Archive for October 7th, 2012

October 7, 2012

An Army of Davids

Glenn Reynolds

An Army of Davids: How Markets and Technology Empower Ordinary People to Beat Big Media, Big Government, and Other Goliaths’ is a2006 book by Glenn Reynolds, a law professor at the University of Tennessee also known as the blogger ‘Instapundit’.

The book looks at modern American society through the lens of individuals versus social institutions, and Reynolds concludes that technological change has allowed more freedom of action for people in contrast to the ‘big’ establishment organizations that used to function as gatekeepers. Thus, he argues that the balance of power between individuals and institutions is ‘flatting out,’ which involves numerous decentralized networks rising up. Reynolds divides the book into two distinct sections. The first focuses on trends currently taking place. The latter describes upcoming trends.

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October 7, 2012

The Cult of the Amateur

Andrew Keen

The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet Is Killing Our Culture’ is a 2007 book written by entrepreneur and Internet critic Andrew Keen; it is a critique of the enthusiasm surrounding user generated content, peer production, and other Web 2.0-related phenomena.

The book was written after Keen wrote a controversial essay in ‘The Weekly Standard’ criticizing Web 2.0 for being similar to Marxism, for destroying professionalism and for making it impossible to find high quality material amidst all the user-generated web content. The book was based in part on that essay. Keen argues against the idea of a ‘read-write culture’ in media, stating that ‘most of the content being shared— no matter how many times it has been linked, cross-linked, annotated, and copied— was composed or written by someone from the sweat of their creative brow and the disciplined use of their talent.’

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October 7, 2012

Deletionism and Inclusionism

aiw

Adw

Deletionism and inclusionism are opposing philosophies that largely developed and came to public notice within the context of the community of editors of the online encyclopedia Wikipedia. The terms are connected to views on the appropriate scope of the encyclopedia, and the appropriate point for a topic to be allowed to ‘include’ an encyclopedia article (i.e., ‘inclusion’) or ‘delete’ the article (i.e., ‘deletion’).

Inclusionism and deletionism are broad terms falling within a spectrum of views. The concepts are closely related to the concept of notability, with deletionists and inclusionists taking a strong or relaxed stance on ‘notability’ accordingly. Many users do not identify strongly with either position. ‘Deletionists’ are proponents of selective coverage and removal of articles seen as unnecessary or highly substandard. Deletionist viewpoints are commonly motivated by a desire that Wikipedia be focused on and cover significant topics – along with the desire to place a firm cap upon proliferation of promotional use (seen as abuse of the website), trivia, and articles which are of no general interest, lack suitable source material for high quality coverage, or are too short or otherwise unacceptably poor in quality.

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October 7, 2012

Reliability of Wikipedia

citogenesis

truth in numbers

The reliability of Wikipedia (primarily of the English-language edition), compared to other encyclopedias and more specialized sources, is assessed in many ways, including statistically, through comparative review, analysis of the historical patterns, and strengths and weaknesses inherent in the editing process unique to Wikipedia.

Several studies have been done to assess the reliability of Wikipedia. A notable early study in the journal ‘Nature’ said that in 2005, ‘Wikipedia scientific articles came close to the level of accuracy in Encyclopædia Britannica and had a similar rate of ‘serious errors.’ The study was disputed by ‘Encyclopædia Britannica,’ and later ‘Nature’ responded to this refutation with both a formal response and a point-by-point rebuttal of Britannica’s main objections.

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October 7, 2012

Wikiality

Wikiality

truth in numbers

In a 2006 episode of the satirical news show ‘The Colbert Report,’ Stephen Colbert announced the neologism ‘Wikiality‘ (a portmanteau of the words ‘Wiki’ and ‘reality’) defined as ‘truth by consensus’ (rather than fact), modeled after the approval-by-consensus format of Wikipedia. He ironically praised Wikipedia for following his philosophy of ‘truthiness,’ in which intuition and consensus is a better reflection of reality than fact:

‘You see, any user can change any entry, and if enough other users agree with them, it becomes true. … If only the entire body of human knowledge worked this way. And it can, thanks to tonight’s word: ‘Wikiality.’ Now, folks, I’m no fan of reality, and I’m no fan of encyclopedias. I’ve said it before. Who is Britannica to tell me that George Washington had slaves? If I want to say he didn’t, that’s my right. And now, thanks to Wikipedia, it’s also a fact. We should apply these principles to all information. All we need to do is convince a majority of people that some factoid is true. … What we’re doing is bringing democracy to knowledge.’

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October 7, 2012

Project A119

Lunar Research Flights

Project A119, also known as ‘A Study of Lunar Research Flights,’ was a top-secret plan developed in the late 1950s by the United States Air Force. The aim of the project was to detonate a nuclear bomb on the Moon to boost public morale in the United States after the Soviet Union took an early lead in the Space Race. The existence of the project was revealed in 2000 by a former NASA executive, Leonard Reiffel, who led the project in 1958.

A young Carl Sagan was part of the team responsible for predicting the effects of a nuclear explosion in low gravity. Project A119 was never carried out, primarily because a moon landing would be a much more acceptable achievement in the eyes of the American public. The project documents remained secret for nearly 45 years, and despite Reiffel’s revelations, the US government has never officially recognized its involvement in the study.

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October 7, 2012

Project Horizon

Army Ballistic Missile Agency

Project Horizon was a study to determine the feasibility of constructing a scientific / military base on the Moon. In 1959, a group at the Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA) produced for the U.S. Department of the Army a report entitled ‘Project Horizon, A U.S. Army Study for the Establishment of a Lunar Military Outpost.’

The project proposal states the requirements as: ‘The lunar outpost is required to develop and protect potential United States interests on the moon; to develop techniques in moon-based surveillance of the earth and space, in communications relay, and in operations on the surface of the moon; to serve as a base for exploration of the moon, for further exploration into space, and for military operations on the moon if required; and to support scientific investigations on the moon.’

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October 7, 2012

Negative and Positive Atheism

explicit atheism

Positive atheism (also called ‘strong atheism’ and ‘hard atheism’) is the form of atheism that asserts that no deities exist. Negative atheism (also called ‘weak atheism’ and ‘soft atheism’) is any other type of atheism, wherein a person does not believe in the existence of any deities, but does not explicitly assert there to be none.

The terms negative atheism and positive atheism were used by British philosopher Antony Flew in 1976,[1] and appeared again in Boston University philosopher Michael Martin’s writings in 1990. Because of flexibility in the term ‘god,’ it is possible that a person could be a positive/strong atheist in terms of certain conceptions of God, while remaining a negative/weak atheist in terms of others.

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October 7, 2012

Weak Agnosticism

atheist

Weak agnosticism is the assertion that, at present, there is not enough information to know whether any deities exist, but that such might become knowable, or that someone may come forward with a conclusive and irrefutable proof for the existence of such deities. It is in contrast to strong agnosticism, which is the belief that the existence of any gods is completely unknowable to humanity. Neither type of agnosticism is fully irreconcilable with theism (belief in a deity or deities) nor atheism (rejecting belief in all deities).

Weak agnostics who also consider themselves theists are likely to acknowledge they have some doubt, though they are not necessarily having a crisis of faith. Weak agnosticism is compatible with weak atheism (wherein a person does not believe in the existence of any deities, but does not explicitly assert there to be none). Weak agnosticism is also referred to as ’empirical agnosticism’ and as ‘negative agnosticism.’ According to Australian philosopher Graham Oppy, weak agnosticism is ‘the view which is sustained by the thesis that it is permissible for reasonable persons to suspend judgement on the question of God’s existence.’

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