Wisdom of the Crowd



We asked people in the street and at Thales Day in Rundetaarn, Copenhagen to guess how many sunflower seeds were in our jar. The actual number of seeds was 6698 and the average guess was a highly respectable 7090. Out of 330 guesses only three came closer than the average with the vast majority of guesses being wide off the mark. Astonishingly, guesses varied from 200 to one million-- in isolation, madness, but collectively, genius!

We will conduct the experiment again next year as always as a fun and inclusive Thales Day ritual that is both scientific and encouraging of philosophical reflection. Please like our Facebook page in support of Thales Day and send an email to Thalesday@outlook.dk or via the contact form below to be among the first invited to next year's Thales Day celebration with our top class speakers before tickets sell out.

Congratulations to the winners of this year's olive tree for having the best individual guess at Thales Day 2019 in Rundetaarn, Copenhagen.


Were you asked to guess the number of cornflakes in a jar, and are you curious how many were in there, and if peoples average guess is indeed close to being currect?

The actual number of cornflakes was 1146 and the average guess was a remarkable 1149,7. Out of 270 guesses no one came closer to the correct answer. 1150 was the best individual guess but guesses varied widely- some where in the hundreds and some where in the thousands.

Judging by our experiment the phenomenon of the wisdom of the crowd truly has merit. Aristotle compared it to a potluck dinner where everyone brings a different dish and the result is surprisingly good. We will do the experiment again next year as we always do as a Thales Day ritual. We will see if our result will be as impressive. If you like the initiative behind Thales Day we welcome you to send us your email adresse and/or like us on Facebook and get updates on future Thales Day events. Before liking you can see the Facebook page HERE

Thanks a lot for participating.

The winner of an olive tree for having the best individual guess amongst participants at Thales Day in Rundetaarn, Copenhagen 2018

Why do winners get an olive tree? 

In part XI of Book 1 of his 'Politics' Aristotle tells of an illustrative anecdote in which Thales predicted that the weather would be favorable to the olive harvest the following year. He therefore bought the rights to the olive presses in his hometown of Miletus and the neighbouring town. When his prediction came true and everyone needed the presses he sold the rights further on to a prize he himself fixed. He did so to show that philosophers can indeed make money but that they are interested in other things-- those other things being philosophy, which means love of knowledge and wisdom.