Why Stupidity Wins
We now have most of the world’s information right at our fingertips. But, as Adam Gopnik notes, we’re not necessarily getting smarter:
In a practical, immediate way, one sees the limits of the so-called “extended mind” clearly in the mob-made Wikipedia, the perfect product of that new vast, supersized cognition: when there’s easy agreement, it’s fine, and when there’s widespread disagreement on values or facts, as with, say, the origins of capitalism, it’s fine, too; you get both sides. The trouble comes when one side is right and the other side is wrong and doesn’t know it. The Shakespeare authorship page and the Shroud of Turin page are scenes of constant conflict and are packed with unreliable information. Creationists crowd cyberspace every bit as effectively as evolutionists, and extend their minds just as fully. Our trouble is not the over-all absence of smartness but the intractable power of pure stupidity, and no machine, or mind, seems extended enough to cure that.
It’s probably the single most frustrating thing about blogging: Even long-settled facts are still subject to “debate,” and it’s now easier than ever to link to “authoritative” accounts “proving” things that are wildly wrong.