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A mathematical case for diversity

Posted by Arjendu on January 24, 2008

This is going to be merely a pointer to a recent column/blog-post by one of my favorite science writers Philip Ball. Among other things, he says:

A company sets out to hire a 20-person team to solve a tricky problem, and has a thousand applicants to choose from. So they set them all a test related to the problem in question. Should they then pick the 20 people who do best? That sounds like a no-brainer, but there situations in which it would be better to hire 20 of the applicants at random.

… and then goes onto discuss some other interesting cases in agent-based situations, where many agents are competing for some fixed quantity – energy in a power grid, for example. As he points out, the results he is reviewing show that ‘diversity in decision-making may fundamentally alter the collective outcome. … [These results are] another example of how difference and diversity can improve the outcome of group decisions. Encouraging diversity is not then about being liberal or tolerant (although it tends to require both) but about being rational.


One Response to “A mathematical case for diversity”

  1. Thanks for this pointer. My wife, who’s a classicist, also found it an interesting argument.

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