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Andres Kievsky

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This article is about one of my pet peeves.

I reckon schools should have a class in which they learn to deal with all the BS on the internet in a realistic way. I know they get taught about finding reliable information for assignments, but I doubt it occurs to most people to be just as skeptical about real life matters.

My advice would be: next time you get advice from or read any opinion on the internet, visualise the absolutely stupidest person you know, and imagine that it's that person on the other end of the tube. Now ask yourself if you should blindly trust what they say.

Or imagine that it's your neighbour's 12-year-old kid offering relationship or medical advice. Or your psychopathic boss or crazy ex-girl/boyfriend. Or the cat lady who lives next to your sister. Or a creepy stalker dude. Or Sarah Palin.

Hmm. Scratch that last one. There are probably lots of people who would take her advice, and they're probably the ones who most need this advice. Let's swap her off and substitute "that annoyingly opinionated parent from your kid's class".

You have absolutely no reason to trust the opinions of random strangers on the internet. They might be right, but they're just as likely to be an idiot (benevolent or otherwise), a psychopath or a troll.

If you get some advice that you want to believe, then do some research before buying into it. See what the Wikipedia page says. See if you can find the advice supported by reputable scientists (and I don't mean mavericks*, scientists spouting opinions outside their field or disbarred doctors). Think about whether it's logical, or whether you just want to believe it because you would like it to be the truth. Check Snopes.

Be wary if all corroborating sites can be traced back to a single source. Think about why someone might mislead you, intentionally or otherwise. Do they have some political or religious agenda that makes them adhere to an opinion? Is it likely that they have any first-hand experience, or are they just parroting something they saw on the web/picked up at school/saw in a movie?

Whatever you do, don't just believe me.

* Yes, I know scientific revolutions are often instigated by mavericks, but that doesn't mean that mavericks are all geniuses. And geniuses aren't always right. If somebody stands in opposition to mainstream science, it's probably the case that they are, unfortunately, wrong. This doesn't mean you have to automatically discount every maverick, but your standard of evidence needs to be a damn sight higher.

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Don't be evil? Riiiight

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Disgraceful. "Do no evil" my ass.

waiter: would you like coffee or tea?
normal person: tea, please
programmer: yes to both
programmer waiter: would you like coffee xor tea?
normal person: i don't want any, thanks
programmer waiter: does not compute. would you like coffee xor tea?
normal person: i don't want any, thanks
programmer waiter: does not compute. would you like coffee xor tea?

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This is your brain on propane. 

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