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   RE: [xml-dev] Aggregated content, fact checking, PICS, Atom/RSS (was Rig

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That is a good observation of the state of things today, Bob.  I'm not sure 
it will hold for a long time.   Efforts in the US Congress to 
create constraints for political blogging, for one example, can 
alter the at-will conditions for that activity.  No, the US is 
not The Web, but just as US patent models are now proposed in 
Europe and resisted, many models are duplicated if a strong 
enough polity wants them.  However, I concede the power of 
FOAF-like strategies.  I also know they in no way are a 
measure of truth; just belief:  a useful metric but not 
complete.  It depends on the relationship of the assertion 
to the response as to what metrics are adequate.

Townes, the co-inventor of the laser and maser endorsed 
intelligent design.  For every idea somewhere between science 
and pseudo-science, there can be found an authority.  Science 
does not rest on authority; sciene is a method, but belief in 
hypotheses can succumb to the fallacy of authority.  

Belief is not repeatable experiment.  A scientific theory is 
not a street theory.   The reason for citing the original article 
was to determine what if any assertions about *the technologies* 
were valid, not to determine if there are black helicopters 
(there are: used by special ops, and there are unmarked transport 
aircraft because they fly in and out of any major supply base: one 
has to prove what they are used for, not that they exist.)

The principle of rationality is a weak predictor of human behavior, 
because even given a Nash equilibrium the bet that other players won't 
change their strategies is only a bet requiring perfect 
knowledge, and because some games are of the form RPS 
(rock paper scissors) and there is no winning strategy that 
does not involve meta-strategy (psych out opponent). As 
you say, don't bet on rationality.
One can cry for 'the people's power in democracy' but that like 
any ideal pushed into absurdity of action has to be measured as 
any student of the French Revolution can tell you.  One can also 
observe the 20th century history of the Poles to know where the 
other extreme is and what can come of persistence in pursuit of 
self-governance.   No idea or hand alone turns the wheel; it can take 
many revolutions and many hands.

So once again, we have to apply rigorous filters to any speech 
act commensurate with the actions one might consider given any 
instance of that act.  Understanding these is likely to improve 
our actions if not eliminate false or misleading signals.
Interesting thread, but not what I'd hoped for.  


From: Bob Foster [mailto:bob@objfac.com]

My basic reaction is that the web at large is not a meritocracy, but a 
global marketplace of ideas and cheap thrills that is strongly resistant 
to control of any kind, including quality control.

Yes, what makes scientific literature (and science itself) "work" is 
peer review. But the fact that you are published in reviewed journals 
does not mean that every stray thought you might blog is authoritative. 
Linus Pauling won two Nobel prizes and was widely regarded as a 
scientific genius but was something of a quack on the subject of vitamin 
C. His pronouncements on the latter were much more widely known than his 
scientific achievements. Does vitamin C prevent the common cold? Nope. 
But a generation thought it did, based on Pauling's endorsement.

When the arena is political rather than scientific, peer review is a 
dream worthy of Quixote. Political ideologies are remarkably resistant 
to "facts", there are few repeatable experiments, etc. But I don't have 
to descend to politics. Consider the dismal science, which at its most 
objective studies the conformance of models to historical data and at 
its least promulgates a set of faith-based assertions, like 
"Unemployment rates below six percent are inflationary" and "Lowering 
taxes stimulates investment" which, like dot-com stocks, are only 
valuable to the extent they are believed to be valuable. No amount of 
peer review can filter out the non-science in conventional wisdom.

Do you believe global warming is fact or fiction? There is a great deal 
of evidence on both sides and both are guilty of cherry-picking the 
evidence to support their preconceptions. Is Michael Chrighton right or 
wrong on this subject? Should his ideas be filtered through the 
scientific establishment? Do you really believe they could be?

The brilliance of the web is that it is (mostly) uncensored, even by 
rationality. I don't expect this to change, and rather hope it won't.


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