Friday, July 22, 2011

people not dumber, just faster

As I mused on how awful I thought The Sopranos program was a couple days ago, I revealed a frustration and concern that people might be just worse overall these days compared to prior generations. Again, this is just a concern that I can easily acknowledge is not well founded. What we have today, and increasingly so with each passing day, is speed. We can communicate faster today than ever before and that allows all of us, including those blissfully unaware of the Dunning-Kruger effect to blog, tweet, and 'like' their way into apparent relevance.

These platforms reveal what existed all along, which is that 10% of the people are less intelligent than 90% of the people. The internet does not portend an awakening of the era of ignorance. The ignorance has always been there, but it had previously lacked such free and accessible vehicles of dissemination. For example, let's talk about weekends.

This month started on a Friday and is also 31 days long, which means the last day of the month will be a Sunday. This makes for five Friday-to-Sunday weekends that will occur this month. If you recall, there was a thing that went around the internet last October marveling at how such an occurrence of five Friday-to-Sunday weekends in a single month was incredibly rare and had not happened for several hundred years. That is of course blindingly stupid since there are only 14 different calendars that could ever occur so to suggest that one of them had not happened for several hundred years is moronic. (A year can start on one of seven days and there are also leap year versions so any given year must come from one of those 14 calendars.) Nonetheless, many people believed this and posted it and forwarded it and were generally removed from my list of friends if they were so cognitively challenged. The great irony is that January 2010 also possessed the five Fri-to-Sun weekend property just nine months prior to the October idiocy fest. As platforms for spreading misinformation are more easily accessed, we see that many people will believe novel and interesting sounding "truths" regardless of their accuracy.

Despite this obvious downside to the internet's easy connectivity, the system makes me hopeful. Used properly, it possesses the powerful ability to spread knowledge, advance real truth, and give people access to information that would otherwise never reach them. It is also a place where nuance can exist in all its glory. The shades of gray that make up almost everything worth knowing can exist in true 64-bit rendering instead of a paltry 256 color scheme. The great risk is that this frontier of neutrality that the internet possesses will be taken away. We must continue to promote the openness and suffer the fools that come with it because that is a far superior trade to limiting what we can share and learn.

1 comment:

buickguy said...

I agree that our connected world makes it easier for all to be heard, even those who would simply not be heard just a decade or two ago.