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How the Internet Makes the Improbable Into the New Normal

samzenpus posted about 2 years ago | from the you're-not-going-to-believe-this dept.

The Internet 191

Hugh Pickens writes "A burglar gets stuck in a chimney, a truck driver in a head on collision is thrown out the front window and lands on his feet, walks away; a wild antelope knocks a man off his bike; a candle at a wedding sets the bride's hair on fire; someone fishing off a backyard dock catches a huge man-size shark. Now Kevin Kelly writes that in former times these unlikely events would be private, known only as rumors, stories a friend of a friend told, easily doubted and not really believed but today they are on YouTube, seen by millions. 'Every minute a new impossible thing is uploaded to the internet and that improbable event becomes just one of hundreds of extraordinary events that we'll see or hear about today,' writes Kelly. 'As long as we are online — which is almost all day many days — we are illuminated by this compressed extraordinariness. It is the new normal.' But when the improbable dominates the archive to the point that it seems as if the library contains only the impossible, then the 'black swans' don't feel as improbable. 'To the uninformed, the increased prevalence of improbable events will make it easier to believe in impossible things,' concludes Kelly. 'A steady diet of coincidences makes it easy to believe they are more than just coincidences.'"

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Even things as improbable... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42584169)

... as the first post? ;-)

Re:Even things as improbable... (1, Informative)

jimmetry (1801872) | about 2 years ago | (#42584413)

Posting the first post as an "Anonymous Coward" has never been considered improbable.

Re:Even things as improbable... (0)

webmistressrachel (903577) | about 2 years ago | (#42584615)

I've posted several "Firsts" with my username, but only on-topic to start the discussion. In retrospect, I probably only got first because nobody else could think of anything.

God and Star Wars (4, Interesting)

llZENll (545605) | about 2 years ago | (#42584173)

Does this hail the rebirth of religion? Or perhaps the renaissance of sci-fi in 5-10 years?

Re:God and Star Wars (2)

ByOhTek (1181381) | about 2 years ago | (#42584315)

Don't think it has squat to do with either. It just means people are getting used to absurd things that we would have previously wrote off as urban legends.

I doubt anyone is going to see God, Mohammed, Buddha or Jesus on youtube without it being an obvious mockup or hoax, regardless of whether or not any of the do/did exist.

As for sci-fi... Youtube isn't going to change the fact that the hands that guide that station are a bunch of retards that like to pump out and/or watch cheap overly-formulaic "sci-fi" and "gorror" (not horror, gorror - the subset of horror focused more on gore than suspense)

But then again, when ever I hear someone say, "that couldn't happen, the odds are a [insert large order of magnitude number here] to one!" I tend to respond to, how many events with such odds are there, and how often do they have a chance of occurring? At that point, a life where you don't run into or truthfully hear of at least a few of the really oddball things happening, is the really unlikely event

Re:God and Star Wars (4, Interesting)

Golddess (1361003) | about 2 years ago | (#42584711)

I doubt anyone is going to see God, Mohammed, Buddha or Jesus on youtube without it being an obvious mockup or hoax, regardless of whether or not any of the do/did exist.

It isn't about seeing them personally, but rather "look at all these miraculous events! How can you possibly claim that my particular flavor of deity does not exist?"

Re:God and Star Wars (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42584883)

It just means people are getting used to absurd things that we would have previously wrote off as urban legends.

And according to the facts available, we were wrong to do so. Apparently a lot of those urban legends were real, or had a root in reality. Even Mythbusters has come up with surprising results occasionally.

Re:God and Star Wars (3, Informative)

mikael (484) | about 2 years ago | (#42585741)

I do find the study of modern urban legends fascinating. Back in the 1960's there was an urban legend that the original "Avengers" series had did some trial runs using color film reels as an experiment. Nobody ever saw or heard more about those reels for decades. They looked round all the film archives at the studio and other places, but the studio has thrown them out all those years ago. Then one day, a woman is clearing out an old shed owned by her husband when she came across some flat metal cans. She didn't know what they were, called in some studio engineers, and they identified them as those very reels.

Even in a modern computer office or lab, there will be somebody that remembers that some contractor or senior engineer did some experimental work years ago before leaving. Nobody can find the work until years later, when some old server powered down for reliability is found and powered up again.

Re:God and Star Wars (4, Interesting)

icebike (68054) | about 2 years ago | (#42585875)

Mod Parent Insightful.

The fact that everyone and their brother has a camera at the ready these days, or, more likely, the odds that at least someone is recording live video is increasingly common.

The videos of strange events, as mentioned in the story, or a line of airplane seats coming across the highway [youtube.com] and smacking a car, just happening to get caught by a driver recording his trip with his mounted cell camera, are becoming common. As cameras become more ubiquitous, there is virtually nowhere you can go these days and NOT be near someone who has a camera.

But taking your same line of reasoning from a different direction: Why haven't we got ANY (non-faked) pictures of Big Foot yet, or Aliens landing, etc? ?

