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Wednesday, December 14, 2005


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I haven't had enough time to think through these options, but I think you're right - for us to have any hope, we have to find a way out of non-debate of contemporary culture.

Also, I think that underlying all this is a fundamental optimism about human nature: it assume that we really WANT the truth, that we're open to having our prejudices and convictions overturned if we find a source we deem credible. I hope that's true -- I'm just not sure it is.

This is pessimistic and not really helpful, but I had another thought reading the "Grokking Woodward" article. From a different angle, Rosen was making the same point Bill Moyers made months ago: "the delusional is no longer marginal."

Empiricism, Rosen assumes, did used to help us weed out delusion. I think he's right and I think it did. I know their are all sorts of philosophical argumetns about the lack of real objectivity in things like empiricism, but I think they are overstated and overblown and mostly good for getting tenure. We need to find some way to recognize what seems obvious: while their may be no such thing of objectivity, some things get much closer to it than others. A blanket "their is no objectivity" just isn't good enough for us to talk to each other meaningfully.

Maybe this is where credibility ratings come in. I confess to having no clue how to make that work, and I think it assumes a more tech savvy world than actually exists. For all the blogosphere bluster, taking blogs seriously is still kind of cutting edge. No one I know -- and I'm under 30 -- reads them as much as I do.

Here's a guess: our affluence allows us to live in a way I call delusional. Eventually, our delusions will lead us into some sort of devasting colliision with reality - environmental, economic, military, or other -- which will end our affluence. Then, perhaps, sheer necessity and desperation will force people to cut the crap, ditch their ideological shells, and deal with whatever reality seems most empirically true. With our protetective cushion of affluence gone, rhetoric will change.

So my pessimistic -- extremetly pessimistic -- take? It'll take a disaster of some sort to end the self-interested posturing. And even then, it might not work. We might only get finger pointing.

I could ramble further, but that's it for now.

Jay Rosen


Janet Edens

Ben, very nice. We are going to have a collision with reality (eventually) and the only question is how bad will it be? People who sense that something will have to happen to jerk us out of the current bitter malaise are both dreading it and looking forward to it. I would venture to say that the interest in a flu pandemic, dramatic climate change and other extreme events comes tinged with a little morbid hope.

Not that we want the miserable reality of such a dramatic event, but we are so ready for change.

Kinda like labor. There are few other options if you want a baby, but you know it ain't gonna be fun. But after nine months of waddling around and not being able to breathe, you're ready to go through whatever it takes. And, you hope, there will be drugs ...

Maybe we won't have to birth a brave new world. Maybe we can adopt. But regardless, it's going to be a lot of work.

Trust boils down to a relationship between me and you. Certain sectors of our world have been actively working to destroy our willingness, or even ability, to trust anyone. But disinformation always comes full circle on the perpetrator. It's inevitable. Teach me to trust know one and eventually I don't trust you.

The Web, more than any other medium, allows us to build trust at our own pace, with our own standards. I suspect that ideas and great journalism are not what is going to power the Web to the next level.

It will be vacuum cleaners. And toasters and coffee makers and all the things I can find out about online. I can read reviews of products and stores. I can vent my bad experiences in a way that is meaningful and far more effective than a letter to the company president.

Commerce is going to be the thing that speeds the net revolution. And we can take those lessons and apply them to the world of information. Here's my suggestions for making me trust you.

1. Let me see what others think about you.
2. Don't sell me crap.
3. Deliver on your promises.
4. Give me products/ideas that improve my life.

That's it.

Janet Edens

one more.

5. Make good on your mistakes.

Josh Young

For a model of "authority" that's built for twitter but could generalize easily to other directed social graphs, consider http://tunkrank.com/. It's all about attention economics as a way of getting a handle on whom we trust.

Daniel Tunkelang, chief scientist at Endeca, conceived of the algorithm and explains it here:


PS. I now remember reading this post and loving it more than a year ago. Awesome.

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