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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Thinking with the Majority

A.A. Milne "wrote somewhere once that the third-rate mind was only happy when it was thinking with the majority, the second-rate mind was only happy when it was thinking with the minority, and the first-rate mind was only happy when it was thinking". (War with Honour)

I wrote somewhere once that "thinking with the majority" is an excellent description of Google.
'The suggested improvements (in Google) are just great for those people who want to ask the same questions as everyone else, and get the same answers. Google rankings already depend on the clicks of previous websurfers, and this dependency will become more sophisticated. Google will therefore support, with ever-greater efficiency and effectiveness, an intellectual activity characterized by A.A. Milne (author of Winnie-The-Pooh) as "Thinking with the Majority". '
And as Titus-Armand points out, it is also a good description for
'reliance upon authority in which the “authority figure” is represented by the entire population rather than a single individual or a particular group'.

What about thinking with the minority? There is a popular meme known as "thinking the unthinkable", and I think this is what the third-class mind supposes the second-class mind to be doing.

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Update: within a few minutes of this item's being syndicated on Twitter, Al Chou reminds me of a related quote: "A great many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices." Was it Churchill or William James? The authority of the majority (aka Google) prefers the latter; who am I to argue?

2 comments:

  1. Richard,
    I agree with you. Thinking with the majority is, in the majority of cases, not thinking at all!

    Here is another: The conventional view serves to protect us from the painful job of thinking. - John Kenneth Gailbraith
    - Roger
    @RSessions on Twitter

    ReplyDelete
  2. I agree too. A few million more like us, and we could be onto something... ;^)

    PS - even our political leaders seem to favour this approach. #IagreewithNick

    ReplyDelete