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Subject: Web-induced intellectual poverty rss

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Snowball
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Fascinating article on SciAm
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=jaron-lanie...
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Bojan Ramadanovic
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It has been quite a while since "Scientific American" should have been renamed into "Artistic-yet-socialy-concious Frenchman" the amount of drivel those guys produce is simply staggering. If you want a decent magazine that is actually about popular science you could do worse then "New Scientist" instead.
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Snowball
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Okay let's admit that SciAm is a bunch of communist sociopaths and that their writing skills are abysmal... shake

What do you think about the idea that the web is actually fostering groupthink, partisanship and is bad for creativity?

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Chad Ellis
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bramadan wrote:
"New Scientist"


I heart New Scientist.

You know who reads a magazine by looking at its advertisements. New Scientist's ads are mainly aimed at professional scientists. It's been a while since I've read SciAm (for the reasons you gave) but the ads indicated a very different audience, IIRC.
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Ken
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HavocIsHere wrote:


Not really so fascinating. IP law is a mess, yes. The Internet makes piracy, theft, unintended use, etc. easier, yes. So did the VCR, the CD-R, and photocopiers.

The complaint I read is that it's hard for artists to make money off what they do. While I'm sympathetic, that's really a transient thing that's an artifact of the creative destruction of the Internet. In time, someone's going to figure out how to monetize things sufficiently such that we can find the music we like, the art we enjoy, the content we want to reach. Then we'll all be complaining about how unfair it is that the public network we've built has morphed into an engine for commerce rather than a way to exchange information.

It sucks to live through change. Someone's just about always getting hurt as it happens. But in the end, change is both inevitable and tends to produce positive results. I believe artists, writers, and other creative people deserve compensation for their work. But I'm not going to blame the Internet for the problem. Piracy and unauthorized use aren't new. And eventually the Internet should make it easier for these people to reach their consumers directly and rapidly. It'll work out in the end.
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Benny
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Koldfoot wrote:
snore Small minded individuals probably made the same case when the printing press was invented and information was suddenly flowing exponentially faster than it did previously AND was flowing to the wrong people (in the minds of the elitists).


I think this is the most obvious analogy but I also don't think it really holds.

Information is flowing faster but I don't think it follows that the greater the flow of information the better. The easier and cheaper it is to disseminate information the more that information declines in quality overall. Further the glut of information makes it that much harder to find the quality stuff that wouldn't have been there without the inernet. It also means that I can much more easily stick with that information with which I am most comfortable and never expose myself to alternate viewpoints.
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Ken
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Benjro wrote:
The easier and cheaper it is to disseminate information the more that information declines in quality overall.


But this isn't really true. I think what you mean to say is "the easier it is for anyone to publish information or opinions masquerading as information, the more individuals need to evaluate their sources carefully."

Mis-information, dis-information, urban legends, bad analysis, etc. aren't anything new. Newspapers throughout much of our history printed bald-faced lies, distortions, or propaganda and presented it as fact. One critical difference is that it's easier for us to check up on them today than it ever has been, if we care to look.

Don't blame the media for the public's willingness to accept whatever comes out of someone's mouth/keyboard as de facto true. That's not a new phenomenon and it's a reflection on how willing we can sometimes be to accept a source as authoritative without any real foundation for that.
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Uncle Potato
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Benjro wrote:
It also means that I can much more easily stick with that information with which I am most comfortable and never expose myself to alternate viewpoints.


The Internet offers people who don't share majority views easier access to communities that agree with their world view and opinions. The vast majority of people always have and always will stick with what's comfortable and will rarely, if ever, expose themselves to alternate viewpoints. If the Internet doesn't broaden your mind, nothing will.

IMO
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Snowball
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Benjro wrote:
Koldfoot wrote:
snore Small minded individuals probably made the same case when the printing press was invented and information was suddenly flowing exponentially faster than it did previously AND was flowing to the wrong people (in the minds of the elitists).


I think this is the most obvious analogy but I also don't think it really holds.

Information is flowing faster but I don't think it follows that the greater the flow of information the better. The easier and cheaper it is to disseminate information the more that information declines in quality overall.


I think the analogy with TV would be a better match.
TV allows for watching nice documentaries, but most people skip these alltogether to watch reality shows and the like. And I feel TV is replacing books for some all too often, by providing pre-digested, easy to absorb, "information".
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DCA;

Sure, and 50 years ago I could have subscribed to newspapers and journals I knew I would virtually always agree with too. If all a person wants to do is confirm what they believe, they can always do so.

So is reading then bad? hardly. One has to choose tp open one's mind to new ideas and perspectives.
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perfalbion wrote:
Benjro wrote:
The easier and cheaper it is to disseminate information the more that information declines in quality overall.


But this isn't really true. I think what you mean to say is "the easier it is for anyone to publish information or opinions masquerading as information, the more individuals need to evaluate their sources carefully."


I don't think putting all editorial decisions in the hands or an individual is a net good, but that seems to be what you are espousing. I also don't think it is very generous to say be more discerning or get left behind, but that is what you seem to be implying.

I grant that I decide between websites and books the same way though...word of mouth and general reputation. So maybe it all works out in the wash.

However, I do think that the general glut of information is not making us overall smarter as a society because I'm way more likely to waste a day reading commentaries on 80s pop culture than to spend the same time doing something substantive.
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William Boykin
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RSP Debating Rule #25-

DarHavoc: In the unlikely event we both agree, the rest of y'all lose.

