Authority and the Internet

Posted: October 19, 2013 in Chat
Tags: , ,

We needed to authenticate an historical detail for our research, we knew it had occurred but needed more information. Google it, we said. So we did, and nothing. We were momentarily stumped, But, there’s nothing… on Google!

How quickly we get to depend on these things. I was doing a Coursera course a while back and queried a point. Authority was based on Wikipedia. Another word/concept and its implications I was researching: I  emailed an authority on the subject. Google it, they replied, Wikipedia has a good definition.

A short while ago I would not have dared trust any of these sources for a thorough backgrounding in any subject.

Google is only as broad and as authoritative as the range of sites on the net. Not every point is covered, nor are the points covered updated sufficiently. Or in depth.

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In the novel Radiant Cool by Dan Lloyd there is a dastardly plot by a ‘foreign power’ to undermine the West. The foreign power has unlimited resources and time, and its plan to replace all web links and sites with their own subtly altered ones. The aim is to undermine Western knowledge and resources by presenting altered information. Not downright wrong, but altered sufficiently as to be off-kilter. They themselves then would be the only political power with the knowledge, and in this case knowledge would be power.

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How many PhD theses are online? How many open forums discuss in detail important topics of cutting edge work?

You still need your pincode to get to the useful stuff. What pincode? Your academic affiliation, your invite by persons on the inside, your proven credentials.

More often now I come across the comments: ‘X’s writing has a skewed knowledge/intelligence.’ Let’s not confuse this with reasoning, the toolbox of logic still usable, it is the premises the reasoning is based on that are skewed.

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This is one major problem with working Outside the Academy. Outside the Academy one is not only no longer au fait with the current thinking, but one’s own reasoning is unregulated, that is, there are little to no peer reviews to fill in the inevitable blanks or weak points. If one is aiming for a sound argument or viewpoint then these are essential.

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