Links to Human Folly,”Narrative”, and Too Many Books

May 14, 2012

These days my tweets are becoming a bit pompous.

When you reach a certain age you realise that the ingenuity but also the stupidity of human beings is never going to change. Which makes me shrug my shoulders in a pompous fashion (it’s known in my house as “the Reynolds ‘of course!'”).

Still Twitter remains a very good way of finding good things to read. If you want some insights into human folly, look no further than:

1. “Case Law: McGrath v Dawkins – creationism, atheism and internet forums, where libel law should fear to tread” from Inform blog via @AdamWagner1

This one’s got everything: Amazon, Richard Dawkins, the High Court and poor online behaviour. All I’ll say is if you’re in a hole, maybe you should think about putting down your shovel?

2. “Why Google Isn’t Making Us Stupid.. or Smart” by Chris Wellmon at the Hedgehog Review (via The Browser)

I loved the connections Chris established between hyperlinks and footnotes as a source of authority. And his observation that information overload comes with a whole set of cultural prejudices from the gatekeepers of knowledge. The problem (of course!) is that there are too many bad books and the wrong people (i.e. women) are reading and writing them!:

Similar to contemporary worries that Google and Wikipedia are making us stupid, these eighteenth-century complaints about “excess” were not merely descriptive. In 1702 the jurist and philosopher Christian Thomasius laid out some of the normative concerns that would gain increasing traction over the course of the century. He described the writing and business of books as a:

kind of Epidemic disease, which hath afflicted Europe for a long time, and is more fit to fill warehouses of booksellers, than the libraries of the Learned. Any one may understand this to be meant of that itching desire to write books, which people are troubled with at this time. Heretofore none but the learned, or at least such as ought to be accounted so, meddled with this subject, but now-a-days there is nothing more common, it extends itself through all professions, so that now almost the very Coblers, and Women who can scarce read, are ambitious to appear in print, and then we may see them carrying their books from door to door, as a Hawker does his comb cases, pins and laces…

3 “The Irrationality of Irrationality: The Paradox of Popular Psychology” from Scientific American (via @diane1859)

It is a relief to see a lucid argument to support my dislike of the way the word “narrative” is used and misused in the corporate media world. People jump to conclusions and contruct their “stories” without thinking. The next time someone says to me “what’s the narrative?” I’ll send them a link to this and say “what are the facts?”.

4. “Institutional Memory and Reverse Smuggling” by an engineer (via @Kevin Marks)

This one speaks for itself:

I worked for several decades at a large petrochemical company. In the early 1980s, we designed and built a plant that refines some hydrocarbon type stuff into other hydrocarbon type stuff. Over the next thirty years, institutional memory of this plant faded to a dim recollection. Oh, it still operates, and still makes money for the firm. Day to day maintenance is performed, and the skilled local crew is familiar with the controls, valves, safety systems, and other such.

But the company has forgotten how it really works…

Read on!


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