Can it be that, after a suitable period of time with a sufficient number of observers, the Absence of Evidence actually becomes Evidence of Absence? In a world where virtually every unusual event has a high probability of being photographed, can the Appeal to Ignorance [wikipedia.org] continue to be hand-waived away?

Re:God and Star Wars (5, Insightful)

bondsbw (888959) | about 2 years ago | (#42584351)

It seems to me that ordinary people are finally catching up with mainstream media.

School shootings and jetliner crashes make big news, but account for an incredibly small percentage of preventable deaths. The perception is that something must change immediately to keep these things from happening so often. But few people care about, for instance, the fact that automobile crashes and abuse accounts for a large proportion of the preventable deaths for children.

Re:God and Star Wars (0, Offtopic)

nschubach (922175) | about 2 years ago | (#42584513)

This is my first thought. People are all up in arms about something that happened in another side of the country (and in some cases, the world) but had these events happened 15-20 years ago it would not have made the uproar that they do today. People assume they are commonplace events and some may even try to imitate those acts. It's a growing phase we, as human beings, are going through. Open communication brings good and bad things. We have to learn to self filter when geography no longer filters for us.

Columbine shootings (1, Insightful)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | about 2 years ago | (#42584595)

Columbine shooting was 15 years ago. But I don't suppose you heard of them, they barely made the news.

Want to try again?

Re:Columbine shootings (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42584821)

That's exactly the point. Such a big deal was made about Columbine that it will be in everybody's mind forever (I'll bet you can still recall the names of the two shooters, but that's another problem in itself). It masks the fact that 3x as many children died in car accidents on the same day.

Re:Columbine shootings (2)

maxwell demon (590494) | about 2 years ago | (#42584917)

That's exactly the point. Such a big deal was made about Columbine that it will be in everybody's mind forever (I'll bet you can still recall the names of the two shooters, but that's another problem in itself). It masks the fact that 3x as many children died in car accidents on the same day.

Had all these accidents been caused by one and the same person, I'm sure it also would have made big news.

Re:Columbine shootings (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42585029)

Yes, it would. But people are now terrified that their children are going to be gunned down in school - because "improbable is now the normal", when they really should stop using their cell phones while driving. That's a lot more likely to harm their children.

Re:Columbine shootings (4, Interesting)

mrsquid0 (1335303) | about 2 years ago | (#42585925)

I doubt it. If a school bus crashes and kills 39 children then it will be very big news for a week or two, then it will be forgotten. Do you remember what happened in Yuba City?

Re:God and Star Wars (1)

mikael (484) | about 2 years ago | (#42585779)

You mean like the Bernhard Goetz [wikipedia.org] shooting, that only made it to the front page of Time magazine?

Bernhard Goetz [wordpress.com]

Re:God and Star Wars (1)

Synerg1y (2169962) | about 2 years ago | (#42585187)

Your argument is absolutely devoid of logic...

Do you realize jetliners are inspected pre and and post flight? Or that there's a lot more cars than jetliners?
There's steps that can be taken to prevent school shootings, even if it's arming the teachers...
But, car crashes and abuse? Everybody has to look only to themselves to prevent those and that'll never happen. Abuse is a dark side of human nature, car crashes are mostly coordination fails, whether sober or not. Perfect humanity and get rid of both and many other things, I'll be waiting for your solution to perfecting humanity in the meantime. Also, if jetliners were re-assembled every flight, and schools had automatic gun detecting turrets set up on all 4 corners, these things would find a way to still happen. So the media goes for the low-hanging fruit, that's still within bounds of human nature.

Re:God and Star Wars (4, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 2 years ago | (#42584433)

I don't know about sci-fi; but I'd be inclined to doubt any significant effect on religion.

To the degree that religions bother with making truth claims about the world, they tend to focus on a very well-honed version of the sort of "stories a friend of a friend told, easily doubted and not really believed" that TFA contrasts with the new internet-enabled transmission. You tend to see belief spread, or at least persist, by means of strong social connections(the traces of 'to tie/bind together' in the latin root of 'religion' are not by accident), emotionally intense personal experiences and group ritual union.

For the assorted, somewhat irksome, 'something vaguely in my favor happened, it's a Sign and/or My Guardian Angel Intervened' brigade, the fact that humans don't know probability from a hole in the ground(even statisticians have trouble on a gut level, and everybody else doesn't have an alternative to the gut level) probably helps spice things up; but that phenomenon doesn't seem to scale: people who have already been influenced by the very old, affectively powerful, personal methods are more likely to interpret random events as possessing meaning or representing some sort of supernormal intervention(unlike, say, a gambler who also falls prey to nonsense about 'hot streaks' or 'my number is due to come up'; but doesn't experience their shoddy grasp of probability as metaphysically invested).

If anything, broad access to the improbable would actually seem to damage traditional attitudes and beliefs about 'miracles' and the like. "It was a head-on collision on an icy road and she was thrown clear, what a miracle!" will meet "I'm glad she's ok, here are 1800 dash cams of people escaping horrible accidents without a scratch, and it looks like the American road kills about 35,000 people a year, I guess god just hates them and their families, eh?"

