Thursday, June 25, 2009

Imagine this: tens of thousands of people see something, but there are 'no witnesses' [TRUE STORY]

A mini furor broke out in the dying moments of a rugby game. Because the referee was unsure that the kick had gone between the posts, he had to find some other way to verify that it had. Despite there being thousands of witnesses, the problem was bias. Then the referee turned to the television broadcast and still couldn't be absolutely certain.

This shows systemic failure when the leader/authority fails to perceive accurately, and how this can lead to a cascading perversion of reality or a u-turn in one's fortunes.

There are a couple of examples of this, which I'll list below. One that came up again in a discussion I had last night is the widespread misperception of what is behind the current financial crisis/recession? What do you think caused it? Subprime mortgages? What caused those to go sour? The universal belief that property values would appreciate indefinitely/infinitely, and thus to own or sell an appreciating asset (even if the borrower defaulted) meant you couldn't lose. But they did. Property markets went down because the energy to run suburbia became to expense (and people could no longer to live and operate at these higher prices). So what has caused the current financial malaise? In simple language, what caused this Recession/Depression? High energy prices. If they're low now does it mean it's just a cycle, and we can recover? No, because what predicated high energy prices was supply limits, which means we're in for a permanent contraction.

Most of the world today doesn't understand this due to authorities/leaders/intelligent businessmen mis-perceiving reality. It happens. See below for a few analogies:

The 31-year-old flyhalf on Tuesday night gave supporters a reason to cheer at the drenched Newlands stadium when he ensured that the Emerging Springboks drew 13-13 with the tourists.

But immediately after the match there was a scramble to establish if the touring team had suffered an injustice.

Journalists approached André Watson, South Africa's chief referee, about the kick. Watson admitted that he had his doubts about whether it was a valid kick and therefore studied the visual footage.

The footage appeared to be contradictory but it was finally deduced, partly from the body language of the Lions, that the kick was valid.

"I watched it on Tuesday night in slow motion. With the shot from behind, you are looking for a moment when you see the ball and the posts disappear. You get it on two shots," said Watson.

"What is absurd, is that you are looking from the other corner if the ball disappeared behind the posts. It doesn't happen, but it could perhaps only be because the image loses focus on the replay."

"The answer probably lies with the linesmen who called it. The shoulders of one of the Lions players started hanging right before the flags were lifted and he stood behind one of the linesmen, which is a further indication that the kick was valid."

But what does the humble general of the Western Province himself think about his kick. "It was comfortably there. I don’t know why it took them so long to call it," said De Waal.

"Do you think I would have carried on like that if I had missed?"

The David Bain trial is another analogy, where the certainty that the 22 year old murdered his family is great, but since it's not absolute, he's not convicted. The flip side to this of course is religion, where we demand not absolute certainty, but hold our uncertainty up as evidence of the strength of our convictions. Which is equally dangerous. I believe we're increasingly losing the skill that is critical thinking.

Here's another example by Verashni Pillay:

Cape Town - A fake email dating from a 2006 plane crash has been revived for the Air France Flight 447 crash, with "two shots taken inside the plane before it crashed".

But the blurry shots of a passenger being sucked out of a gaping hole in an aircraft were ascertained to be screen shots from the pilot trailer for the popular series, Lost.

The hoax dates from an October 2006 posting by Brazilian blogger Carlos Cardoso, which he later revealed as an attempt to show that people are not sceptical enough of what they find on the internet.

In this case email users have proved Cardoso right, as many scanned the first few lines and hit forward - despite the email largely referring to an entirely different plane crash in the body of the email.

Gol Transportes Aéreos Flight 1907 was a scheduled passenger flight from Manaus, Brazil to Rio de Janeiro, which collided in mid-air with an Embraer Legacy business jet on September 29 2006 over the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso.

The US media's prosecution of the Iran election as 'unfair' and the uptake by bloggers and mainstream media (and its consumers) despite the fact that Iranians polled showed majority support for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad demonstrates the Flight 447 effect, which is to scan data that's built on a false premise and pass it on. It's the story of how religions come into being, and how self fulfilling prophecies become self fulfilling. But it needs your participation, and you to think, but not very far.

On Yahoo today there are 3 headlines focussed on Iran alone:
Women in Iran's protests: head scarves and rocks
Mousavi Web site: 70 professors detained in Iran

Iran's Ahmadinejad compares Obama to Bush
Knowingly or unknowling, Yahoo is peddling propaganda to demonise Iran.

Don't believe its propaganda?
The Devil Is in the Digits
The New York Times propaganda war

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