Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Guessing

I sat in on a class this morning that I might have to take. It's called the Theory of Probability. For fun, the professor had each person in the class guess the number of cocoa puffs in a bowl. The person with the best guess would receive a copy of the textbook.

I had recently read The Wisdom of Crowds, which starts with a story from decades ago where the crowd at a farmers market performed a similar task, except it was guessing the weight of an oxe. The average of all guesses was one pound off the true weight.

The professor may have also read the book because after everyone was done guessing, he brought up the same story. I was one of the last people to announce my guess, so I gave a rough average of all the counts given up to that point thinking maybe this crowd was as wise as the one in the book. But as the professor said, this group of Stanford people did much worse than a bunch of old English country bumpkins. The mean was ~280 and the true count was 522.

1 comment:

Reid said...

60 grand a year and you counting coca puffs. that's great man