Tag Archives: MacKay

Big Data And The Madness Of Crowds

The latest from Prosper Now’s Blog on Forbes.com

In his 1841 book Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds, Charles MacKay wrote of the crowd psychology that drive numerous “National Delusions,” “Peculiar Follies,” and “Psychological Delusions.” Among the various manias were the tulip bubble of the early 17th century, witch mania of the 16th and 17th centuries and alchemists who sought to turn base medals into gold.

Crowd psychology can create an emotional feedback loop whereby dissent may be stifled as the crowd, not wanting to miss out, hears only what they want. As MacKay would say, “We find that whole communities suddenly fix their minds upon one subject, and go mad in its pursuit; that millions of people become simultaneously impressed with one delusion, and run it til their attention is caught by some new folly more captivating than the first.” Could it possibly be that all the big data hype fits this description?

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