Why You Need To Be Critical Of Technology Articles
“Artificial Intelligence Defeats Human at (Fill in the Blank)!” — Article Written by Lazy Person
One of my least favorite things is reading technology articles on this very website and pointing out the ridiculous, illogical, erroneous, and deceptive things that are written to share with people. I also hate reading articles where the journalists don’t bother doing any research or digging into the topic for themselves, but instead rely on the person/company being written about for all of the content. A lot of my articles on here are inspired by that exact bullshit content.
There’s something really irritating about taking the latest technology thing and having to translate it into actual, reality based facts for other people to read. Technology communication is vital in a happy, healthy, democratic community, and anything that fosters that relationship is a good thing in my book. Unfortunately we do not live in such a community and thus are stuck with the crapfest we have currently.
That being said, there’s a dirty secret not many people seem to be talking about: almost all technology articles are written by, for, or about industry insiders or by hangers on’s, wanna be’s and/or bootlickers, who either don’t give a whit about accuracy or journalistic integrity and/or can’t be bothered to take the time to actually learn anything about the subject upon which they are expounding.
What does that mean? It means that someone writing about the latest smartphone, or machine learning, or artificial intelligence, thought it would be a good idea to spout off about a topic because it was popular and would therefore generate clicks and views or more importantly, dollars.
So they write these articles to which say their new product really is the new Iphone, or really is intelligent, or really is a machine that can learn.
Nothing wrong with that in theory, of course. Except for my use of the term ‘in theory’ in that sentence. In order for something to be a theory there must be data (and lot’s of it) that support the hypothesis or hypotheses of which the theory is composed. In this case my hypothesis is that silicon valley apologists, brown nosers, and wanna be journalists are writing stories about topics for which they have not learned the relevant facts, for reasons of laziness, ignorance, and/or greed. I take that back, it is a theory.
There are two reasons why you need be to wary of these types of articles.
1. People like new, sexy, interesting technology.
Technology should be relatively unbiased and rational. After all it is based on scientific principles, and thus any given technology (or at least the core components/theoretical basis of it) was/were developed using the scientific method and must behave in a manner consistent with known natural laws. But technology is run by humans, and humans are flawed.
When technologists invent something and the public thinks it is boring, stories about it do not tend to get published and distributed.
For example, if someone develops a new computer that is faster and more powerful then all the ones that came before it the public has already seen that (boring) feature and , surprise surprise, that doesn’t help it sell or generate interest. It probably won’t be written about because the headline “Fastest and most powerful modern computer beats man at (fill in the blank)” isn’t going to excite anyone. That’s old news. We already knew a computer could do that.
Logic dictates that publishing accurate articles that are based on reality and the actual facts of the matter is a good thing, because it will help people understand how the world actual works and the things that currently exist within it. Humans doing the technology think it’s a bad thing.
Accurate, fact based articles are dull. They don’t show us anything new. So if there’s a study that shows modern computers are getting faster and more powerful, nobody will be interested in publishing that finding because people don’t care.
Journals don’t want to showcase dull, old news; they want fresh, exciting takes. So they generally refuse to publish things that aren’t “cool.”
What you need to bear in mind is that for every “fastest modern computer beats man at (fill in the blank)” article that you don’t read, there are at least ten that say “Artificial intelligence beats man at (fill in the blank) that are published.
And it doesn’t end there.
2. Technologists actively and openly cater to the people paying them.
Let’s have a thought experiment. Let’s say you’re a computer scientist. You were just funded by the hottest Silicon Valley startup around to find out if their latest and greatest gadget is actually a big improvement over the previous version.
It’s a lot of money. And you love your job.
So, you do the experiment, you use the gadget for a week and, wow, you find out that the gadget is great and it is a big improvement!
That’s great — silicon valley is more likely to fund you in the future since they’re happy with these results. You’re likely to get published, because this is new and exciting information.
It’s possible that no “bad technology” was invented here. But it’s unlikely. Mostly new gadgets these days suck, but read your typical tech mag or website and you’d think we are living in a golden age of new and exciting technology gizmos each with a slightly better camera then the previous version but battery life that always gets slightly worse.
Results get published. You’re thrilled with another publication. The public rejoices as they buy more gadgets and gizmos without feeling like they’re wasting their money on insignificant upgrades. Silicon Valley gets a lot richer. You go about your life without feeling like you’ve done anything wrong even though you have.
Luckily people these days do not expect writers to be unbiased, or infallible. As a practice, writing is chalk full of prejudice. And writers are human. Like most people, they like money, interesting results, influencing others.
Writers know they’re being influenced but don’t care as they just want the money that companies outright pay for good results. Bad results or reviews are never seen because nobody will pay for those.
Next time you read an article in the paper that so and so smartphone is the second coming of Jesus, or that such and such artificial intelligence defeated a human at (fill in the blank), do yourself a favor and get with the program. Why are you reading a paper? I mean it’s 2019 for crying out loud. Gheesh!