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Still Brill

May 15, 2010

As Jason Kottke astutely notes, How to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Internet, by the late, great Douglas Adams is brilliant and still quite relevant, despite being more than a decade old:

Of course you can’t ‘trust’ what people tell you on the web anymore than you can ‘trust’ what people tell you on megaphones, postcards or in restaurants. Working out the social politics of who you can trust and why is, quite literally, what a very large part of our brain has evolved to do. For some batty reason we turn off this natural scepticism when we see things in any medium which require a lot of work or resources to work in, or in which we can’t easily answer back—like newspapers, television or granite. Hence ‘carved in stone.’ What should concern us is not that we can’t take what we read on the internet on trust—of course you can’t, it’s just people talking—but that we ever got into the dangerous habit of believing what we read in the newspapers or saw on the TV—a mistake that no one who has met an actual journalist would ever make. One of the most important things you learn from the internet is that there is no ‘them’ out there. It’s just an awful lot of ‘us’.

Exactly. We’re right here.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Laura permalink
    June 13, 2010 9:02 am

    Exactly. Unfortunately, the BP spill has made me aware that we have too much trust in a “them” of technological wizards who can solve anything. In actuality, they’re just a lot of “us” with some engineering degrees and a lot of bullshit.

    • June 13, 2010 12:05 pm

      Oh, I think in BP’s case it’s the financial wizards who are most to blame–the ones whose calculations ignored the engineers and the scientists, the honest regulators (and there were some) who pointed out that safety would cost money BP didn’t see fit to spend. Those wizards made their decisions behind the scenes. We weren’t even given an opportunity to believe or disbelieve BP’s line of bullshit until it was too late to matter.

      See HOW YOU GET A BP (via Making Light), which lays it out in plain English…

      • Laura permalink
        June 13, 2010 10:31 pm

        Hmm, unfortunately, an excellent point!

      • June 14, 2010 9:49 pm

        Apropos of that, this, from Bruce Sterling via BoingBoing:

        I’d also like to point out that large financial centers in certain cities around the planet are certainly going to kill millions of us by destroying our social safety networks in the name of their imaginary financial efficiency. You’re a thousand times more likely to die because of what some urban banker did in 2008 than from what some Afghan-based terrorist did in 2001. *Financiers live in small, panicky urban cloisters, severely detached from the rest of mankind. They are living today in rich-guy ghetto cults. They are truly dangerous to our well-being, and they are getting worse and more extremist, not better and more reasonable. You’re not gonna realize this havoc till you see your elderly Mom coughing in an emergency ward, but she’s going there for a reason.

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