Chris Anderson has a beautiful post about emergent intelligence, and why it is that wikipedia is so compellling - by sacrificing perfection in favour of being inclusive, and encompassing as much as possible.
You can read it at www.thelongtail.com
Something I've been thinking about for a while now, that the reason the Long Tail is such an intersting phenomenon, is that it restores people into the equation. Things like Wikipedia, and Bloggers, and this whole shiny Web 2.0 thing are all about celebrating diversity, that comes from the fact that we're all diverse individuals, and not a faceless amortisation of collective public opinion.
Modern society seems to emphasise dehumanising - replacing people with 'markets', or 'resources', distancing ourselves from emotions and needs by analysing economic trends and monitoring other abstract statistics that detach us from things that people like. When investors are watching their stock indexes, they're happy when they rise, and sad when they fall. It's all about the human element, despite the fact that you'd never notice that in the faces peering over the Financial Review in the airport lounge.
Perhaps all the success of all this 'new media' stuff - the reason Wikipedia is so impressive, lies in the fact that it embraces people's innate passion for things, and doesn't hide it under layers of abstraction and process...