Some 40 years ago, Philip K. Dick penned a story of dark times with flying cars and unstable androids who wanted a life of their own. Almost two decades later, Ridley Scott directed Blade Runner which was (surprisingly for Scott) a much diluted dystopia (guess PKD was a bit too much for him).
The film and the book both have many things to talk about — and this post is not really about them. There is one thing notable with recent news. The Spinner flying cars from the plot represented a futuristic vehicle that was capable of being driven over ground and flying through air. Sound was necessary for proper effects and the moving cars were shown to give off a high-pitched whistling noise (sound is important, check the Star Wars space ship noises and compare them to the 2001: A Space Odyssey silence). Many movies picked up this theme of flying cars and some even represented the sound made by these cars. One always wondered what sound advanced technologies would make as they replaced the engines of today.
Well, Nissan has taken a different problem to solve for their new silent electric and hybrid cars. You need to have some noise to make a car safe for the external world. Curiously, they decided to use the Spinner’s whistle for this.
We have seen a lot of technology inspired by science fiction, this is a different one.
Maybe we will see really silent glass lift doors with the StarTrek sound-effects to remind people when they operate.
With growing strength of open-source encyclopedic media (like Wikipedia) arise questions on accidental and more importantly intentional false information being published and retained on the web.
The Seigenthaler incident even suggests ways this could be done on Wikipedia by someone with malicious intent and know-how. Adding responsibility to the mechanism like Wales intends — disallowing anonymous new-entry creation — will probably not suffice. What is going to stop the anonymous from creating a few registrations?
Wikipedia does not require an e-mail id for creating a registration ( e-mail id is considered a unique mapping to a person; but, lets not split-hair on that here) and, has no protection against automatic registrations through scripts (remember those small pictures with numbers and letters scrawled like a kid learning the alphabet?). Well let’s argue that Wales will introduce all these into the registration process while he is striking anonymous postings out.
But, that does not preclude the primary problem of well-placed misinformation being introduced. This was never a spam problem. At least it is not yet, while we don’t have robots doing this 🙂
About the postings being partisan (the Curry episode), it does sound a bit difficult for an information repository being managed dynamically to remain objective. Personal bias will rule in little packets all over; Wales has accepted this side of the coin.
So, where does it land? would you trust the next page of information you read on Wikipedia?
Its not that bleak if you did not start browsing the Internet for information today.
Here are a few things to start with.
1. All data on the Internet is put with some purpose (and I am not talking theological here).
2. What is the probable ratio of people looking at a piece of information on Wikipedia to be (a) knowledgeable and interested in keeping it correct to that of (b) wanting to corrupt it?
You have very likely done this at your sub-conscious already — formed a checklist of how to judge the value of Wikipedia pages — and can add to this list easily once you put your mind to it.
Edit: There is another angle to publishing with crediblity; get an expert to review the content. This is something Digital Universe is working on. How does that model work? it would certainly be telling to follow where the likes of Digital Universe reach. Crux: is an expert objective in what they publish? Bias is at the core of human nature, be it a non-profit organization or your regular school text book publisher…
Google is starting to use its acquisition…