James Surowiecki

Five Things I've Learned About

The Wisdom and Madness of Social Media

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Join journalist and author James Surowiecki and discover the Five Things He’s Learned about how the Internet is reshaping the way we learn and think – and why, for all of its promise, social media seems to be creating as many problems as it solves.

Online Event Details

  • 90 minutes


  • Single-Class Ticket - $40.00

View the archive of my 90-minute class and discover the Five Things I’ve Learned about how the Internet is reshaping the way we learn and think, and why, for all of its promise, seems to be creating as many problems as it solves.

My name is James Surowiecki. I’m a journalist and an author, and I’d like to invite you to my new class, Five Things I’ve Learned about the Wisdom and Madness of Social Media.

About fifteen years ago, I published a book called The Wisdom of Crowds, which showed how under the right conditions groups of people could be remarkably intelligent, and smarter even the smartest person in them. The key to the wisdom of crowds, I argue, is having groups made up of diverse, independent thinkers who are able to learn from each other but still think for themselves. The paradox of the wisdom of crowds is that we’re smartest collectively when people are acting as much like individuals as possible.

I wrote The Wisdom of Crowds before social media as we know it really became a thing – before Facebook or Twitter or Instagram came to play such a big role in the lives of so many of us. And over the years, I’ve thought a lot about the way the Internet generally, and social media specifically, is reshaping the way we learn and think and how it influences what we know and how we know it, and why social media, for all of its promise, seems to be creating as many problems as it solves.

The Internet is, in principle, an extraordinary tool for making us collectively smarter. It offers us access to an enormous range of information and data we otherwise wouldn’t have, and exposes us to perspectives and opinions we otherwise would never hear. But in practice, the Net, and social media in particular, often seems to make us dumber. Social media is built around the idea of influence, not independence, and as a result it often reinforces people’s biases, encourages the spread of misinformation, magnifies polarization.

So in this 90-minute class, we’ll look at how this works, and what we can do about it.

We’ll look at how we learn and how being in groups—even online ones—can shape our behavior. We’ll talk about the power of conformity and peer pressure, and the way social media works to amplify them, and about ways to combat them. We’ll look at why spreading misinformation works, how you can recognize it, and how you can debunk it without managing to reinforce it. And we’ll talk about how you can make yourself a better, sharper user of social media and the Internet.

In the process, I hope the class will help you make your time online more enjoyable and productive, and our collective crowd a little bit wiser.

I hope you’ll join me!

– James Surowiecki

James Surowiecki

James Surowiecki is a journalist and the author of The Wisdom of Crowds. He was the business columnist for The New Yorker for seventeen years, and has written for a wide variety of publications, including The New York Times Magazine, The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, Wired, and The New York Review of Books. He was a writer and co-producer of two documentaries on the history of college football for ESPN. He blogs at Medium.com, and teaches English at Yale University. He lives in New Haven, Connecticut, with his partner, Meghan O’Rourke, and two sons.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Your ticket entitles you to ongoing access to this class — even after the live session concludes.

If you purchase a ticket in time to join the class live, you can view the archive as soon as it’s posted, as often as you like. Look for an email with information about how to access the course archive within 48 hours of the end of the live class. Once you get it, you’ll have all the information you need to access it as you like across any and all devices you own.

If you purchase a ticket after the live class takes place, you can view the archive immediately, and you can return to it as frequently as you like

If you’d like a refund, we can happily credit the card you used to register for the session. Please send a note to pre.event@extendedsession.com , and we’ll confirm receipt as soon as we see it (We don’t need your credit card info – just your email address and date of purchase.)

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  • Unfortunately, we can only accept cancellations and refunds up to 48 hours before a scheduled session.
  • There is sure to be a lapse in time between the time we refund your order and the time a corresponding credit appears on your credit card statement. So that you’re not left waiting and wondering, we’ll contact you as soon as we’ve processed the credit in our system.

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If you’ve purchased a ticket for this online class and you find that for some reason you can’t make the live session, you have two choices:

  • The first: View the session archive. You can view the session archive as soon as it’s posted – or any time, as often as you like. We’ll make an archive of this class available within 48 hours of the live session, and we’ll send every ticket holder details on how they can view it. As a ticket holder, you’re able to view this full session archive any time– as often as you like.
  • The second: Request a refund. Just send a note to pre.event@extendedsession.com, and we’ll help sort things out. Please keep in mind that we can only accommodate refund requests made more than 48 hours from the start of a live session.

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