March 31, 2005

Heuristic Diversity, Your Key to Knowledge, Wealth and Power (Dept. of "Yay Team!")

Attention conservation notice: Brazen promotion of research done at the center where I work; worse yet, one of the authors is my boss.

I meant to write about this quite some time ago, but held off because I had too much to say, and still do. But seeing Muck and Mystery blog a third-hand account of this really cool work --- someone's notes on a presentation by James "Wisdom of Crowds" Surowiecki --- prompts me to plug the actual research here.

Lu Hong and Scott E. Page, "Groups of diverse problem solvers can outperform groups of high-ability problem solvers", Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (USA) 101 (2004): 16385--16389 [PDF reprint]
Abstract: We introduce a general framework for modeling functionally diverse problem-solving agents. In this framework, problem-solving agents possess representations of problems and algorithms that they use to locate solutions. We use this framework to establish a result relevant to group composition. We find that when selecting a problem-solving team from a diverse population of intelligent agents, a team of randomly selected agents outperforms a team comprised of the best-performing agents. This result relies on the intuition that, as the initial pool of problem solvers becomes large, the best-performing agents necessarily become similar in the space of problem solvers. Their relatively greater ability is more than offset by their lack of problem-solving diversity.

There will be 2,500 words more on this later.

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The Collective Use and Evolution of Concepts

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