Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Wiki Grows Up

Here's a BIG generalization:
As people get older they tend to become more rational.

That is SO not true. It is a major over simplification.

When I was younger I thought people generally became more conservative as a rule, though I knew there was plenty of evidence to show all manner of exceptions to the rule.
This remains the case with people getting more rational. I think it is probably the case in more people than not that they get more rational, but it is so far from being a universal truth. Which is to say nothing of an encouraging number of younger rational thinkers out there in the world.

I know all kinds of people I grew up with who stood up to be counted for alternative medicine or various the-government-is-evil-and-out-to-get-us conspiracies.
Heck, I was hardly immune myself - despite being raised with rationalist tendencies. I don't feel comfortable in hospitals, (but who does?) so I considered alternative health options... though never had any reason to use them before. I called myself an agnostic, making the common error of thinking of it as 'atheism-lite' (or 'atheism-po-lite') until I drilled deeper into my understanding of myself. I eagerly shopped organic when I lived in co-op housing. The list goes on.

But in all cases I gradually had the time to assess the claims on their evidence - or lack of it and from a certain perspective became a bit more conservative. In my mind though, I really just let go of the unsupportable bullshit that a lot of young lefties - fucking hippies - adhere to as they suckle from the Earth-Mother teat of mumbo-jumbo milk.

I am almost positive that some of my young co-workers look at me as a conservative grump. They are definitely surprised when I indicate my left-leanings. When I vocally spoke up in favour of the BC-STV plebecite in our last provincial election, one co-workers' mouth dropped wide, "You are voting in favour of STV?" She actually seemed to find it surprising that I knew what it even was. I found the latter part kind of insulting, and a good example of how little she actually pays attention to who I am, but the first part - the fact that gasp, I would vote in favour of a politically progressive effort - that just made me laugh... ultimately at her.

But I accept that there are skills that many people will never fully grok that help us assess the world for what it is. Some people will make that leap, others won't. Typically those who do will drift politically... towards centre. And more importantly, they won't blindly accept any piece of twaddle from any point of the spectrum without at least some level of corroboration from logic, prior-plausibility, or a trusted rational source.

I'd like to personally congratulate a specific world-citizen for making that leap.

Wikipedia has announced that they are no longer going to accept edits from anyone and everyone. I'm assuming that everyone and anyone CAN make edits, so long as they can back up the edits with evidence. They better be able to - it would kind of undermine the entire ethic of the wiki if they couldn't. But I do think it is actually more important that Wikipedia makes the leap from being a good source for overview-research into a subject to being reliable for researching on a significantly more detailed basis.

It's not simply accepting any factoid with a hint of truthiness anymore. That muddies the pool. Wikipedia has matured into a (hopefully) healthily factual database... perhaps even with a hint of indispensible critical thinking behind it's information gathering.

Wikipedia, good on ya! Most of us take at least until our mid-twenties before we start to understand how the world works, if we ever do. I encourage your ongoing development as a rational entity. And I hope you get the most out of your teen-years.

August 31st 2009: Update:
If this wasn't mere days after my original post I'd do a separate article on it, but Wikipedia has added another level of information vetting to it's store of worldly knowledge. Colour coding.
As a big time David Brin fan I have to note that this is not unlike ideas he has explored in various writings including Earth, The Transparent Society and Kiln People.

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