Thursday, March 05, 2009

Why do we need an expert?

Some of my friends who attended BarCampMumbai4 are already aware of my fascination with Wisdom of Crowds. But few of them know that I have gone ahead and started a research project to explore what happens to the expert in the era where getting wisdom of crowds, at least on basic yes/no issues, is so easy?

Ankesh would point to fallacies to the power of the crowds and crowdsourcing. But, to me, something fundamentally shifted after reading this book, as a part of the Knowledge Economy course at SJMSOM in Aug-Sep 2008.

With the advent of email, I don't need to host a party or wait for people to come to a particular place to conduct an opinion poll. Right from the days of Yahoo Groups, the cost of seeking 'crowd' opinion has reduced to negligible. I can run a simple poll on an ad-supported free site to get opinions/surveys. If nothing work a Google or Wikipedia search will (I would like to believe that it is, in a broad way, wisdom of crowd).

Why, then, does society need an expert? Why is it that we still look forward, and often travel thousand miles, to hear an expert. If she is only a synthesizer and aggregator of information, once I have access to all resources that she has, or once there is a healthy community of my fellows, do I really need her?

Looking at a special case of media, where an editor very rarely adds any extra information and plays a role of only a filter, I may do without her. May be her - as a single person, if not her as a community. For example, Benkler describes how does the network of blogs act as a filter themselves. He describes a Strongly Connected Core which acts as the filter for blogosphere.

The question I am grappeling with is: If filterning is the only critical function performed by editor/expert, in the present day I may not always need an expert for all small issues. Why then is it so important for the society to venerate an expert?

Also, if I have become an 'expert' in my field through my education and experience. What is the implication of wisdom of crowds for my future?

No just me, all of us are under threat by wisdom of crowds! :)

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