I read with interest a comment from RayJones on the Health Informatics Social Networking masterclass I referred to previously, on the Informaticopia blog. He writes that we "should be concerned about the decline of the scientific approach and the use of evidence in healthcare" and references two particular points I made in my own session - that Web 2.0 encouraged examples of ‘the wisdom of the masses’ and that it recognised that more brains = more information.
Ray's argument is that
"Quite often the masses do not have wisdom but follow prejudice, hearsay, and urban mythology. How often do we see public opinion radically influenced by the tabloid press, for the story to change a few weeks later? The tabloid press and tabloid TV use the case of Uncle Norman or sister Mary to tell one person’s story. That story may be true but if we are to take a rational approach, for example, to our understanding of the cost effectiveness of a particular treatment we need to consider evidence gathered on representative populations."
I'm not sure if this is a comment about the press, or about the lack of intelligence of "the masses". My talk was emphasising the fact that if we treat people as if they are stupid, they will act stupidly, particular in reference to what appears to be an overly paternalistic approach to healthcare which assumes the GP is the font of all knowledge and the patient can't possibly be informed about their own condition. To assume "the masses" are a prejudiced bunch with no ability to make their own choices, is for me, a very negative view of humanity. I'm not saying people always make the right choices, but having the opportunity to consider their options might be a good start.
His second point,
"Similarly, the phrase ‘more brains more information’ may apply in a limited range but if we were to ask 1000 or even a million people to work together would they have come up with Einstein’s theories? More information may just mean more noise rather than more intelligence."
I think has some validity - although I'm not sure Einstein worked in a vacumn - and when he did, he didn't get anywhere (thinking of his later efforts to align theories of quantum mechanics and general relativity). What I was suggesting, was that one person may be an expert in say, Sport, another in the works of Shakespeare, another in astrology etc. Get them all together, and they know more about everything than they do individually. Again, the attitude that people cannot be intelligent on mass, is one which prevents effective collaboration reducing the opinion of others to "noise".
Always interesting to understand alternative viewpoints don't you think...read the full post and make up your own mind.