(Now, I don't actually expect any change, a bunch of abstract numbers and facts are so pale and lifeless in the face of emotion and experience, so I doubt that there will be any major shift from this source.)

Re:God and Star Wars (1)

Jeng (926980) | about 2 years ago | (#42584771)

I wouldn't be too quick to say that no new religions would be formed, after all look at the beliefs of the Rastafarian.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rastafari_movement [wikipedia.org]

Re:God and Star Wars (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42584973)

I'm glad she's ok, here are 1800 dash cams of people escaping horrible accidents without a scratch, and it looks like the American road kills about 35,000 people a year, I guess god just hates them and their families, eh?

This falls afoul of "The plural of anecdote is not data."

I doubt it'll do anything (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42584459)

But if it does, I think people will turn against faith rather than towards it.

When so many improbable things are possible, what makes any particular faith more correct?

Re:God and Star Wars (1)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | about 2 years ago | (#42584835)

"Does this hail the rebirth of religion?"

The reports of religion's death have been greatly exaggerated.

Re:God and Star Wars (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about 2 years ago | (#42584995)

Does this hail the rebirth of religion? Or perhaps the renaissance of sci-fi in 5-10 years?

I would think it is just the opposite. Religion(s) formed prior to mass communication, the the relaying of the improbable to the masses causing a change in belief would not be in effect. Likewise, that would probably be evidence that the premise of the article is, well, improbable, too.

Re:God and Star Wars (1)

fatphil (181876) | about 2 years ago | (#42585131)

Everyone knowing the weird is frequently going to happen somewhere should be the death of religions, which have long preyed on people's inability to judge how unlikely unexpected, to them, things are.

Re:God and Star Wars (1)

jxander (2605655) | about 2 years ago | (#42585631)

Yes and no...

The next time someone walks on water, we'll be able to record in on our cell phones and upload it for the world to see.

But most people will still think it's some Cris Angel style publicity hoax.

black swans are not improbable (1)

Press2ToContinue (2424598) | about 2 years ago | (#42584175)

silly example, kinda brings into question the premise of the article

depends on what the meaning of "black swan" is (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42584211)

derp [wikipedia.org] ?

Re:black swans are not improbable (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42584235)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falsifiability

Re:black swans are not improbable (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42584237)

They were prior to the discovery of black swans in 1697.

Re: black swans are not improbable (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42584387)

If you have the right configuration everything is probable [wikipedia.org]

Re:black swans are not improbable (3, Informative)

mcgrew (92797) | about 2 years ago | (#42584389)

In case that wasn't a joke and for those who didn't click the wikipedia link:

The black swan theory [wikipedia.org] or theory of black swan events is a metaphor that describes an event that is a surprise (to the observer), has a major effect, and after the fact is often inappropriately rationalized with the benefit of hindsight.

The theory was developed by Nassim Nicholas Taleb to explain:

        The disproportionate role of high-profile, hard-to-predict, and rare events that are beyond the realm of normal expectations in history, science, finance, and technology
        The non-computability of the probability of the consequential rare events using scientific methods (owing to the very nature of small probabilities)
        The psychological biases that make people individually and collectively blind to uncertainty and unaware of the massive role of the rare event in historical affairs

Unlike the earlier philosophical "black swan problem," [wikipedia.org] the "black swan theory" refers only to unexpected events of large magnitude and consequence and their dominant role in history. Such events, considered extreme outliers, collectively play vastly larger roles than regular occurrences.[1]

Re:black swans are not improbable (1)

sycodon (149926) | about 2 years ago | (#42584477)

What brings the article into question is the gratuitous labeling of a group as "uninformed".

Re:black swans are not improbable (1)

tibman (623933) | about 2 years ago | (#42585575)

I agree. There have always been skeptics and gullibles. Pics or it didn't happen!

Re:black swans are not improbable (1)

fermion (181285) | about 2 years ago | (#42584841)

Exactly. What is impossible depends on experience, surroundings and time frame. It is impossible that I will travel on supersonic aircraft. It is impossible that I will see a penguin in the native habitat. These are things that are possible but not likely for me.

Is it in any way impossible that a brides hair will catch on fire. Of course not. Probability says it will happen somewhere. Is it impossible in any particular persons life. If the chance is 1 in a million, and one goes to hundred weddings in a life time, then there is a 1 in 10 thousand chance it could happen. Not likely. But if there are a million wedding a year, then yeah, it is likely to happen once a year. Not near impossible.

So this is really just an ill posed statement.

Youtube is the bloopers show of the 21st Century (2)

Marcion (876801) | about 2 years ago | (#42584189)

It is interesting that the age of enlightenment was about rational certainities, it is printed in black and white after all, but the information age allows an older style of open view of the world, which can only be a good thing in my humble opinion. However, there are always people doing stupid things and equally stupid people (like me) like to laugh at them.

