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Independent Individuals and Wise Crowds, or Is It Possible to Be Too Connected?
James Surowiecki, Staff Writer, The New Yorker

Date: Wednesday, March 16
Time: 11:45am - 12:30pm
Location: California Ballroom B & C

In the past few years, we've seen a powerful and justifiable groundswell of interest in and adoption of bottom-up and collaborative approaches to problem-solving and decision-making. It's now clear that under the right circumstances, these approaches can be remarkably effective, and can yield solutions that are consistently better than those produced by even the smartest expert. Groups, instead of falling to their lowest common denominator, can often rise to the level of their best member and beyond.

The paradox, though, is that groups are typically smartest when the people in them act as much like individuals as possible--when they rely primarily on their own private information, when their opinions are independent, and when their judgments are not determined by their peers. And in an ever-more connected world, this creates a challenge: how can we reap the benefits of collaboration and collective decision-making, while still ensuring that people remain independent actors? Are networks problems as well as solutions? What might it mean to be too connected?

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