To a certain extent, I agree with what the article is saying, especially as it pertains to politics. (I don't necessarily agree with the argument on the culture of science, except for the bit about 'wiki-izing' of science).

The reason? Confirmation bias.

The web makes it extraordinarily easy to find data that fits your preconceived notions. Confirmation bias runs rampant.

Its already been bad enough with the atomization of news sources. C-Span for the News Junkies, Bloomberg and CNBC for Business, Huffington and the Daily Kos for the Left, WSJ and Fox for the Center-Right..the list goes on and on.

But now with the explosion of just raw data/opinion/propaganda out there, its extraordinarily easy to just 'cut and paste' to fit any position- all in five seconds, with Google. And you can do it without even KNOWING that you're succumbing to confirmation bias if you're not careful.

For instance-
Lets try a little experiment. I'm going to put into my Google search bar, "Obama Birth Certificate"

Of the first 8 hits, 4 hits argue that Obama is 'hiding' something. The others say that Obama is not.

If I'm not able to make a qualified judgement to the caliber of the site giving me an opinion, I could run into a site with rhetoric saying

Quote:
Smears claiming Barack Obama doesn’t have a birth certificate aren’t actually about that piece of paper — they’re about manipulating people into thinking Barack is not an American citizen.


http://www.fightthesmears.com/articles/5/birthcertificate

OR, equally partisan and polarize, run into this clip of an interview with Sarah Palin

Quote:
Would you make the birth certificate an issue if you ran?
I think the public, rightfully, is still making it an issue. I don’t have a problem with that. I don’t know if I would have to bother to make it an issue ’cause I think there are enough members of the electorate who still want answers.


http://hotair.com/archives/2009/12/03/palin-obamas-birth-cer...

Sure, there are good sites like FactCheck.org and Snopes- but if you don't KNOW about them, and you're either prone to believe Pres. Obama or Sarah Palin, you're more likely to want to look at one or the other of the more extremely partisan sites, rather than the ones in the center.

Google, by its nature, only rates a site in terms of how secure it is from viral attack. It doesn't make ANY judgement as to the reliability of the data you get from that site- and it shouldn't.

But thats the author's POINT. The Web is a great tool for collecting data, but if without critical thinking, you're just that more susceptible to error. GIGO- Garbage In, Garbage Out. The Garbage you take IN, the MORE Garbage you give OUT.

Whats the solution?
We really, really, really need to be focussing upon research skills at the High School level. I went to a good Public School in the 1980's, and I only encountered this sort of thinking because I was highly active in Debate. It wasn't until I was taking some Community College classes in Logic as a Junior in HS that I first encountered formal Logic- and I first started learning key skills in critiquing sources for possible bias on my OWN, talking to my School Librarian for Academic Decathalon. In essence, these things are not taught, consistently.

Without learning how to learn, the Web becomes increasingly dangerous to those without the skills to critically critique the data that they're looking at- especially data that is outside of their normal speciality. For instance, I can easily tell you who is a crank and who'se a respected historian in German History. And I can figure it out for other periods of time. But to tell who is a good Climate Scientist, or not? My training as a Historian doesn't help me there at all. Only my cross training that I did on my own is a good tool- and I'll admit, the more specialized the field gets outside of my balliwick, the harder it is to tell.

So, its not like I think that the internet is 'bad', or even that I agree with the person interviewed that the internet should move to a pay service. But I do think that he has a point that without key critical reasoning skills being taught to our children, the Web can lead to some very dangerous implications for our politics.

Darilian
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Jorge Montero
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The implications aren't just for politics, but for thinking in general: Confirmation bias works everywhere.

Imitation is a very useful way of acquiring knowledge: It allows us to leverage other people's knowledge without painfully obtaining it from nature ourselves. Few things show this better than seeing what a kid that is not even a year old does on a typical day: He knows almost nothing, but he can harness his ability to imitate. This impulse to imitate others also works to make us stop doing things that aren't helpful: If nobody else is doing something, is it really a good thing to do? This two forces, together, give us fashion, teach us social rules, and give us best seller lists.

We could try to go through life trying to evaluate the value of everything by ourselves, but using other people's opinions to evaluate ideas is just a whole lot more convenient, and can make us more productive: Pooling the knowledge of millions of people often leads to better results than the smartest person on earth could achieve in a similar time frame. Coming up with your own ideas is obviously a necessary part of the process if we want to get better as a society, but too much of that can also lead to failure. In the end, it's a balancing act.

What the internet does to us is disrupt our idea of popularity, of what works and what doesn't: By making more voices equally loud, we stop relying on the wisdom of crowds, and instead see a wider gamut of choices, without any of the filtering that we get through every other channel: The quacks are much louder than they are anywhere else. This increases intellectual costs of gathering good information. This is not necessarily a bad thing, since it allows us to recover from the failures of a flawed majority view that much quicker, but it can also lead us astray if we are not careful. And everyone thinks he's careful and open minded, all you have to do is look at the kind of people that, in this very forum, explain how very open to new ideas they are. Without indicators to know how trustworthy a piece of information is, we can be well in our way towards utter failure.

So maybe Facebook, Myspace and the like are not doing just evil: By providing us with some ways to gauge popularity, we might be able to eventually use that kind of tools to separate the useful knowledge from the tripe. Then again, thinking of such websites' models as something that we need to move forward feels so very wrong.
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Antigonus Monophthalmus
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HavocIsHere wrote:
And I feel TV is replacing books for some all too often, by providing pre-digested, easy to absorb, "information".


I feel like TV is not replacing books, TV is just more popular than a medium that was never really all that popular.
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