Jan

19

The Edge Question of 2011 is, "What scientific concept would improve everybody's cognitive toolkit?"

Edge posed this question to some well-known scientists and thinkers, and their answers are at http://edge.org/q2011/q11_index.html

Here, for example, is Matt Ridley's answer

"…Human achievement is based on collective intelligence — the nodes in the human neural network are people themselves. By each doing one thing and getting good at it, then sharing and combining the results through exchange, people become capable of doing things they do not even understand. As the economist Leonard Read observed in his essay 'I, Pencil' (which I'd like everybody to read), no single person knows how to make even a pencil … The idea of bottom-up collective intelligence … is one idea I wish everybody had in their cognitive toolkit."

I have always thought the Pareto Principle is one of the great secrets of life, and Clay Shirky advocates it :

"You see the pattern everywhere: the top 1% of the population control 35% of the wealth. On Twitter, the top 2% of users send 60% of the messages. In the health care system, the treatment for the most expensive fifth of patients create four-fifths of the overall cost. These figures are always reported as shocking … Pareto distributions are nothing like [Gaussian distributions] — the recursive 80/20 weighting means that the average is far from the middle. This in turn means that in such systems most people (or whatever is being measured) are below average, a pattern encapsulated in the old economics joke: 'Bill Gates walks into a bar and makes everybody a millionaire, on average."

Pitt T. Maner III comments:

The concept of networks and how they grow is still being researched but it is important at many different scales in the biological, economic and sociological realms.


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