Thought for the Day: “Collective Intelligence” Is an Oxymoron

New York Times columnist Bret Stephens was invited to address the Class Day Ceremony at the University of Chicago (from which he graduated), and naturally the woke weenies threw the typical hissy fit, with many boycotting Stephens and agitating to get him canceled. In recounting the controversy Friday, Stephens notes that the monoculture of universities (and “expert organizations” generally) leads to bad results.

The key paragraphs:

Why did nobody at Facebook — sorry, Meta — stop Mark Zuckerberg from going all in on the Metaverse, possibly the worst business idea since New Coke? Why were the economists and governors at the Federal Reserve so confident that interest rates could remain at rock bottom for years without running a serious risk of inflation? Why did the C.I.A. believe that the government of Afghanistan could hold out against the Taliban for months but that the government of Ukraine would fold to the Russian Army in days? Why were so few people on Wall Street betting against the housing market in 2007? Why were so many officials and highly qualified analysts so adamant that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction? Why were so many people convinced that overpopulation was going to lead to catastrophic food shortages, and that the only sensible answers were a one-child policy and forced sterilizations?

Oh, and why did so many major polling firms fail to predict Donald Trump’s victory in 2016?

The cases are almost endless, the consequences frequently disastrous. And it raises the question: Why is it that, when you bring together a lot of smart people in a room, their collective intelligence tends to go down, not up? Why do they always seem to press the mute button on their critical faculties when confronted with propositions that, as an old colleague of mine liked to say, ought to vanish in the presence of thought?

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