Billions and Billions of Clueless People

Imagine Carl Sagan staring into a TV camera in wonder and amazement that there are so many clueless people:

Doesn’t anybody here know who Billie Holiday is?!? How can you say that the Rolling Stones invented the blues? You people are completely clueless!!!

Then he stamps off into the distance, shaking his head and saying he’s giving up on the wisdom of the crowds and will be taking up an astronomy gig offered him by some television production company.

This never aired. For all we know, it could be a fiction that I just invented. It is just as reliable as me saying the Beatles were the best rock group that ever existed. We simply will never know. 😐

Although this may be a sad but true fact, there is an even more important takeaway… and I don’t mean Chinese. 😉

If you let billions and billions of clueless people rate something, then the result is meaningless – completely meaningless!

Therefore, the ratings on itunes.com are probably meaningless, the ratings on amazon.com are probably meaningless, the ratings on facebook.com are probably meaningless, the ratings on google.com are probably meaningless, each and every brand name website’s ratings are probably meaningless, they are probably the result of so-called bots, they are „gamed“, they are a complete waste of time.

Why do I say this?

Because today I made the mistake — well, not the mistake… I had the experience — of calling in when the moderator of a radio program asked people to call in their questions regarding the views of an author he was interviewing. Both the moderator and the author misunderstood the question, but I have a hunch that a sizable portion of the audience understood perfectly fine. You could tell by the questions that followed up on what I had asked about. If you want to know why this is, I have another hunch that Sinclair Lewis’ line about people being able to not understand something according to what their employer says (and their employer may also simply be perceived „market forces“). Luckily, the radio audience apparently wasn’t quite as dumb as the people in the studio thought they might be.

The author was presenting her book about „fair trade“ certifications being bogus. She said something like „we need to reform the entire economic system“. I thought she was wrong. In my humble opinion, the problem is simply about propaganda and advertising… and that I thought it could be quite easily resolved with rational media (such as music.com, books.com, etc – except that I used different examples which were more relevant to the discussion… which might be translated as food.com, clothing.com, etc.). I could see that what I said passed above the author’s head without leaving the slightest trace of an impression on her mind, because she acted like she disagreed with me, but then went on to underscore how my point was right. Yet what the moderator did was, in a way, even worse… because it seems like he might have understood what I was saying, but then chose to misinterpret it to be about „Bewertungsportale“ (this was a German radio program, and that roughly translates to mean „ratings websites“). He may have simply been mistaken – I don’t know – but the point is anything but trivial.

Allowing billions and billions of clueless people – or robots – to voice an opinion is nothing less than a gargantuan exercise in futility. If I have a toothache, I couldn’t care less what a billion clueless people think. Instead, I would visit a dentist. If my bicycle needs repairs, then I will take it to a bicycle expert. There are very good reasons for paying experts: they are trained and therefore have more understanding of what is the matter than completely clueless people – regardless of how many times you multiply zero, the result remains zero!

If you allow anyone (or anything) with an email address to vote on any topic, the result of that vote – that „rating“ or whatever – will be meaningless, because email addresses are not just a dime a dozen, they are less than a penny per billion.

Each and every meaningless rating on each and every meaningless website is nothing more and nothing less than meaningless.

In contrast, words like „food“, „clothing“, „books“ or „music“ are quite meaningful. People who care about these topics – experts in the fields of food, clothing, books, music or whatever – would do well to voice their expert opinions in such rational media.

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