Bryan Caplan  

Scott Page Makes Diversity Respectable

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Confession: When Scott Page's book The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies came out, I assumed it would be a flabby, politically correct snooze-fest. Since I don't like flabby, politically correct snooze-fests, I didn't read it.

But about two minutes into Page's lecture (full video) at the Coll├Ęge de France, I realized I was dead wrong. Scott Page is the real deal - hard-headed, straightforward, and engaging. As soon as I got home, I read his book. Contrary to many slanted summaries, The Difference doesn't show that "diversity is good"; it carefully analyzes the conditions under which diversity lives up to the hype.

News flash: It turns out that one of the key conditions is individual competence. If you gather a diverse group of smart, informed people, they make each other better in a long list of ways. Given my enthusiasm for the GMU lunch, I couldn't agree more. At the same time, however, Page shows that gathering the world's ninnies and predicting "collective wisdom" is wishful thinking.

Of course, Page's full story is much more complicated. Individual competence isn't the only thing that matters. But despite the packaging, Page's work is in large part a reproach to the legions of academics who take the cognitive value of diversity for granted.

P.S. Here's video of the entire Collective Wisdom conference.

HT: John Alcorn


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COMMENTS (5 to date)

I seem to remember Philip Tetlock writing a powerful criticism of The Difference. But I can't remember which journal it appeared in...

Steve Sailer writes:

World class institutions like the New York Yankees and the U. of Chicago math department are going to have people from many parts of the world. That doesn't mean that Dunder-Miflin's Scranton office will get better by imposing hiring quotas on itself.

DaveH writes:

The main point is individual competence. "Diversity" can be "good" (for want of a better term) where it prevents thinking only inside the box, or inbreeding, but only if the diverse element person etc offers something of value.
My experience in academic institutions and in the gov't sector is diversity = quotas. The diverse person is not chosen to add value or new ideas, but to fulfill a social engineer's dream of diversitty for the sake of diversity.
Instead of making the organization stronger, it leads to resentment,divisiveness and weakness.

PS I guess you can tell I have not benefitted from any type of planned diversity.

conchis writes:

Tetlock piece here.

bgc writes:

It will be interesting for future historians to explore how so many clever people tied themselves in dishonest intellectual knots for so long trying to justify the value primacy of the transparently post hoc, cobbled-together, empty pseudo-rationalization called 'diversity'.

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