Hi, my name is D and this is my writings on subjects. I'm no rapscallion or anything at all. If you want to you can read my writings on subjects if you have free time. If you want to argue with me or call me names then please comment. Negative feedback is very welcome...I love dat shit. Me? I'm not even a noun, I'm a fucking verb, dude.

Monday, October 31, 2011

on Deception and counter-Deception. also on Devising and/or Deciphering Informations

The internet age has brought to us an abundance of information. There are mounds and mounds of nutty little documents, snipets, and tid-bits at the fingertips of every human in arms reach of a computer. If you have not realized it yet, we are living in an information golden age, never in history has so much data been available for analysis.

It sounds great, and it really is...but nothing is perfect. Is all information credible? Of course not. Is it all true? No way. Out of all the data on the net, how much of it is accurate and factual...and how much of it is fiction, lies, propaganda, nonsense, or deception?

It's great that everyone is acquiring more data and decoding more information but should you believe what you are reading? Nope, you surely cannot believe it...and figuring out what is correct and what is incorrect is almost futile sometimes.

If you search for anything on google, you will find conflicting reports on your questions. For example, is coffee a healthy beverage? Out of the two hundred millions search results, you will be able to find any answer to that question, it is not a matter of accessing information anymore it is now a question of deciphering which out of those two hundred million results are valuable pieces of info and which are not. Factoring in that coffee will have a different effect on different people, the answer to the question is not even concrete to begin with.

If you didn't see it happen with your own eyes, hear it with you own ears, you can never be sure if it is true (and even then your senses/bias/perception can deceive you).

Be aware that History is recorded by the people who choose to record it. In the old days, people would keep histories orally through talking about it, then in writing, and now in writing/pictures/video/multi-media/etc. It's scary, but 100% of recorded history may be false. You cannot take an old text and investigate it, you just have to trust that what was recorded in it was factual and truthful. Judging now from how much erroneous data is on the internet, I don't think it's safe to trust any history book.

Wikipedia

Anyone with a Wikipedia account is able to record history now. In the future, every child will learn about the past from Wikipedia I believe, and the fact that any kid can learn about anything is great...but what percentage of that information is true?

Obviously things like science and math, texts that must adhere to specific rules and must have proof will be fine. We can experiment with data of scientists from 200 years ago and make sure that what they stated was accurate, that's great...but history is different, once the data has any room for arbitrary interpretations it can not be tested for its accuracy 200 years from now. Anything recorded today will likely be believed as fact in the future...even if it's not true.
Willy wanted wheels.

Wikipedia was frowned upon by teachers when it first came about, and with very good reason. It was erratic and insane when it first came out. There were a few moderators who were mostly 16 year old kids and none of the data on wikipedia could be trusted. The early days were rife with hooligans and vandals too, like people who made tongue-in-cheek entries or put everything on wiki-wheels (this was hilarious, though, you gotta admit).

The first experience I had editing wikipedia, was in 2004 when the Montreal Expos were moved to Washington. One of the wiki moderators deleted the Montreal Expos page, merged it with the Washington Senators page, and the 36 years of the team's history was reduced to "This team used to play in Montreal." I put it back up (I'm sure others did too) but it would keep getting deleted again. Foraying into the mad world of wikipedia moderators was a horrifying experience, they discuss every change on wikipedia at length like this secret club of data deities.

(example: http://theangryblackwoman.wordpress.com/2007/02/04/whispers-the-people-over-on-wikipedia-is-crazy-yo/)

That example is just to show an average everyday discussion of the wiki Data Deities. The woman wanted to register her account name as "angryblackwoman" and they discussed at length if she was allowed to use this user name or not. Those "weak allow" and "strong dissallow" and whatnot is them voting on whether or not she can use that name.

