שדה האוהלים 2: מאואיזם דיגיטלי וביקורות

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[http://www.edge.org/conversation/digital-maoism-the-hazards-of-the-new-online-collectivism

תוכן עניינים

[עריכה] 1.

"Collectives can be just as stupid as any individual, and in important cases, stupider. The interesting question is whether it's possible to map out where the one is smarter than the many.
"There is a lot of history to this topic, and varied disciplines have lots to say. Here is a quick pass at where I think the boundary between effective collective thought and nonsense lies: The collective is more likely to be smart when it isn't defining its own questions, when the goodness of an answer can be evaluated by a simple result (such as a single numeric value,) and when the information system which informs the collective is filtered by a quality control mechanism that relies on individuals to a high degree. Under those circumstances, a collective can be smarter than a person. Break any one of those conditions and the collective becomes unreliable or worse.
"Meanwhile, an individual best achieves optimal stupidity on those rare occasions when one is both given substantial powers and insulated from the results of his or her actions.
"If the above criteria have any merit, then there is an unfortunate convergence. The setup for the most stupid collective is also the setup for the most stupid individuals."

[עריכה] 2.

"The pre-Internet world provides some great examples of how personality-based quality control can improve collective intelligence. For instance, an independent press provides tasty news about politicians by reporters with strong voices and reputations, like the Watergate reporting of Woodward and Bernstein. Other writers provide product reviews, such as Walt Mossberg in The Wall Street Journal and David Pogue in The New York Times. Such journalists inform the collective's determination of election results and pricing. Without an independent press, composed of heroic voices, the collective becomes stupid and unreliable, as has been demonstrated in many historical instances. (Recent events in America have reflected the weakening of the press, in my opinion.)
"Scientific communities likewise achieve quality through a cooperative process that includes checks and balances, and ultimately rests on a foundation of goodwill and "blind" elitism — blind in the sense that ideally anyone can gain entry, but only on the basis of a meritocracy. The tenure system and many other aspects of the academy are designed to support the idea that individual scholars matter, not just the process or the collective."

[עריכה] 3.

[http://www.edge.org/conversation/digital-maoism-the-hazards-of-the-new-online-collectivism Larry Sanger

Co-founder of Wikipedia and Citizendium),

"First, surely, no one would admit to believing that the "collective is all-wise." So hasn't Lanier set up a straw man? Second, I myself am an advocate of what I call "strong collaboration," exemplified by Wikipedia, in which a work is developed not just by multiple authors, but a constantly changing battery of authors, none of which "owns" the work. So am I not myself committed, if anyone is, to believing "the collective is all-wise"?

To understand Lanier's thesis, and where I agree with it — and why it isn't a straw man — it helps to consider certain attitudes one pretty commonly finds in the likes of Wikipedia, Slashdot, and the Blogosphere generally. Let me describe something close to home. In late 2004 I publicly criticized Wikipedia for failing to respect expertise properly, to which a surprisingly large number of people replied that, essentially, Wikipedia's success has shown that "experts" are no longer needed, that a wide-ranging description of everyone's opinions is more valuable than what some narrow-minded "expert" thinks.

Slashdot's post-ranking system is another perfect example. Slashdotters simply would not stand for a system in which some hand-selected group of editors chose or promoted posts; but if the result is decided by an impersonal algorithm, then it's okay. It isn't that the Slashdotters have a rational belief that the cream will rise to the top, under the system; people use the system just because it seems fairer or more equal to them.

It's not quite right to say the "collectivists" believe that the collective is all-wise. Rather, they don't really care about getting it right as much as they care about equality.

You might notice that Lanier never bothered to refute, in his essay, the view that the collective is all-wise. That's because this view is obviously wrong. Truth and high quality generally are obviously not guaranteed by sheer numbers. But then the champions of collective opinion-making and aggregation surely don't think they are. So isn't Lanier just knocking down a straw man? I don't think so. As I take it, the substance of his point is that the aggregate views expressed by the collective are actually more valuable, in some sense, than anything produced by people designated as "experts" or "authorities."

