Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Ghost of Gustave Le Bon

"Wisdom of Crowds" Works For Individuals Too - Slashdot

Back at the beginning of the 20th century a French sociologist gained fame through his research on crowd behavior and what he called the 'crowd mind'. The sociologist was one Gustave Le Bon and his conclusions where that the crowd mind was a far more simplistic and persuadable entity than that of the individual. Oh, and he had a serious authoritarian streak in him which led to his writing on the necessary qualities of a truly powerful leader. In other words, the linked article above is bullshit of the worst kind. It mistakes the distributed minds of open source coders, Wikipedia users and the social networking types for the crowd mind. They are distinct entities and such a mistake is factually costly. At the risk of invoking Godwin's law on this post, I do have to mention that both Mussolini and Hitler, along with their attendant 'intellectuals', were highly influenced by Le Bon. The man is considered a proto-fascist intellectual in that he helped build the intellecutal foundation on which fascism based itself. So be careful when you see articles like this one and make sure the authors aren't getting the crowd mind confused with the distributed mind.