wisdom vs Herd Mentality

I found the video below quite interesting. It was great to see both the spontaneous order side, and the herd mentality side, of collectives explained. In order for a collective to have wisdom, they need two ingredients, a diversity of thought/ideas (viewpoint diversity), and independence from external influences that might intentionally or unintentionally skew their conclusions. Of course, modern society is full of external influences engineered specifically to skew our collective outcomes, such as the media, big tech, financial incentives, fear mongering, Skinner’s box, and many, many more propaganda and group psychology techniques. Those who would attempt to control the group mind for their own self-serving ends, who tend to have a poor view of individuals and their potential in general, have convinced themselves that their leadership (i.e., control and manipulation) is imperative for a well functioning society, one that is undoubtedly crafted in their own self-important image.

“No serious sociologist believes any longer that the voice of the people expresses any divine or especially wise and lofty idea. The voice of the people expresses the mind of the people, and that mind is made up for it by the group leaders in whom it believes and by those persons who understand the manipulation of public opinion. It is composed of inherited prejudices and symbols and cliches and verbal formulas supplied to them by the leaders.” ~Edward L. Bernays, Propaganda

While herd mentality requires a lack of a diversity of ideas and a lack of independent thought, spontaneous order, in this video termed “the wisdom of crowds”, requires the opposite. Another way to say this is the worldviews of collectivism and individualism, where in both groups and individuals exist, however, as already noted, it is the focus on the freedom to come up with ideas, and the ability to maintain (or not maintain), individual autonomy, that differs between them.


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