Anyways, every change to wikipedia goes through a myriad of discussion. It's not like you think, that anyone can edit it, that is not true. You can edit it, but it will instantaneously be checked over by moderators and they will decide if that data is allowed on wikipedia. It is interesting that hundreds of thousands of entries have been deleted, some of which surely were factual. In fact there is a site (deletionpedia) which archives the articles wikipedia deletes which I think is actually a great service.
Jiang is not imporant enough for Wiki

Deletionpedia has an entry, for example, on Bin Jiang which was deleted by wiki memeber "DGG" because he didn't think Jiang was important enough to be recorded into the annals of history. The wiki article had a photo of Bin, a song listing next to the photo, and a short bio of the man. The "speedy deletion" was contested it shows, but upheld by the Data Deities.

Isn't the whole process arbitrary? Should some teenager somewhere in the world be allowed to judge whether or not Bin Jiang is important enough to be recorded into history or not?

History was always selective, in the old days it was edited by kings, queens, and rulers to make them look like heroes. Now, it is edited by some greasy kids somewhere.

Sneaking erroneous data into wikipedia is still pretty easy, for example, an entry for the video game Photoboy, has a somewhat untrue, badly written, odd backstory applied to "David Goldman" the lead character in of the game. It has stayed up there for about 5 years now.

"David Goldman is an amateur photographer, who always loved to take pictures. One day, he went to Los Angeles Photography School to study more about taking pictures. Everyday, David commutes on the crowded trains, but trained and learned better in the academy so he can achieve his dreams on becoming the best photographer he ever wished for. He was happy at that time, but suddenly misfortune hit him. David's parents suddenly died in a plane crash, leaving him orphaned and all alone. He loved his parents deeply and cried at their burial, thinking that they will come back. David lost his confidence and is about to leave the academy to live a lonely and sad life. However for Dean, the principal of the academy saw him and made an unexpected proposal to him. The principal said if he completed 8 tests by taking 8 special photograph shots in 8 different locations, then he's allowed to graduate in the academy. Unsure about this offer, David still accepted the test and did everything he could to pass." 


-Wikipedia


There was also a statement about "David Goldman's" signature mannerisms and walk and how they were based on World War II aviation photographer Bob A. Boughy, but sadly, that tid-bit did not survive the wrath of the moderators.

If that Bob A. Boughy (say it a few times) statement, was phrased "Some argue that David Goldman's signature mannerisms and walk were based on WWII aviation photographer Bob A. Boughy" then it more than likely would have survived as well.

Apparently, according to wiki user "Einsidler" over 38,000 wiki pages contain the term "some argue" which is not very professional when you think about it. Who are these "some" that are arguing these all these claims? Who are these people?

Who knows...but for every "some" that is arguing there is a "some" that is reading those arguments, despite how crazy or laden with errors those claims may be.


Credulity

It's okay that there's silly or erroneous data on the web, what's not okay is that there are a lot of credulous web surfers out there. What's credulous? It's another way of saying "gullible" (and "gullible" of course...is not in the dictionary).

Credulity is hard to overcome, and most people don't want to. It's being credulous that lets us believe things that make us happy, it lets us believe in Gods, in Santa Clauses, and it helps us sift through information until we get to something that strengthens our current beliefs and state of mind. If you really wanted to convince yourself that Santa exists...I'm sure you could find articles on the web which would back you up.

Credulity and the information golden age cannot co-exist. The internet is churning out multitudes of data every second and all of it is questionable. The veracity of this data that "some" are arguing in most cases can be taken with a grain of salt...and surely not unconditional belief.

The credulity of today's society is outrageous. People believe anything, and I know it helps them through their troubles, and people who tell other people to stop believing always look mean...but I think it's time that society started leaning into skeptic territory.

A very old text urging people not to be credulous that's out there is a great read called Discoverie of Witchcraft by Reginald Scot (available: here). Scot was writing this in an age when the government was going around accusing people of witch craft and if they didn't pay the fine, they would torture these people into admitting they were witches, and then upon confession...they would burn them alive. The government was using this method to get rid of their critics and enemies, and they were basically using the people's credulity against them to make money and stay in power. This is a beloved book amongst skeptics up to this day and in the opening sentence, even Scot, feels bad about telling people not to believe,

Now, because it is relevant, and witchcraft so apparently accomplished through the art of sleight of hand, I thought it would be worthwhile to explain it. I am sorry to be the one to do this, and regret any effect this may have on those who earn their living performing such tricks for purposes of entertainment only, whose work is not only tolerable but greatly commendable. They do not abuse the name of God in this occupation, nor claim their power comes through him, but always acknowledge what they are doing to be tricks, and in fact through them unlawful and unpious deceivers may be exposed.

