This is the second of three posts discussing William Davies’ book Nervous States–Democracy and the Decline of Reason. I pick a couple of areas to argue with some of the scenarios Davies presents.
Markets and Evolution
Davies discusses Hayek as the guy who believes in free markets above all else, and who has helped us reach this point of not agreeing on reality. When I read Hayek (The Road to Serfdom), he said to me that free markets with the right stable rules in place are the best system for everyone. Unfortunately, determining the right stable rules is difficult and the job of government. Hayek seems to have taken Adam Smith’s invisible hand and run with it. David Sloan Wilson in This View of Life- Completing the Darwinian Revolution makes clear that the invisible hand only works at one scale of a market (see posts Evolution for Everyone and Multilevel Selection Theory).
This post is a look at the book by Philip E Tetlock and Dan Gardner, Superforecasting– the Art and Science of Prediction. Phil Tetlock is also the author of Expert Political Judgment: How Good Is It? How Can We Know? In Superforecasting Tetlock blends discussion of the largely popular literature on decision making and his long duration scientific work on the ability of experts and others to predict future events.
In Expert Political Judgment: How Good Is It? How Can We Know? Tetlock found that the average expert did little better than guessing. He also found that some did better. In Superforecasting he discusses the study of those who did better and how they did it.
I have ignored group decision making to a large extent, but bootstrapping has somehow brought me back to it–especially dialectical bootstrapping which seems to be one person group decision making. Obviously, group decision making is important. This post will focus on political decision making. Two books from 2007, Scott Page’s: The Difference — How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools and Societies and Bryan Caplan’s: The Myth of the Rational Voter–Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies look at it from far apart.
Howard Rheingold is the author of Smart Mobs -the Next Social Revolution, James Surowiecki is the author of The Wisdom of Crowds, and Scott Page is the author of The Difference -How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies. Scott Page ties them together in his prologue. Each of them looks in his own way at how diversity can help us make better decisions. They all build on that fact of cultural evolution that it is great for each of us to make better judgments, but that for us to progress we need to make better decisions together. I will probably look at Scott Page’s book separately at some point, but here, in his case, I will look at a paper that he wrote with a colleague, Lu Hong, “Groups of diverse problem solvers can outperform groups of high-ability problem solvers.”