Saturday, January 19, 2008

Diversity = Productivity?

The New York Times interviews Scott Page:

What the model showed was that diverse groups of problem solvers outperformed the groups 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.

The other thing we did was to show in mathematical terms how when making predictions, a group’s errors depend in equal parts on the ability of its members to predict and their diversity. This second theorem can be expressed as an equation: collective accuracy = average accuracy + diversity.

Richard Florida writes:

A paradigm shift is well in the making. Seems like diversity matters a whole lot more than most people - and standard economic theory - would have guessed.

Makes me wonder -- what is a good economic model of diversity?  What types of diversity matter?  In this context, it seems like intellectual diversity is far more important than traditional measures of diversity.  What does that say about many fields in academia, which are nearly monolithic politically?  Seems like we're missing out on some very important debates.

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