Re:Youtube is the bloopers show of the 21st Centur (3, Interesting)

fotoguzzi (230256) | about 2 years ago | (#42584437)

I didn't read the article, but the bloopers keyword in the subject reminds me: in the last one or two centuries we had National Geographic, Ripley's Believe it or Not, and the Guiness Book of World Records. Our analogue forebears would know viscerally that there were women with discs in their lips the size of coffee can lids; they might have believed thirty percent of the Ripley's books; and they would have photographic proof that the heaviest twins went riding on motorscooters and the tallest man could look down on a "no parking" sign.

Most interesting thing ever. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42584223)

Bill's Hat is blown onto Kahn's Head.

True Story.

O RLY? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42584233)

So I should remain skeptical the next time someone tells me their Windowz pee see hasn't crashed in over a week?

Black swan theory is pseudo-intellectual bunk (1)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | about 2 years ago | (#42584251)

A steady diet of coincidences makes it easy to believe they are more than just coincidences.

Or it will train people to stop believing that those coincidences are meaningful. You know, like every rare occurrence that we already know that is actually common and unrelated.

Re:Black swan theory is pseudo-intellectual bunk (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42585551)

Clearly you have never heard of Facebook? It's basically a 1 billion person sociology experiment which IMO has thoroughly proved the theory already.

Re:Black swan theory is pseudo-intellectual bunk (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42585821)

Let me guess. You're a butt-hurt economist charlatan who can't handle reality when it is finally shown to him?

Rhetorical question.

Two Nerds, One Cup of Hot Tea (5, Funny)

Tackhead (54550) | about 2 years ago | (#42584255)

'Every minute a new impossible thing is uploaded to the internet and that improbable event becomes just one of hundreds of extraordinary events that we'll see or hear about today,'

The principle of generating small amounts of finite improbability by simply hooking the logic circuits of a Arduinopentamillenuova-5007 Sub-Microcontroller to a Markov chain generator driven by a strong RNG [lavarnd.org] (say, a nice lava lamp and a photodetector) were of course well understood - and such generators were often used to acquire a first round of venture funding by photoshopping all the pixels in the hostess's undergarments simultaneously one foot to the left, in accordance to the theory of Rule 34.

Many respectable developers said that they weren't going to stand for this, partly because Web 2.0 was a debasement of technology, but mostly because they didn't get hired by those sorts of startups.

Another thing they couldn't stand was the perpetual failure they encountered while trying to construct a machine which could generate the infinite improbability field needed to propagate a meme across the bandwidth-draining distances between the farthest minds, and at the end of the day they grumpily announced that such a machine was virtually impossible.

Then, one day, an intern who had been left to sweep up after a particularly unsuccessful startup found himself reasoning in this way: If, he thought to himself, such a machine is a virtual impossibility, it must have finite improbability. So all I have to do in order to virtualize one is to work out how exactly improbable it is, feed that figure into the finite improbability generator, give it a fresh round of really hot funding... and turn it on!

He did this and was rather startled when he managed to create the long-sought-after golden Infinite Improbability generator. He was even more startled when just after he was awarded the Y Combinator 2013 Prize for Extreme Agility, he was lynched by a rampaging mob of respectable developers who had realized that one thing they couldn't stand was a smart-ass.

Re:Two Nerds, One Cup of Hot Tea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42584521)

Liar. A developer that couldn't stand a smart-ass would implode in a death spiral of self-loathing.

Re:Two Nerds, One Cup of Hot Tea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42584873)

Liar. A developer that couldn't stand a smart-ass would implode in a death spiral of self-loathing.

I think thereore I implode.

Re:Two Nerds, One Cup of Hot Tea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42585539)

That's called the "total perspective vortex" turns out the one thing no developer can survive is a sense of perspective.

It was not until a year later... (0)

Press2ToContinue (2424598) | about 2 years ago | (#42585423)

When a /. article on an Infowars article by Alex Jones pointed out a conspiratorial exchange of email which was obtained by Anonymous and received by Alex in an unsolicitated manner, quiet improbably I might add since Alex is more often on the digging end of the dirty-stick, however the email chain indicated the allegedly-respectable rampaging developers had been crowd-sourced organized and fuel and RV-funding provided by a shadowy group known only as The League of America First Inventors Travelling Road Show.

Suspicious, and now relatively out-of-reach of Belizian authorities, and smelling the fresh opportunity to combine 3rd-world booty with spying, adrenaline ran hot in John Macafee's vein (singular intended.) He quickly assembled a crack (*cough*) team of sexually-experienced sluttateous whoring gold-diggers and trained them in special insertion operations (*cough*) and counter-espionage and planted them deep in enemy territory (x-citation needed.)

