The wisdom of crowds: Masturbation and asking the right questions

Here’s a small challenge for you: how many £2 coins are in this tin? Your answer, perhaps unsurprisingly, is likely to be some way off.  Some will guess too high, others too low. But, curiously, if enough people make a guess, and you average out the guesses, the ‘average guess’ is likely to be close to the right number: The wisdom of crowds. The statistician Francis Galton in 1907 is credited with first noticing the effect. A public fair in Plymouth was offering a competition, with the princely entry fee of 6d., to guess the weight of a ‘slaughtered and dressed ox’. With roughly 800 entries, he noted that the ‘middlemost value’ (the median) of 1207 lb. was only 0.3% higher than the actual value of 1198 lb. Ok, so, the wisdom of crowds may work for answering specific questions about quantities or general knowledge, or even estimating and ranking the populations of ...(Read More)