Think about that a bit. Ultimately, I think there is a deep epistemological issue at work here. Epistemologists have a term, positive epistemic status, for the positive features that can attach to beliefs; so truth, knowledge, justification, evidence, and various other terms are all names for various kinds of positive epistemic status.

So I think we are discovering that there is a lively movement afoot that rejects the traditional kinds of positive epistemic status, and wants to replace them with, or explain them in terms of, whatever it is that the collective (i.e., a large group of people, of which one is a part) believes or endorses. We can give this view a name, for convenience: epistemic collectivism.

Epistemic collectivism is a real phenomenon; whether they admit it or not, a lot of people do place the views of the collective uppermost. People are epistemic collectivists in just the same way, and for just the same reasons, that they are abject conformists. Surely epistemic collectivism has its roots in the easy sophomoric embrace of relativism. If there is no objective truth, as so many of my old college students seemed to believe, then there is no way to make sense of the idea of expertise or of intellectual authority. Without a reality "out there," independent of us, that we can be right or wrong about, there is no way to justify placing some "experts" above the rest of us in terms of the reliability of their claims. If you're an epistemic collectivist, then it's natural to think that the experts can be overruled by the rest of us.

Now to the second paradox I mentioned earlier. How can I agree with Lanier and still promote strong collaboration? How can both I reject epistemic collectivism and yet say that Wikipedia is a great project, which I do? Well, the problem is that epistemic collectivists like Wikipedia but for the wrong reasons. What's great about it is not that it produces an averaged view, an averaged view that is somehow better than an authoritative statement by people who actually know the subject. That's just not it at all. What's great about Wikipedia is the fact that it is a way to organize enormous amounts of labor for a single intellectual purpose. The virtue of strong collaboration, as demonstrated by projects like Wikipedia, is that it represents a new kind of "industrial revolution," where what is reorganized is not techne but instead mental effort. It's the sheer efficiency of strongly collaborative systems that is so great, not their ability to produce The Truth. Just how to eke The Truth out of such a strongly collaborative system is an unsolved, and largely unaddressed, problem."

[עריכה] 4.

Larry Sanger (17 July 2007). "Review of Keen's "Cult of the Amateur"". Citizendium Blog. Retrieved 21 May 2011.

In a review of Andrew Keen's book The Cult of the Amateur, Sanger comments ironically on Keen's favorable treatment of Citizendium: "The first example of a 'solution' he offers is the Citizendium, or the Citizens' Compendium, which I like to describe briefly as Wikipedia with editors and real names. But how can Citizendium be a solution to the problems he raises, if it has experts working without pay, and the result is free? If it succeeds, won't it contribute to the decline of reference publishing?"

[עריכה] 5.

Vivian (2007), comment, 22/8/2007 on Larry Sanger (17 July 2007). "Review of Keen's "Cult of the Amateur"". Citizendium Blog. Retrieved 21 May 2011.
"Internet is only showing more clearly more structural aspects of our society. This Cult of amateurism is following me an effect of the myth of the equality (translation for French). Believing eveybody is ‘equal’ means that everybody has en equal access to knowledge, public spaces, politics, education… But we know, this is not true. It is even worse than we think because the society is becoming more dual than we think: the mass and the others having the decisional power, money… The main problem is this how we stratify and structure the society and with the rising of mass tools (internet, media, telivision…), the mainstreaming mass is more compact than ever, and real changes in the hands of very very fews."

[עריכה] 6.

Britta, 28/8/2007

"I have to strongly disagree with the statement that the internet ‘’steals culture” It enhances American’s insights as far as how colorful the world really is. Knowlege is power and i do not believe that knowlege should be limited in a SOCIETY where information is something you cannot live without."

[עריכה] 7.

