Shockwave Rider: How to grow Delphiniums

“It works, approximately, like this.

First you corner a large — if possible, a very large — number of
people who, while they’ve never formally studied the subject you’re
going to ask them about and hence are unlikely to recall the correct
answer, are nonetheless plugged into the culture to which the question

Then you ask them, as it might be, to estimate how many people died in
the great influenza epidemic which followed World War I, or how many
loaves were condemned by EEC food inspectors as unfit for human
consumption during June 1970.

Curiously, when you consolidate their replies they tend to cluster
around the actual figure as recorded in almanacs, yearbooks and
statistical returns.

It’s rather as though this paradox has proved true: that while nobody
knows what’s going on around here, everybody knows what’s going on
around here.

Well, if it works for the past, why can’t it work for the future?
Three hundred million people with access to the integrated North
American data-net is a nice big number of potential consultees.”

excerpted from John Brunner’s 1975 novel Shockwave Rider

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