In a recent New Scientist Magazine, an article, posed a question is individuality dead? The author Alex Pentland, stated in the article, that a study carried out by social scientists, using a smart phone app, found some remarkable results.
Using big data, the study looked at mobile phone habits, credit card purchases, and social media interaction, and came to the conclusion, that the driving force between any adoption of a new behaviour is motivated by the interaction with peers.
The article states that we learn more than we think of our peers, the study postulated that social learning pays an equally significant part in us as humans, as our genes or our IQ.
The next time you abandon instructions for a piece of flat pack furniture, or are trying to learn something complex, such as a piece of software, and instead of reading the instructions, ask your friend to show you how to do it, you are, fundamentally, relying on social learning. It makes sense if you think that learning from somebody, who has already mastered the task, can cut out the arduous chore of using instructions and getting it wrong yourself.
The case in point, how many times do you Google or YouTube something to find out how to do it? I know I do this all the time, as often instructions online is straight to the point, and therefore, show you how to get on with the task in hand. I have recently learned to use formulas within Microsoft Excel, the video instruction was clear, precise, and informative. What’s more, it enabled me to complete a complex graph quickly, I know that if I’d of sat and work through a manual, I may have lost patience, not only with myself, but also with the manual.
The study looked at how important individual choices are, compared to shared habits, the researchers looked at patterns of communication and found out that communication is the single most important factor in productivity and creative output. The idea of a collective intelligence is muted in the argument. I do wonder, how much of this will be integrated into the workplace, as it is often the person who shouts loudest gets listened to instead of the quiet person at the back of the room with the bright idea, how many times have you experienced this?
The conclusion of the arguments stated that it was about time we rethought our ideas of individuality, I would argue that some of the greatest individuals on this planet, have been free thinkers and consequently swam against the flow of conventional thinking, if you consider someone like Albert Einstein.
The idea of a collective consciousness is nothing new, the existential philosopher Soren Kierkegaard spoke of the herd mentality. Maybe this is what this article is trying to prove.