John's blogging of the tail trail left the media baffled, since he neither exposed himself nor the fem-bot network he controlled, yet left his tantalizing clues dangling in the open. Was the League of America First Inventors a red-flag operation by France to attempt to make a mockery of the good name of the USPTOs first-to-invent constitutional amendment? Or was it a clandestine effort by the Church of Scientology, now that they were being persecuted in Belgium, to reinvent their image as respectable developers wronged by the improbability of the invention of an improbability generator? Was Tom Cruise going to reprise the role of the aging Luke Skywalker in the post-prequel sequel? Or was the Russian team at Lake Vostok somehow involved, determined to obtain pre-cambrian bio-weaponizable pathogens? It is improbable that no-one knew, but there the danglings were.

I have only one thing to say.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42585485)

AWESOME! MOD PARENT UP!

I heard someone won the lottery once (1)

quietwalker (969769) | about 2 years ago | (#42584261)

Therefore, I will gain the power of flight.

I'm not going to argue that humans aren't good at rational analysis of probabilities - there's reams of data to show that our instincts which kept our ancestors safe in the wild actively work against us when it comes to rational, long term decisions. It also shows us that the associations we make are usually shallow and immediate. The knowledge of one improbable thing only impresses upon us that that same improbable thing is not as improbable as we once thought.

So the knowledge that someone won the lottery may make it more likely for an individual to decide to buy a ticket, but they won't consider super-powers any more likely than they did before.

It sounds to me like the internet will (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42584273)

Promote open mindedness vs skepticism. Both have their pro-'s and cons.

But many skeptics are getting the opportunity to hone their skills on youtube anyway. So there is no net gain or loss in human stupidity.

The biggest threat to mankind the internet poses now is the top 25 results in google becoming normal or accepted as defacto.

Apparently.. (5, Interesting)

phrackwulf (589741) | about 2 years ago | (#42584281)

The Internet makes stupid people more stupid..

What were the odds?

Re:Apparently.. (1)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | about 2 years ago | (#42584863)

"The Internet makes stupid people more stupid..

What were the odds?"

Well they were highly improbable, but the internet has changed all that.

But not always real (2)

phorm (591458) | about 2 years ago | (#42584291)

But with modern CG and video-editing, you can't just trust any video on the internet.
For example, see the recent Eagle Baby Attack [huffingtonpost.ca] video.

No such thing as Aliens, Bigfoot, Nessi either (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42584305)

No such thing as Aliens, Bigfoot, Nessi either.

'Cuz if they did exist, we'd have seen them on youtube by now.

This is why I stopped browsing the web (1)

uepuejq (1095319) | about 2 years ago | (#42584329)

And now use it for reference and research.

Sometimes the crowd is washed (5, Insightful)

paiute (550198) | about 2 years ago | (#42584347)

This may be one of the times where we underestimate the ability of the masses to cope with selective information. After all, America's Funniest Home Videos has been on the air for over twenty years and people have adjusted to not having grooms collapse at every wedding and nutsacks being pummeled by every wiffle ball hit.

Re:Sometimes the crowd is washed (1)

Synerg1y (2169962) | about 2 years ago | (#42584449)

Good example... I remember watching AHV, somehow seeing somebody jump off the roof to break a table looks a lot different on the internet than on AHV, I'm sure there's a few reasons for this: comments, lack of introduction, no laughing audience. So, this is different imho, a more raw view into people doing stupid things with the filters removed...

Re:Sometimes the crowd is washed (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 2 years ago | (#42584545)

I suspect though that many people who regularly participate in online communities, such as slashdot, reddit, yahoo answers etc, have a lower opinion of people in general though, thanks to trolls.

Although, you could alternatively argue rather that they have a deeper understanding of humanity, since when people are anonymous, they act different than face to face.

Either way, people here seem more cynical than people in the real world. I wonder if that's causation and not just correlation.

Re:Sometimes the crowd is washed (1)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | about 2 years ago | (#42584877)

"people have adjusted to not having grooms collapse at every wedding and nutsacks being pummeled by every wiffle ball hit"

That may be true, but I'm still a bit disappointed when it doesn't happen.

The other option (1)

meerling (1487879) | about 2 years ago | (#42584357)

We could always just switch over to exclusively showing videos of normal boring everyday stuff.

Along those lines, news would cover the same junk that always happens. Today at 4, traffic goes past the elementary school and cats spend most of their time sleeping. For our late edition at 11, old people playing bingo and tomorrows weather report.

Then again, who wants to waste the time watching that, or even uploading it.

Re:The other option (2)

neminem (561346) | about 2 years ago | (#42584469)

I dunno what you're talking about... seems to me, every time I've turned on a regular cable news station, doesn't matter which one, it seems the format you described is already one they've adopted. So people *must* like watching crap like that, or why would they all be pushing it, instead of actual news?

I'm always reminded (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42584377)

Whenever I hear of things like this, especially on the internet, I always remember:

1) believe none of what you hear
2) believe half of what you see

And since that saying was coined many years ago, it may need to be adjusted to meet today's world. Many things can appear real, but be false. In this way, the truth is even more hidden, because "...yeah yeah, it's real, I saw it on youtube". I've posted false stuff on youtube before, you can too. Of course, I'm anonymous though. Maybe if it's real people.... please.

