Wisdom of the Crowd vs Bias

October 5, 2017

There is a recent show coming out this fall titled Wisdom of the Crowd. Essentially the show captures the idea of crowd-sourcing the public to submit information through their smartphones in the hopes to be part of criminal capture.

 

A tech innovator creates a cutting-edge crowd-sourcing hub to solve his own daughter’s murder, as well as revolutionizing crime solving in San Francisco. (IMDB, 2017)

This idea is not necessary new, as police have utilized social media and other avenues of technology to assist them in their job of hunting bad guys. While I haven’t had time to watch this yet, I suspect it will be more about ‘see something say something’ ideology. Thank you Janet Napolitano.

We continue to spiral in a world where most would flip out their smartphone to record for YouTube over assisting victims.

An interesting article discusses how the average of the wisdom of the crowd guessed the weight of an ox within 10 pounds. The result was the idea of a collection of the whole is better data than the expert of one.

Way back in 1906, the English polymath Francis Galton visited a country fair in which 800 people took part in a contest to guess the weight of a slaughtered ox. After the fair, he collected the guesses and calculated their average which turned out to be 1,208 pounds. To Galton’s surprise, this was within 1 percent of the true weight of 1,198 pounds. (TechnologyReview, 2014 Jul 14)

More fascinating to me is it turns out that if a crowd offers a wide range of independent estimates, then it is more likely to be wise. But if members of the crowd are influenced in the same way, for example by each other or by some external factor, then they tend to converge on a biased estimate.  (TechnologyReview, 2014 Jul 14) This bias climate can be seen recently with the shootings in Las Vegas, when reporters told the witnesses only one shooter, rather than listening to what those on the ground had to say.

Meriam Webster defines crowdsourcing as the practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people and especially from the online community rather than from traditional employees or suppliers.

This is quite effective as most people today would leave their wallet at home, over their smartphone. Again, the new show is merely a reflection of what is already occuring.

  • Hatari project enables citizens of Nairobi to submit and share reports on locations of criminal activity  and corruption. Visitors to the site can openly, or anonymously share their own experiences as victims of crime, in addition to the reporting of incidents and also receive alerts to crimes committed in their area. All information is shared via text messaging, as well as web postings and messages via social media such as Twitter.
  • Police in Bristol, England are using Facebook and the internet to track down the killer of 25 year old architect Joanna Yeates who went missing on Friday 17th December 2010. Joanna’s body was found on Christmas Day. The Avon and Somerset Constabulary’s website and Facebook page contain a map of Joanna’s movements prior to her disappearance.
  • Postacrime.com, Spotcrime.com, and CrimeReports all rely on tips from the public for information on all types of crimes committed, although Postacrime only focuses on instances of property loss and damage.
  • The Seattle Police Department already have their own Twitter account with over 7,000 plus followers keeping track of the goings on in their city as well as tweeting vital information to help police in their investigations. They have now established a new initiative to tackle car crime, called Get Your Car Back.  All reports of stolen cars are posted to this designation, including full details of the vehicle’s registration, colour, make and model. Followers who receive the tweet alerts call 911 when they recognise a stolen vehicle.  Although it is too early to tell just how effective the move is proving to be, Seattle PD’s goal is to reduce the number of thefts between 10 and 20 percent.
  • In 2014 a new app called LEEDIR (Large Emergency Event Digital Information Repository) help police use smartphones as tools to gather evidence. (AP, 2014 May 2)

Those against this type of usage fear all this data is over reach of privatization. Additionally, it subjects innocent people to police scrutiny and does not provide “good evidence”. Personally, I feel Big Brother is getting assistance from it’s slaves.

“There’s a reason that we pay professionals to work in police departments,” said Nate Cardozo, a civil liberties attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

People are passionate about being in the community , and will willingly contribute and may not realize they are being exploited by the company,” Moffitt explained.

Whats your thoughts on this topic? I would love to hear it.

References:

IMDB. (2017). Wisdom of the Crowd. Retrieved from http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6522758/

TechnologyReview. (2014 Jul 14). Forget Wisdom of Crowds; Neurobiologists reveal the wisdom of the confident. Retrieved from https://www.technologyreview.com/s/528941/forget-the-wisdom-of-crowds-neurobiologists-reveal-the-wisdom-of-the-confident/

AP. (2014 May 2). New app lets police crowd source evidence. Retrieved from http://nypost.com/2014/05/02/new-app-lets-police-crowd-source-evidence/

No Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *