In an inadequately brief, but crucially important review or what is sure to be an even more important and discussed book, Ellen Ullman, asks, "is the wisdom of  the crowd, actually a lie?" 

A self-confessed "humanistic softie," Jaron Lanier is fighting to wrest control of technology from the "ascendant tribe" of technologists who believe that wisdom emerges from vast crowds, rather than from distinct, individual human beings. According to Lanier, the Internet designs made by that "winning subculture" degrade the very definition of humanness. The saddest example comes from young people who brag of their thousands of friends on Facebook. To them, Lanier replies that this "can only be true if the idea of friendship is reduced." 

Having been in information technology since the early 1980s, I have watched this "crowd wisdom" legend grow and grow, and the almost automatic assumption that the wisdom of the crowd is always right or will bear fruit not only terrifies me, but I can see the mob mentality it often encourages in the web sites and social networks empowering the  Tea Party movement that is so actively gnawing at our national fabric.

I am a big fan of social networks, and some useful methods and mechanisms that come from crowd wisdom. But they all have limits. They can lower the cost of producing information and  knowledge, but they cannot replace the value of a single human mind, with sufficient understanding of the coincident facts and issues, which can analyze the information and put it to good use in ways that will extend, enhance or illuminate our human condition. 

This is the very reason why my own interests and career have focused on developing techniques and applications  which human beings can use to more easily do what they want to do naturally and intuitively. And that is to organize information in cohesive structures which make understanding anything—and sharing that understanding—a whole lot easier.  You know, kinda like a next-gen version of… of… a book?

I'd love to write more on this, but as the related article below predicts, my fragmented attention span is already diverted to Twitter, the Olympics, bitching about David Gregory's toolism,  and.. wait for it… some productive work.

Rebuttal & Commentary

What to reject when you're rejecting… the wisdom of crowds — @JayRosen_NYU writes an excellent (and snarky) rebuttal to many of Lanier's concerns and premises.


Jaron Lanier says Internet has fallen short

Is  Google Making Us Stupid? — by Nicholas Carr —  What the Internet is doing to our brains" is a magazine article by Carr which is highly critical of the Internet's effect on cognition.

Flattered and confused 

The always brilliant Nicole Sandler, formerly of Air America Radio, has asked me to join her for a conversation on her new show, tonight at 7:30 EST. 

The audio & video streams

Hashtag  #shoqradio

CALL IN (join us): (213) 291-9410

I have no idea why, or what we will talk about, but so long as I'm not expected to vote Republican, I'll try anything… once.

I'd Like Your Help

Unless Nicole shuts me down, I'd like to experiment with Twitter interaction a bit than most radio guests do. So feel free to Tweet anything to the Twitter Gametag  #shoqRadio, if you think it's relevant to the discussion.  And more importantly, listen for questions or cues I put out, asking for things you might look up and respond with answers or link resources.  Naturally, I can't promise I'll be able to use anything you tweet, so don't guilt me out later :)

If you want either of us to read a link on the air, it's far easier if you register the URL with a "custom alias," so that this:  becomes this:

If you tweet that custom tag, remember to turn off your Twitter Client's shortening service, or it will try to shorten the custom tag (and that would be a bad thing).

Also, if you tweet to us, please remember that talking, reading and tweeting can be hard, so keep those tweets short and simple.  Sending two brief and clear tweets is  better than a complex tweet.


I have done radio twice in my life, and both times concerned Twitter.  One reason I love Twitter is that I can take my time and say what I want to say, and can compose at my leisure. If I was great at speaking extemporaneously, I'd probably get laid more. 

So bear with me, and don't expect the snarks to roll off my tongue as they sometimes do from my fingers.  Also, when I speak, I get serious about the shit that makes me mad. There's a lot of that, lately, so brace for it :)

Cover me, I'm goin in…

I missed "Why this Decade Sucked," by Ed Edroso, back in December. Wish I hadn't. While it's over the top in spots, by and large, it's spot on,  and reminds me of Norman Solomon's words in the mid 90s, when he quite rightly warned that the Internet would empower the status quo, while projecting a mass delusion that it was challenging it.

"We should have known from blogging's early successes what was really going to become of it. Those successes were not about enlightenment — elucidating issues, or spurring debate — but about taking down public figures obnoxious to bloggers."