Just because it's on YouTube doesn't make it real. (2)

ArcadeNut (85398) | about 2 years ago | (#42584421)

With Video Editing and Rendering software being ubiquitous , now we have to ask, "Is it real, or is it CGI?". There are plenty of examples on YouTube that look real, but are 100% fake. So the paradigm has shifted from "Is the rumor real" to "Is the video real".

Re:Just because it's on YouTube doesn't make it re (1)

alen (225700) | about 2 years ago | (#42584457)

you just described porn

half the crazy shite you see in porn movies is edited from different takes with lots of breaks

Re:Just because it's on YouTube doesn't make it re (2)

ArcadeNut (85398) | about 2 years ago | (#42584693)

you just described porn

half the crazy shite you see in porn movies is edited from different takes with lots of breaks

Guess I better do some further "research" to confirm or deny this...

The Example Rule (4, Interesting)

dangermen (248354) | about 2 years ago | (#42584423)

The book "The Science of Fear' calls this the example rule. The rule that somehow because something just happened, that it is now likely to happen again. People are wired such that they usually act this way(gut), only your head can override your gut when you know you are following this rule.

Re:The Example Rule (1)

ImprovOmega (744717) | about 2 years ago | (#42585639)

Which makes sense. If your buddy walked over into a bush and a saber-toothed tiger ate him, you would probably want to avoid that bush forever. The problem is that our wiring is fundamentally unchanged since our caveman days, and technology has introduced a host of problems that we are ill-equipped to deal with. As much as we like to think of ourselves as "enlightened" our fundamental reactions to base stimuli (food, sex, violence, fear) have not and likely will not change in any appreciable degree.

The Videos (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42584471)

Magical thinking (1)

FridayBob (619244) | about 2 years ago | (#42584487)

That's what this kind of information encourages, but only among those who do not understand statistics. However, magical thinking has already been around for so long (just think of all the world's religions) that I doubt YouTube can make things any worse.

Re:Magical thinking (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 2 years ago | (#42584597)

If you think that people who understand statistics are immunized against magical thinking I have a bridge to sell you.

A suitable knowledge of mathematics allows you to calculate correct answers to problems that intuition provides lousy answers to; but that doesn't make intution shut up, unfortunately.

If you dangle somebody from a crane, hundreds of feet above the ground and all those teeny little figures walking about, does that person's heart rate, blood pressure, adrenaline levels, and similar fear responses have any useful correlation to their knowledge of the tensile strength of the steel cable they are attached to?

Re:Magical thinking (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42584985)

Similarly:

If a bunch of intelligent people on a web site hear that a folk hero of theirs is accused of behaving badly, does this justify their immediate conclusion - despite any evidence - that the accusations are the result of nefarious plotting by a government?

If a bunch of intelligent people on a web site read about a handful of police officers abusing his power, does this justify their conclusion that cops are always, without fail, evil awful fascist thugs?

Re:Magical thinking (2)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about 2 years ago | (#42585339)

If you think that people who understand statistics are immunized against magical thinking I have a bridge to sell you.

A suitable knowledge of mathematics allows you to calculate correct answers to problems that intuition provides lousy answers to; but that doesn't make intution shut up, unfortunately.

If you dangle somebody from a crane, hundreds of feet above the ground and all those teeny little figures walking about, does that person's heart rate, blood pressure, adrenaline levels, and similar fear responses have any useful correlation to their knowledge of the tensile strength of the steel cable they are attached to?

Actually, intuition is pretty darn important, even in math, at least theoretical math. Stephen Hawkins relies on intuition. So did Einstein. So do numerous others. Intuition isn't always correct, but without it, analytical thought can't really develop.

Besides, even mat itself isn't as concrete as we want to make it. Math tells us that the square root of a number is a value that, when multiplied by itself, gives the number. No magic involved there. However, much of physics relies on imaginary numbers (the square root of negative one). Imaginary number or magical thinking, you tell me.

Re:Magical thinking (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 2 years ago | (#42585721)

Oh, I don't mean to deny the value of intuition generally; but just to note that mere 'knowledge' doesn't have the same ability to grab you by the amygdalae and squeeze until you sweat bullets. In suitably gifted and trained individuals it can deliver correct answers far faster than conscious thought, and without visible effort(observe any reasonably coordinated child who doesn't even know pre-calc compute the trajectory of a thrown ball in time to catch it); but if a hardwired response contrary to your analytical one is tugging at you, knowledge is an unfortunately feeble impetus. It's better than nothing, at least you know that you ought to be fighting; but it just doesn't have the same punch.

MMUE (1)

methano (519830) | about 2 years ago | (#42584517)

I've been meaning to write a blog on the "Media Magnification of Unlikely Events" for some time now but never really got around to it. Looks like someone beat me to it. Oh well.

I would be interested... (4, Interesting)

MarcoAtWork (28889) | about 2 years ago | (#42584525)

... in a study that applied this concept to things like lottery winnings (would people buy lottery tickets as much if they didn't know anybody who won?) fear-based behaviors (would people be avoiding running in parks so much if they very rarely heard of related crimes?) dishonesty/narcissism (would people try so much to 'get ahead' by dishonest means if they didn't think that 'everybody does it' which is validated by watching the national news?) etc. etc. etc.

