Watching the Crowd
from Hamlet's Blackberry
Ultimately, human experience is not about what happens to most people, it's about what happens to each of us, hour by hour and moment by moment. Rather than using the general as a route to the particular, sometimes we need to take exactly the opposite approach. This is especially true when the question is the quality of our lives. In recent years, there's been a tremendous fascination with crowd thinking and behavior. The digital crowd not only has power, we're told, it also has wisdom.
Watching the crowd can certainly tell you which way popular tastes are heading and who's buying which products at any given moment. This isn't wisdom at all, however, but what's commonly known as "smarts," that canny ability to read the landscape that serves one well in stock picking, gambling and other short-term pursuits. Every crowd is just a collection of individual selves, and to understand what's happening to those selves right now, we all have instant, no-password access to the most reliable source of all. Our own lives can teach us things that no data set ever can, if we'd just pay attention to them.
I chose this quotation for many reasons, but one of them is in the second sentence of the first paragraph. I have rarely read the purpose and the power of fiction so clearly and succinctly expressed.