Over at Slate, Malcolm Gladwell and James Surowieki are debating their respective books Blink and The Wisdom of Crowds. It is a great pairing, since the books are, in a sense, siblings. Wisdom of Crowds is about how, in a crowd, the partial information that each member contributes can often give a better answer to a question than having a single member give his or her best considered opinion. Blink is exact opposite: It is about how the “rapid cognition” of the individual subconscious often gives better information than, again, the individual’s best considered opinion.
Both are good books, neither is great. Both are attempts at compressing a large body of difficult academic research into digestible popular texts. On the whole, I would say that Suroweiki does a better job than Gladwell. Again, I found Blink to be a rather large disappointment.
If you find this topic interesting, allow me to direct you to a much better book: The Robot’s Rebellion, by UofT professor Keith Stankovich. It is an excellent exploration of the biology and psychology of rationality, and how it relates to our sense of self.
For anyone who cares, my review of Blink will appear in the Post in two weeks.