It seems that we spent many, many, many hundreds of years being routinely exposed only to a very small set of other people (the ones living in our village) which gave us a push towards conformity with our limited surroundings and its values and calibrated our 'probability meter' with that amount of 'throws of the dice' in mind. Nowadays no matter what you want to think/believe it is trivial to find many people sharing your point of view and/or finding events that validate your belief/magical thinking.

As I was saying before, if you had never ever met anybody in your life who won a lottery, you would be a lot more likely to look at lottery tickets as a very frivolous use of money, while nowadays where every few weeks you see in the news (with a special interest story, that makes you think you "know" these people) somebody wins a significant amount of money somewhere it's a lot easier to 'magical think' that lottery tickets are instead a lot more worth it (in statistical terms) than they really are.

Just like a lot of people I know that will not run alone in a park because somebody somewhere was victim of a crime and so they are afraid of doing so (without obviously realizing how low the probability that something like that would happen to them, much lower than the probability of them being run over by a car when they run along a road instead).

I don't think that we are equipped to extrapolate probabilities from the small to the large: when it comes to 50 people we are fairly capable of distinguishing normal occurrences, low probability occurrences and once-in-a-blue-moon occurrences, but when it comes to several hundred millions we really can't cope and cannot relate how something that happens to 10 people on a nation-wide level (say, win a lottery jackpot of 100+ millions) is way, way, way unlikely that will happen to us or to somebody we know personally. This is definitely affecting most people's behaviors, in some cases positively (say, rare disease sufferers can find somebody else somewhere that has their same symptoms and can get care, instead of being dismissed) but in many cases not overly so unfortunately.

Cf. Mass Media Generally (0)

cervesaebraciator (2352888) | about 2 years ago | (#42584569)

Like mass media generally, videos are uploaded on the internet with the hope of maximizing views. Thus, not only the unusual is encouraged, but also things that provoke an emotional response. Fear is one of the easiest responses to provoke, hence the 24 hour news coverage of events like mass shootings can discourage rational discourse about such things while at the same time increasing the amount they are present in our minds. Even though violent crime generally has been largely on the decline in the U.S. since the early nineties, the average person is made to feel as though there is a recent epidemic of violence. And now a word from our sponsors...

Video or it didn't happen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42584607)

The kids chant "video or it didn't happen" when some improbable claim is made. Always have a means to record video. Without video you won't be believed.

Youtube is raising the kids. Wonder how that's going to work out.

Improbability and sample size (1)

Empiric (675968) | about 2 years ago | (#42584635)

That someone will be knocked off their bike by an antelope -somewhere in the world- is not improbable.

If the sample size is reduced or specific by reference to the actual case at hand, such as dreaming of being knocked off your bike by an antelope, and then a week later, it actually happening, it becomes extraordinarily improbable.

Most people are not confused by this, even if it serves skepticism to insist they are. Few are unclear on the distinction in probability between "someone will win the lottery" and "you will win the lottery".

This is GOOD not bad. (2)

Jmc23 (2353706) | about 2 years ago | (#42584641)

Catching the 'improbable' on film makes it easier to study and to reduce the improbability of the event occuring again.

This is especially true when the improbable are human achievements. It shows us exactly what the human body is capable of even when constrained by physics. If anything, this wealth of data allows us to be more critical and logical to discern what exactly is going on.

The human brain is an awesome knowledge digester, if you feed it truth, it's not going to produce untruths. For example, athletes viewing recordings of themselves or of competition. There is a tendency in olympic sports to standardize on certain technique aspects that have been proven to work for others. There is a higher congruency of movement in athletes today than there was in the early filmings of the olympics, and higher inter-disciplinary congruence as well as we discover the simple physical truth. Humans are subject to the laws of physics, as such there are optimal paths for the human body to be all it can be.

Of course, there's always people too stupid to recognize they do not have the necessary knowledge and control to execute a movement and there's thousands of compilations of these failures. That's a good thing though, just more data to feed into the path optimizer.

Re:This is GOOD not bad. (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about 2 years ago | (#42585185)

Catching the 'improbable' on film makes it easier to study and to reduce the improbability of the event occuring again.

Heisenberg, if he were alive today, might argue otherwise.

Re:This is GOOD not bad. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42585633)

Catching the 'improbable' on film makes it easier to study and to reduce the improbability of the event occuring again.

Heisenberg, if he were alive today, might argue otherwise.

