Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Another defense of deviance and diversity

collective accuracy = average accuracy + diversity

In other words a diverse group will outperform a homogeneous one, knowledge or skill is not sufficient for excellent performance, diversity makes performance better. Congress, take note. Today's Science Times has an interview with Professor Scott Page from the University of Michigan and author of The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools and Societies.

Nature knows this well. Defending yourself against infection does not happen when you kill off bacteria, which is the downside of antibacterial soaps and overuse of antibiotics, you are better off with diverse flora and fauna in your gut or on your skin. Economist Lu Hong at Chicago Loyola builds mathematical models that demonstrate that:
diverse groups of problem solvers outperformed the grouops of the best individuals at solving problems. The reason: the diverse groups got stuck less often than the smart individuals, who tended to think similarly.
It makes me wonder if all models of diverse groups are more successful since I have been part of many a body whose diversity seemed to produce nothing but chaos! In the interview Peck discusses his views on interdisciplinary work, affirmative action, and standardized testing. I would be interested to read his book and learn more about his explanations for how and why this is true.

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