Friday, December 23, 2005

Why people don't like Wikipedia (and blogs)

I almost think I understand this (from Marginal Revolution):

Q: Why are people so uncomfortable with Wikipedia? And Google? And, well, that whole blog thing?
A: Because these systems operate on the alien logic of probabilistic statistics, which sacrifices perfection at the microscale for optimization at the macroscale.

Q: Huh?

A: Exactly. Our brains aren't wired to think in terms of statistics and probability. We want to know whether an encyclopedia entry is right or wrong. We want to know that there's a wise hand (ideally human) guiding Google's results. We want to trust what we read.

When professionals--editors, academics, journalists--are running the show, we at least know that it's someone's job to look out for such things as accuracy. But now we're depending more and more on systems where nobody's in charge; the intelligence is simply emergent. These probabilistic systems aren't perfect, but they are statistically optimized to excel over time and large numbers. They're designed to
scale, and to improve with size. And a little slop at the microscale is the price of such efficiency at the macroscale.

Here is the link, thanks to

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