Why people don’t like Wikipedia (and blogs)

by on December 23, 2005 at 6:55 am in Web/Tech | Permalink

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 http://kottke.org.

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