Archive for August 15th, 2012
And while we are on the subject of ignorance…
It’s too much for this former teacher to read all at once. But you should sample, at least, Anders Henriksson’s European history as described in student papers. An example:
Great Brittian, the USA and other European countrys had demicratic leanings. The middle class was tired and needed a rest. The old order could see the lid holding down new ideas beginning to shake. Among the goals of the chartists were universal suferage and an anal parliment. Voting was done by ballad.
Of course, the Wilson Quarterly article is from 1983. Many of the contributors to Henriksson’s faux history have since gone on to become elected officials, parents of freshmen and, one supposes, history professors.
WC has an unhealthy interest in how the Intertubes are affecting communication in our culture. And found a recent example of just how uncritical some readers are in evaluating and accepting information.
Swedish designer Lukasz Lindell drew an ungainly screw using CAD software, rendered it, emailed it to himself and then took a photo of the email. Then he posted the screen shot on Reddit. It looked like this:
The message under the photo was, “A friend took a photo a while ago at that fruit company, they are obviously even creating their own screws.”
The implication was that the unnamed “fruit company,” Apple, was designing a screw that would keep Apple product owners from opening their hardware devices. Lindell reports:
Less than 12 hours later it had happened. First came Apple blog Cult of Mac, who reported ”Apple May Be Working On A Top Secret Asymmetric Screw To Lock You Out Of Your Devices Forever” and then it just went on. More and more blogs wrote about the alleged leaks from Apple headquarters in Cupertino, USA. Yahoo, Wired and MacWorld jumped on. On Twitter, numerous posts raged about the issue. On YouTube, people made video blogs about the new screw. Google + talked about it page after page. Try it yourself, go to http://www.google.com and search on ”asymmetric screw”.
Google reports 787,000 results. What is astonishing is that past the first tier of reports, the story was uncritically accepted as true. It wasn’t just that the hoax went viral; it was that reasonably sophisticated readers – experienced computer and iGadget writers – uncritically accepted the story as true, and even invented details to make it more credible. Bloggers and pundits put the non-existent screw in the rumored new iPhone, inferred it was to keep do-it-yourselfers out and talked about tools that could defeat it. Not until Lindell’s company ‘fessed up did the excitement start to die down.
Doubtlessly, this episode has some clade of sociologists planning an empirical study of the phenomenon, even as WC writes. More power to them. But the point has been made. Web surfers don’t bring critical analysis to the fire hose of information that spews through the Intertubes every day. That’s a problem. As the volume of information on the Web doubles and redoubles, the skill to evaluate that content is increasingly important. Plausible ≠ True. Rumor ≠ Fact.
And if you have studied logical fallacies, especially The Big Lie, you really get concerned. Critical thinking is a foundation of the United States’ system of government. On the evidence, there’s a problem that’s even worse than deficient communication skills.