Do you feel lucky? Well... do ya? PUNK!?!
Nick Miller asks What happens to truth when Google makes us all experts, in which, in typical journalist fashion, he completely over-dramatises a chat with his mother.
To change someone’s mind is to reach down into their synapses and rewire them, by definition against their will. It’s a psychic assault. It’s like having a nice little chat to someone, spiking their drink and spiriting them away to your private surgery for a heart transplant (a change of heart).
He is effectively saying, that if you go up to someone and talk to them, you are effectively giving them a heart transplant. If only it were so easy. I mean, can you imagine how much easier it would be to be a surgeon? "So hey... have you considered not having heart disease?"; ZOMG HEART TRANSPLANT!!!1. Arguing a point to change someone’s mind is not the same as surgery, nor is it even the same as drugging them, or a psychic assault. It’s more like saying “Hey you want ice-cream?”; "HELLS YEAH BIATCH!"
In any case, he’s talking about a conversation about vaccines with his mother:
“How can our government, and particularly Nicola Roxon, promote their swine flu vaccination program when documented evidence by the manufacturer of the vaccine, CSL Limited, clearly indicates that in certain specific situations no testing has been carried out and they cannot confirm the safety or effectiveness of same?” she asked.
That was a quote of him quoting his mother. Just go with me here. The argument goes, his mother can search Google and find all sorts of crap to make up her own mind about getting a flu vaccination. However, the same is true of, say, climate change, the Kennedy assassination, the moon landing, and whatever else is in the news. What compelling argument does a reporter have to have his mother listen to him and not some quack on the internet? Indeed, what right does Nick have to call these dudes quacks after all? How’s Nick an authority?
Well, if you believe what they’re saying at Wikimedia, he’s not. The thesis of the wiki is that you can let anyone edit the page, and it’ll eventually become right. You can leave an idiotic robot with a destination, and the kindness of people will point the robot in the right direction. It’s all crowdsourcing, people! The truth is a touch different: as it turns out, mostly only people who know what they’re talking about update and fix up wiki entries. Because they just happen to know what they’re talking about, the entries are correct. It isn’t “the typing of a thousand monkeys” which results in reasoned entries (although that can also work, depending on what and how).
It’s also not true that having a plaque on your wall saying "I’m the goddamned
batman expert" will make you one, and lacking one will make you an idiot (if educational institutions are doing their job, however, the two will be correlated). Having the plaque is a physical manifestation of a truth which should be self-evident when people are conversing with one another, or reading a wiki entry.
When you’re a short person, and you need to put something on the top shelf in the kitchen, you look for someone to help you, and you don’t look for someone who’s short. When you’re a weak person, and you want someone to lift something heavy, you ask for help, and you don’t look for someone who’s weak. However, when you’re an idiot and need a solution to a difficult problem, well...
One of the problems is, people have been told that they’re all goddamn
batman snowflakes, and that no matter what their opinions are right and valid, even though they wouldn’t pass a high school statistics exam. The days when their teachers shook their heads at them with a paper with a big red “F” on it are long gone. They’ve run away from their inadequacy as intelligent individuals, and now they don’t remember their own stupidity. Incidentally, the same is sometimes true of strength — you tend to find a lot of people who’ve put their back out lifting something they thought they were OK lifting, whereas if you did weights training on a regular basis, you’d know your limits rather more keenly.
Perhaps the solution is the Dirty Harry approach:
I know what you’re thinking. “Is he going to try and debunk the autism thing?” Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I’m kind of unsure. But being as I’m a freakin' Genius, someone who single-handedly destroyed the matrix, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?