I wrote an article named The World is Not Created by Genius long time ago, but didn’t explain the game in much details. I also wrote a Chinese blog about it. Now with the recent thoughts about the role of public opinions in China, I think it is the right time to re-write about the thoughts in English.
The game is still the same:
- Gather a group of people (the more, the better)
- Ask each person to write down a number between 0 – 100
- Calculate the average of everyone’s number
- The one who guessed closest to 2/3 of the average number wins
I’d also like to invite you to play the game.
Please really think about it, and choose a number before you continue reading.
How to Win?
Let’s analyze everyone in this game. If everyone really pick a number randomly from 0-100, the most possible average should be around 50. Then 2/3 of 50 should be 33.3, isn’t it? That is the reason many people wrote 33 as the final result (however, there are many people who didn’t calculate like this at all).
But wait. At the time you write 33, you may think that you should not be the only person who are rational. What if they also write 33? If the number of people who are rational increase, it is very likely the average will be 33, so the best thing you can do is to write down 22.
Do you want to stop here? Maybe not. So you keep imagine the scenario, and people good at it may write down a series number like this:
Finally, there are always some people think they should guess 1, or even 0.
This is the final result of our game:
8.2 <--- my guess
2/3 of it: 20.96333333
BTW, I have organized several thousand people to play the game on my blog already. Here is the final result (including your guess you just entered). The average of the last 1000 people’s guess is 33.1597959904, and the winning guess is 22.10 at the time when I write this blog.
22 is the King
After many round of test, the winning number is always around 22.
The wisdom of the crowd, or the final decision of the crowd is always not so rational, and completely different from an ideal world. The people who decide how the world looks like is those who think one step further than most people, not those who think two or more steps further. In this game, different answers may represent different type of people. Let me try to analyze the different types in the game.
66.67 or above – random voter
In my sample of 1000 people, 131 of them choose 66.67 or above.
Before everyone’s number was revealed, I whispered to Wendy: “I don’t think there is anyone who should guess more than 66.67.”. The reason is, even if everyone guess 100, the winner number cannot be larger than 66.67. It turned out that I am wrong, since many people choose that one. They said they didn’t really understand the question.
In real world, there are many people who don’t want to think. Not just because they cannot think, just because not everyone is interested in the topic you are talking about and they don’t care. People who choose 66.67 above are only representatives of random picker. They may also choose 0, 21, 55, 32… just some random numbers, although I cannot identify them.
About the recent Torch relay accidents, the Tibet issue, the Earthquake, or any topic that we discussed on this blog, we are thinking and we are debate and finally agrees on something (like any number but not 67 or bigger), but most of the people in China, US, France, and rest of the world, they don’t care, and they don’t think, just like they are interested in something that I never thought of, or have an opinion. We have to consistently remind ourselves the existence of this group of people. They don’t think the way we are, but they also contribute to the final result.
0 – genius inside but stupid outside
Then let me talk about people who choose 0.
This is result is too extreme that many people never thought of when they play the game (including me). In the game my friend organized, almost every time, there are a very small number of people who choose 0. In my sample of 1000 people, 5.8% choose 0. The interesting thing is, the more rational or mathematics driven group, the chance people choose 0 is higher. Like in Microsoft Research Center, 3 out of 30 people choose 0.
Those who choose 0 intentionally (there are also some random voter who happen to randomly pick 0 without thinking) enjoy the pleasure of logic, and their understand of the world (or numbers). Unfortunately, not many people are with them. In normal environment, people who think hard enough to reach one step further to 22 is very rare, not to mention get to two steps further: 14, or further: 9…, or finally reach the ultimate number of a group of completely rational people: 0.
I have to tell them with sympathy: “You are a genius, but you cannot and will never win the game”. Maybe, at the very beginning, they don’t care about winning the game at all when they write down their answer, but they still write it down. With this suicide type of action, they claim that they are not care about the prize, they care to let the whole world know that they understand something others don’t understand yet.
Let’s imagine a scenario that if the “genius” has the opportunity to talk with everyone about what he/she thinks, and why choosing a small number give you a better chance to win, the whole group are still possibility follow the genius, and get to a point near 0, but history told us many times, that the chance for the genius to talk to the rest of the people is not so high, and most of the genius cannot be understood when they are alive. Genius are either mad, or die in a miserable situation.
33.33 – the vast majority
How about 33? They are normal people, common people, the vast majority of this society, just like millions of consumers of TV, shampoo, or microwave… They follow rules but never push further. They do what they are told, instead of really think why it works this way, and how it can work better.
They are the baseline of the world. Before them, are the genius (0) who LEAD the world, and people who push the world forward (22) and after them, are the followers who even don’t think.
22 – winner
Finally, let’s talk about winner, 22. Just like in number I collected (again, including your input), as long as there are enough sample (more than 20), the winner number is almost always around 22.
Like 33s, they also understand the rule, but they get one step and exactly one step further. They provide a solution that is easy to understand for majority (33s), but not as difficult to understand as those theory proposed by 0s. I even imagine that if Giordano Bruno just made some mild achievement, like find a new star that “goes around the earth”, he can get glory and money (like many successful scientists, business leaders of today). But if he goes much further to the truth than most people (33s) and claim earth is NOT the center of the universe, he just deserve 8 years of jail and fire on the plaza.
The Fate of Genius
The reason of the tragedy of genius is, they understand the physical world, but they don’t understand people. They understand something and think everyone see the same. They mistakenly ignored the existence of 33s, and even those random voters (67s). They are well respected in the specialized area (science, or technology), but if their success is judged by popularity (either during democratic process in politics, or market process in economics), they often completely fail. Anyway, this world is not completely made of geniuses.
Oh. The World!
In this world, there must be someone who see it more clearly and think deeper than most people. They are nearer to the truth, who we can use the world of “Genius” to refer. The question before those genius is, whether you choose to write down 0 or 22 in the game.
If you choose 0, you win the respect of history, when more people see what you see. However, you have to give up popularity, which often means money and fame.
The genius can also resist the temptation of 0, and pretend to be more stupid before other genius by choosing 22, they get what the society has to reward them. Pop-music are just better music than majority but not so serious, but they are popular! Best-sellers novels of today are not as good as classic novel after 100 years, but they are popular!
We can not imagine a world without 0s. Without them, who gives us rational and help us to see the truth? It is them who pulls this world forward with all kinds of difficulties. We show our respect to them. Those 22s, they helped many 33s and others to improve life by one step, and get huge success. With the effort of 22s, how people can transit to smaller numbers and eventually get near 0? We should also show our respect to them.
Anyway, the world is not created by genius.
P.S. OK. Enough about theory, and here is the result of the last 30 people, including yourself. Check out whether you win or not, and share with us your comment.