-Discoverie of Witchcraft, p.1


"He is sorry," he says, because he knows people make a living off of selling magic pendants, other voodoo shit, and knows some people are using deception for entertainment purposes but he also saw the very real danger of what credulous minds will do when they believe too foolishly. He helped reduce credulity of the age by explaining how common magick tricks were done, like thrusting bodkins into your skull and stuff like that...


TO THRUST A BODKIN INTO YOUR HEAD WITHOUT HURT.

Doin' it wrong: Bodkin WITH hurt.
    Have a knife made so that the handle is hollow and allows the blade to slip into it when held upside down. Hold it to your forehead and appear to thrust it in. With a little sponge concealed in your hand you can wring out blood or wine. If wine is running out of your forehead you can excuse it by explaining you have had a lot of wine to drink. Then, after an appropriate show of pain and grief, appear to pull the knife out of your head suddenly, so quickly that the blade falls back into place without being noticed. Immediately place the trick knife in your lap or pocket and switch it for an unprepared one. 

-Discoverie of Witchcraft, chapter XXXIV.

You think people are better today? The Wikipedia page for John Edward (the guy who millions of folks pay money to so he can talk to their dead relatives and relay what they said) has a small section on "controversy" but mainly states that Edward is a professional psychic medium and leaves it at that. There is no such thing as a professional psychic medium...get real.

The Wikipedia page for him should literally read as follows, "Edward cons grieving people out of hard earned money by pretending to talk to their dead relatives." That is the sanest and most accurate way of recording him in history.

Prop up your Propaganda

Propaganda used to be easy as pie. An authority in power tells you what to believe, and you believe it. Why were kings allowed to be in power and rich while everyone else suffered? Either they told them it's because they had blue blood, or were ordained by a God to rule and be rich, or some shit like that. Today it's different, you have to win a popularity contest in most countries and be an expert liar to stay in power.

Cartoon by David Horsey
It's harder to make people believe in authority for no good reason this day and age, but that doesn't mean authority hasn't figured out how. They play on your fears, your hatred, your xenophobia, your nationalism, your language, your religion, and certainly your credulity to get you on their side. Media has become a war of images, a war to prove a point, an image is now literally worth a thousand words. News outlets should not overtly be trusted for no good reason. If your government owns your news network for instance, you should practice extra skepticism on the reports issued from that outlet. The Chinese government for instance tries to ban most of the internet from its people, except for government controlled web servers.

Watch out for non-critical articles written about your government.

Handy Tools

Here's a couple of links which may be interesting or come in handy while surfing the intertubes:

Some argue (me) that this is the greatest macro of all time. G.O.A.T. son!

1. First off, here's Neil Degrasse Tyson in 9 photos. Choose which ones are real and which ones are shopped and you win some internets. This site is actually the first time I ever heard of science superstar NDT. If you choose right or wrong, Hany Farid will still explain why or why not the picture is shopped. It's not always about the pixels or how many shops you've seen in your journeys.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/sciencenow/0301/03-fakeorreal.html

2. List of Fallacies (this site is one of many, it's just the first one from google I picked. You can search for others too). It has examples of fallacies such as Loaded Language and others. In literature and entertainment writing all language should be loaded chock-to-the-brim with emotion, but in a news article NO language should be loaded up with emotions.

http://www.iep.utm.edu/fallacy/#Loaded%20Language

3. Photos have been edited for a long time, here's some (then again maybe some of them are hoaxes, who knows).

http://www.fourandsix.com/photo-tampering-history/

4. I love this site Snopes ever since it first came out. They investigate hoaxes and now they try and investigate just about everything on the net. It's been around a while and is not only great but fun to read as well.

http://www.snopes.com/




Keep it real.

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