EECS professor Munther Dahleh, also acting director of the Laboratory for Information & Decision Systems (LIDS) and LIDS colleague and EECS professor Asuman Ozdaglar working with MIT Economics professor Daron Acemoglu have submitted a paper to be published in the Review of Economic Studies. Their work seeks to demonstrate that, as networks of people grow larger, they’ll usually tend to converge on an accurate understanding of information distributed among them, even if individual members of the network can observe only their nearby neighbors. A few opinionated people with large audiences can slow that convergence, but in the long run, they’re unlikely to stop it.
As explained in the MIT News Office Nov. 16, 2010 article by Larry Hardesty, the rise of the Internet has sparked a fascination with what The New Yorker’s financial writer James Surowiecki called, in a book of the same name, “the wisdom of crowds”: the idea that aggregating or averaging the imperfect, distributed knowledge of a large group of people can often yield better information than canvassing expert opinion."
The MIT News Office article explains how Dahleh, Ozdaglar and Acemoglu employ a game-theoretic approach to reach their conclusions, avoiding the pitfalls of earlier theories that relied on easier mathematical models that didn't reflect the reality of large networks.
EECS alumnus Jon Kleinberg (PhD '96) and currently the Tisch University professor in the Cornell University Department of Computer Science, is cited in the article as an independent authority in the field. He is quoted: “What this paper does is add the important component that this process is typically happening in a social network where you can’t observe what everyone has done, nor can you randomly sample the population to find out what a random sample has done, but rather you see what your particular friends in the network have done. That introduces a much more complex structure to the problem, but arguably one that’s representative of what typically happens in real settings.”
MIT News Office, Nov. 16, 2010, Larry Hardesty: "How wise are crowds? By melding economics and engineering, researchers show that as social networks get larger, they usually get better at sorting fact from fiction."