[Vision2020] A level playing field for knights and knaves

Paul Rumelhart godshatter at yahoo.com
Sun Sep 17 09:56:39 PDT 2006

Ok, I don't know what events sparked this rant, but I'd like to defend 
the anarchical tendencies of the Internet.

There are a number of new areas that have been brought about by the 
Internet that are turning out to be non-hierarchical.  I would call them 
mostly anarchical, without the violence and unrest normally associated 
with that word.  The fact that the Internet has removed certain barriers 
has contributed to this decline in hierarchy.  Because of this, I am now 
coming to realize that hierarchies had more to do with certain inherent 
limitations in people than they had to do with what is "right".  On the 
web, you can be part of a forum that contains heads of state and the 
downtrodden and not necessarily know which are which.  Because your post 
to a forum is indistinguishable from those of everyone else, you can 
influence people based solely on the ideas you promote and the way in 
which you present them as opposed to backing them with whatever power 
your position gives you.  Sure, that sucks if you are currently higher 
up in the hierarchy - but it's great for those people who don't like to 
play the "game", or can't because they are the wrong color or gender, 
their family didn't come over on the Mayflower, or they tend to wear 
clothes that should have gone out of fashion in 1972.

Look at Wikipedia.  It is a vast resource that challenges the 
established encyclopedias in various areas (mostly anything 
technological or scientific).  Sure, the pages on evolution and George 
W. Bush and so forth will always be fractious ones.  There will always 
be people who think they are being funny that replace the entire entry 
on "Earth" with the words "Mostly Harmless" for the umpteenth time.    
On the other hand, most of the non-controversial pages on topics that 
aren't the most remote or specialized ones are usually spot on.  Where 
it really shines, though, is in it's immediacy.  Learn that Pluto is not 
a planet, and within minutes it's corrected, with more information on 
the debate than you could easily come across by Googling it.  It also 
covers other topics that the hierarchy of the encyclopedia would never 
alot much space to.  Try opening your Britannica and finding much about 
"Morning Musume" (a Japanese pop sensation) or your favorite TV series.

Another great example of the anarchy you rail against is the open-source 
movement.  I am currently composing this message with Thunderbird (an 
open-source email client) on Debian GNU/Linux (an open-source operating 
system).  Both are free-as-in-beer and free-as-in-speech.  I can 
download the source and work on it if I want to.  In most open source 
projects, you'll find minimal hierarchies in place.  Usually someone who 
has a last say in which fixes will go with what release and which aren't 
elegant enough or otherwise not up to par.  These groups of people, most 
of them hobbyists, are challenging the largest software companies in the 
world and doing pretty well in the comparison.  The Internet with it's 
low barriers allows this to happen.  You can be a high-paid employee of 
a Fortune 500 company and have your fix thrown out in favor of one from 
a 14-year-old who cared enough about it to do it right.

These areas aren't without their own hierarchies, though.  The users 
that post the best information and get their entries reverted the least 
are higher up in the informal hierarchy of Wikipedia than others.  That 
doesn't mean that they won't get their changes tossed out if they get 
sloppy, though.  I'm sure that doesn't sit will with people that think 
they should be higher up in the system because of who they are or what 
family they belong to.

My personal opinion on the subject is that if a hierarchy is being gone 
around on the Internet, then it probably wasn't one that was based on 
the inherent merit of the people in the system so much as their being in 
the right place at the right time and kissing the right asses.  The 
hierarchies in the "real world" are often in place simply because of 
physical limitations.  Your boss is usually someone who is accessible, 
and the team leader is the one everyone knows and has been there the 
longest.  They are also often in place because we tend to judge people 
based on looks and other physicial criteria more than we wish to admit.  
The new guy is always at the bottom rung simply because you have had 
more interaction with the others and more history with them.  The new 
guy might be Einstein, but he'll be washing out beakers in the lab 
before he can usually get himself heard and his abilities known.  If the 
new guy is ethnically in the minority, or in the minority by gender, he 
may not get very far no matter how good he is.  Look at yourself for 
instance.  People on this forum say you are male, but your nickname is 
female.  It doesn't matter to me, because the Internet makes such things 
immaterial for the most part.  I don't see why this is a bad thing.  It 
does seem ironic that you are arguing against the Internet and it's 
ability to do the very thing you do here - get around the local 
hierarchy be being anonymous.

I'm also waiting for the Internet to get a feel for itself and to start 
working on the current governmental systems.  If a wild idea went around 
the Internet with speed that was damaging to the current political 
incumbents, they could find they don't have as much power as they 
thought they did.  Say, for example, that it became an Internet "meme" 
to "vote the bums out of office", regardless of who they are.  A lot of 
people that don't often vote in elections could come out of the woodwork 
on one day to rid this country of a large number of it's entrenched 
governmental officials.

So, out of curiosity, which "knave" attacked you recently, "Sir 
Knight"?  Was his or her swordwork better than yours?


Taro Tanaka wrote:

>The level playing field of the internet is creating what is really a 
>different world. The kinds of "hierarchical, patriarchal, and exclusive 
>modes of story telling that have gone on in homes and churches" are getting 
>hammered. If the people who are reveling in (or perhaps I should say, 
>*rebelling in*) all this get their way, there will no longer be a hierarchy 
>in either the family or the church. They think this is a good thing, because 
>they are at least as talented as, if not smarter and better than, the people 
>who have been placed over them as rulers, but the rulers refused to 
>recognize that by sharing power with them. The idea is, "If the existence of 
>the hierarchy means I have to submit to *that* idiot, it is better that the 
>hierarchy be destroyed. A hierarchy that refuses to put me at its apex is 
>inherently unjust."
>Of course, they can't take this approach vis-a-vis the last remaining 
>government institution -- the institution of the State -- because the State 
>carries a bigger gun than any individual could wield. The family and the 
>church don't have guns to enforce their authority, so it's open season. Thus 
>protected, every knave feels confident in attacking knights with their 
>words, calling it "leveling the playing field."
>How noble.
>-- Princess Sushitushi
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