Bicycle Built for Two Thousand Shows Limits of Crowd’s Wisdom

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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First, take two minutes to watch this video:

Isn't that just bizarre? I love social media and blog networks because they help us tap into the wisdom of the crowds. Those of us on staff at believe strongly in the wisdom of crowds.

You probably do too, though you may not realize it.

The Wisdom of Crowds and Machines

For example, do you vote in elections? If so, you believe your vote is part of the wisdom of the crowds. Everyone’s vote gets counted once, and as a society we trust the crowd more than we trust ourselves. At least, that’s how our elections are supposed to work. isn’t trying to use the wisdom of crowds like some sort of mathematical formula, though. We might not have enough people. But we also aren’t looking for that kind of answer. We’re looking for something more fluid. Like a symphony maybe.

The HAL 9000 version of Bicycle Built for Two back in the 1960s must have felt like a break through at the time. A singing machine? George Orwell’s versificator from 1984 couldn’t be too far away. Kubric’s 2001 played around with this idea just a few years later. Singing computers could turn psychotic and try to kill us before we reached Jupiter. When we shut them down, like Dave does in this clip, they will say, “Stop, Dave, I’m afraid.”

Hang on, let me dial down the geek factor a bit. Web 2.0, social media, interactive web, or whatever you want to call it, our latest round of social technology has changed the way we think about machines.

Michael Wesch of Kansas State University explained this breakthrough very succinctly in his video The Machine is Us/ing Us. If you haven’t seen it. Watch it.

With all of that in mind, it makes sense for Daniel Massey and Aaron Koblin to return to the old Hal 9000 idea to show us how we’re rethinking machines again. Our machines still sing, but now it is our own voices that we hear.

Let's Sing with Knowledge of the Task

And we sound really bad (but in a great way) when we sing like this. Here’s why: In Bicycle Built for 2000, the workers recorded their sounds “without knowledge of the overall task.” The meaning was stripped out of what they were doing.

But crowd-sourcing doesn’t have to work like that. We certainly don’t vote that way. Everyone who goes into the voting booth knows the task. He or she is part of an electoral process. We aren’t blind.

Which brings me back to what we’re trying to do here at The High Calling. We are not a blind community of readers. We share a vision. We share values.

Everyone should know the overall task. We’re here to help people understand what it means to glorify God in every day life and work.

We engage culture not just to critique it or conquer it, but to glorify God. Sometimes that means critique. Sometimes it means we create something new. It always comes back to love and humility.

We spend time with our families, not to glorify our families, but to glorify God. That means discipline. That means fun time. And it comes back to love and humility.

We go to work, not to evangelize and stamp more converts on the side of our gospel tank, but to glorify God. Sometimes that means evangelism. But much more often, it means we simply do our job with integrity. We serve our bosses. We’re kind to our coworkers. It comes down to love and humility.

We go to church not to worship church, but to worship God. Church is important. Gathering together in a physical community is important. But the Kingdom of God is bigger than our institutional churches and the programs of those churches. It extends into our work and our family and our culture.

Please, no one should record his or her part of this symphony without knowledge of the overall task. That doesn’t make sense. Our community will sound awful if we do that. Remember the task. Remember the shared values. We glorify God in everyday life and work. That’s the foundation of The High Calling community.

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