16 June 2005

Are Your Filters Working ?

Via Harry's Place a piece on a recent speech by Dr Rowan Williams

Rowan Williams makes some interesting points, and it is a much more balanced article than the snippet in The Times would suggest.

But there are number points to bear in mind about Internet sources:

  • the lack of social constraints on the Web allow people to indulge themselves;
  • this indulgence can produce some 'extreme' views or attitudes;
  • many people do not take the trouble to filter out information from the Internet and take extreme views and attitudes as 'gospel';
this can be seen in the conspiracies relating to WTC/911 or the tsunami, etc.

The popularity of conspiracy sites and their related links is somewhat worrying, but not unexpected given the diversity of humanity and the predisposition of some people towards irrational belief systems.

For examples, we only need to look at the popularity of sites such as www.rense.com or www.conspiracyarchive.com

It does point towards people using more critical judgement on Internet sources than maybe they have in the past

This reminds me of two anecdotes:

a customer calling up a Utility company only to be told “that’s wrong, the computer says you're dead"

in the early days of the mainframe, many people set their watch by the time on the computer screen and thinking " it comes from a computer there for it must be right?", little appreciating that the time set on the mainframe often owes more to the accuracy of the computer operators watch and typing skills than some atomic clock in rugby

Most people working in IT have learnt to take information from computers with a handful of salt and hopefully that attitude is extending out.

Simply because information is placed on a web site (such as this) or comes from a computer does not mean it is definitive or accurate, it might be, and then again it might not.

We all, in this information age, need to apply critical thinking to all aspects of news and views and not take the lazy way of accepting what we are told either from the mouths of politicians, the pens of journalists or some wacky keystrokes from the Internet.

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