From Tragedy of the Commons to Information Cascade

According to the tragedy of the commons, we can NOT be trusted to do even those things that are obviously in our collective best interests, such as taxation. The utopian balance of public and private interests in this situation is inherently unstable. This dilemma “expresses the inescapable conundrum of individuals who have their own interests at heart and who can control only their own decisions, but who have to live with the consequences of everyone else’s decisions as well.” (“Six Degrees” by Duncan J. Watts, 2003, p 204 – 219)

But not every dilemma has to end in tears. So Duncan’s question is “what are the origins and preconditions of cooperation?”

This leads to the problem of information cascade. During such an event, individuals in a population essentially stop behaving like individuals and start to act more like a coherent mass. It can happen slowly or rapidly. However, what’s in common for all information cascades is that once one commences, it becomes self-perpetuating; that is, it picks up new adherents largely on the strength of having attracted previous ones. Hence an initial shock can propagate throughout a very large system, even when the shock itself is small.

And here is its connection to news: ” because they (information cascades) are often of a spectacular or consequential nature, cascades of one sort or another tend to make newsworthy events.”