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Mon, 09 May 2005
Peer production vs "intelligence"

Doc is continuing the conversation around his flat world post. The conversation has turned to the distribution of intelligence, or more accurately, the distribution of scores on the IQ test, which is a proxy for intelligence.

We love metrics -- turning people into numbers, sorting and then classifying according to which sections of the histogram they land in. My experience is that turning people into numbers is extremely unreliable. I've worked with people who've had their degrees from the finest universities in the US. Some of these people I'd work with again in a minute. Some of them, I'd prefer not to work with again. Most of them probably scored quite well on some combination of IQ, SAT, AP, GRE, or other quantitative proxy for intelligence. I've also worked with people who have either no degree or a degree from a university that I'd never heard of before. And again, there are some who I'd work with again, and some that I'd prefer not to work with. The point is that "intelligence", which is a proxy for being successful in life, is not nearly as useful as we'd like to believe. Other factors matter, too. And different fields of endeavor require different skills and qualities for success.

In Benkler's paper on commons-based peer production, he advances the notion that

What peer production does is provide a framework, within which individuals who have the best information available about their own fit for a task can self-identify for the task.

People find a task which they have the skills for and which they are interested in performing. At the end, the person either completes the task or does not. If they don't, that's pretty self-evident. If they do, then their contribution is evaluated. Self selection is not the only factor involved. In peer-production, once people have self selected, there's an important balancing mechanism to ensure quality

This is why practically all successful peer production systems have a robust mechanism for peer review or statistical weeding out of contributions from agents who misjudge themselves.

But notice that these mechanisms operate on contributions -- that is, on the merit of something that a person contributed to a project. They do not do quality control based on the person's grades, IQ, SAT scores, their position in an organization, or anything other than the work the person actually did.

[23:56] | [education] | # | TB | F | G | 2 Comments | Other blogs commenting on this post
Interesting.  This, perhaps surprisingly, ties in with a discussion over on Centroids we're having about epistemology, that "knowledge" is only meaningful in the context of "purpose." 


Thus, any purported generic measures a) reflect the biases for which they were created, and b) will always give lots of false positive and false negatives for any other purpose. 

I am surprised you didn't bring up the issue of EQ vs. IQ, though.

Posted by Dr. Ernie at Tue May 10 10:29:00 2005

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