Kevin Kelly Editor at Large, Wired, Author-What Technology Wants [1]

[..] the Wikipedia now represents smart chaos, or bottom up power, or decentralized being, or out of control goodness, or what I seemed to have called for the lack of a better term: the hive mind. It is not the only hive mind out there. We see the web itself, and other collective entities, such as fandoms, voting audiences, link aggregators, consensus filters, opens source communities, and so on, all basking in a rising tide of loosely connected communal action.

But it doesn't take very long to discover that none of these innovations is pure hive mind, and that the supposed paragon of ad hocary — the Wikipedia — is itself far from strictly bottom-up. In fact a close inspection of Wikipedia's process reveals that it has an elite at its center, (and that it does have a center is news to most), and that there is far more deliberate design management going on than first appears.

This is why Wikipedia has worked in such a short time. The main drawback to pure unadulterated Darwinism is that it takes place in biological time — eons. The top-down design part woven deep within by Jimmy Wales and associates has allowed the Wikipedia to be smarter than pure dumb evolution would allow in a few years. It is important to remember how dumb the bottom is in essence. In biological natural selection, the prime architect is death. What's dumber than that? One binary bit.

We are too much in a hurry to wait around for a pure hive mind. Our technological systems are marked by the fact that we have introduced intelligent design into them. This is the top-down control we insert to speed and direct a system toward our goals. Every technological system, including Wikipedia, has design in it. What's new is only this: never before have we been able to make systems with as much "hive" in it as we have recently made with the Web. Until this era, technology was primarily all control, all design. Now it can be design and hive. In fact, this Web 2.0 business is chiefly the first step in exploring all the ways in which we can combine design and the hive in innumerable permutations. We are tweaking the dial in hundreds of combos: dumb writers, smart filters; smart writers, dumb filters, ad infinitum.

[עריכה] 8.

Cory Doctorow

(there)

"If you need to convince a gatekeeper that your contribution is worthy before you're allowed to make it, you'd better hope the gatekeeper has superhuman prescience. (Gatekeepers don't have superhuman prescience.) Historically, the best way to keep the important things rolling off the lines is to reduce the barriers to entry. Important things are a fraction of all things, and therefore, the more things you have, the more important things you'll have."

[עריכה] 9.

new york times decline - since it's not doing the job right

Yochai Benkler Berkman Professor of Entrepreneurial Legal Studies, Harvard; Author, The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom "Extracting Signal From Noisy Spin" (there)

"So too is the decline he decries for the New York Times. In my recent work, I have been trying to show how the networked public sphere improves upon the mass mediated public sphere along precisely the dimensions of Fourth Estate function that Lanier extolls, and how the distributed blogosphere can correct, sometimes, at least, the mass media failings. It was, after all, Russ Kick's Memory Hole, not the New York Times, that first broke pictures of military personnel brought home in boxes from Iraq. It was one activist, Bev Harris with her website blackboxvoting, an academic group led by Avi Rubin, a few Swarthmore students, and a network of thousands who replicated the materials about Diebold voting machines after 2002 that led to review and recall of many voting machines in California and Maryland. The mainstream media, meanwhile, sat by, dutifully repeating the reassurances of officials who bought the machines and vendors who sold them. Now, claims that the Internet democratizes are old, by now.
"Going beyond the 1990s naive views of democracy in cyberspace, on the one hand, and the persistent fears of fragmentation and the rise of Babel, on the other hand, we can now begin to interpret the increasing amoung of data we have on our behavior on the the Web and in the blogsphere. What we see in fact is that we are not intellectual lemmings. We do not meander about in the intellectual equivalent of Brownian motion. We cluster around topics we care about. We find people who care about similar issues. We talk. We link. We see what others say and think. And through our choices we develop a different path for determining what issues are relevant and salient, through a distributed system that, while imperfect, is less easily corrupted than the advertising supported media that dominated the twentieth century."
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