Well, presuming the buried him instead of cremating him, he might be alive in that sealed coffin.

and don't forget... (2)

larry bagina (561269) | about 2 years ago | (#42584643)

a Guy Opening his Ass To Show Everyone

people are stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42584649)

nothing new here

Like all the slander against Israel and the US (0)

SplashMyBandit (1543257) | about 2 years ago | (#42584669)

Not only is there the improbable out there, there are also outright slanders. Particularly against Israel and the US. All sorts of conspiracy junk that blames them for the world's ills and based on falsehoods that are trivially easy to disprove with facts. However, idiots lap it up. Just wait for the flames in reply to this post - and watch how people with froth at the mouth based on cherished falsehoods rather than quoting actual *facts*. It is incredible just how backward the world has become, that people will hate blindly without ever checking any facts whatsoever (accepting false *facts* from propagandists instead). Cue the rants ...

Re:Like all the slander against Israel and the US (1)

Zero__Kelvin (151819) | about 2 years ago | (#42584919)

" It is incredible just how backward the world has become"

Let me guess. You failed history.

Re:Like all the slander against Israel and the US (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about 2 years ago | (#42585151)

Not only is there the improbable out there, there are also outright slanders. Particularly against Israel and the US. All sorts of conspiracy junk that blames them for the world's ills and based on falsehoods that are trivially easy to disprove with facts. However, idiots lap it up. Just wait for the flames in reply to this post - and watch how people with froth at the mouth based on cherished falsehoods rather than quoting actual *facts*. It is incredible just how backward the world has become, that people will hate blindly without ever checking any facts whatsoever (accepting false *facts* from propagandists instead). Cue the rants ...

Facts or references, please.

Re:Like all the slander against Israel and the US (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42585613)

The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie -- deliberate, contrived and dishonest -- but the myth, persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Belief in myths allows the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.

John F. Kennedy
Yale University Commencement Speech [millercenter.org]
June 11, 1962

Thank you, Captain Obvious (1)

Animats (122034) | about 2 years ago | (#42584767)

A similar comment was made when British newspapers started publishing minor news items telegraphed from far away places in the 19th century. There's a classic quote on this which I can't find at the moment. Must be a slow day at the meme factory.

So you're saying.... (1)

poofmeisterp (650750) | about 2 years ago | (#42584905)

You're saying that 60% of drives ending in car wrecks and drunken debauchery in Russia is the "New Normal?"

Okay then. Off to the liquor store at 50kph over!

WTF? (1)

HPHatecraft (2748003) | about 2 years ago | (#42584937)

Simple, common-knowledge answers to all of these scenarios:

A burglar gets stuck in a chimney

- Photoshopped.

a truck driver in a head on collision is thrown out the front window and lands on his feet, walks away

-- easy. He was driving with a cat strapped to his head. Strapped to that cat was a slice of buttered bread.

a wild antelope knocks a man off his bike

- even wild animals know that cyclists are douche bags.

a candle at a wedding sets the bride's hair on fire

- b*tch chose "My Heart Will Go On" for "their" wedding song. Should have chosen "Back in Black" like the groom wanted. All of this could have been avoided.

someone fishing off a backyard dock catches a huge man-size shark.

Where we are headed (1)

PacRim Jim (812876) | about 2 years ago | (#42584945)

Imagine what's next. Real-time, 24x7 monitoring of the entire solar system, as well as the interior of our bodies, including our minds. We'll need custom programs to keep out the vast majority of information beyond our ability or desire to process, but we'll have a much better awareness of our precise situation, which will improve our evolutionary survivability. I wonder if any tech companies are looking this far ahead.

OK, so then... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42584969)

So then we are saying that "anecdotes are not data" (the improbably things), but that we "believe six impossible things before breakfast".

hard to reconcile the two isn't it? Of course improbable isn't impossible (although it is often thought of that way), just as unlikely isn't quite improbable. So these videos are making us more likely to consider outliers as data - not good. Apparently we are wired that way though - we tend to value things we can see as evidence and some numbers on a page as balderdash.

Re:OK, so then... (1)

bbelt16ag (744938) | about 2 years ago | (#42585001)

Hmm, well then perhaps the humans shouldnt be looking at the data and the machines should be determining what is of need to be reviewed by us. If you try to shove too much data through the human mind it wont comprehend it all, just like it drops alot of the data you saw heard felt from yesterday, perhaps we need machines to drop the out liers and anecdotes from the data before we see it..

Pratchett's Rule. (1)

Remus Shepherd (32833) | about 2 years ago | (#42584981)

“Scientists have calculated that the chances of something so patently absurd actually existing are millions to one.
But magicians have calculated that million-to-one chances crop up nine times out of ten.”

  Terry Pratchett, Mort

So the internet has made Pratchett's rule a reality. Now all I want it to do is give us giant turtles and ambulatory luggage.

Examples are typically not typical. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42585021)

This has always been a problem when looking at minerals in museums. One sees only the very best examples, which are typically far from typical.

Hogwash (1)

Dcnjoe60 (682885) | about 2 years ago | (#42585125)

Hogwash! It doesn't matter how many improbable things appear online. It won't actually change the probability of something that is improbable happening. If the likelihood of being thrown through the windshield and landing on your feet and running away is 1 in 1,000,000,000, then it is still the same probability regardless of how many people saw a clip of it on you-tube.

So, unless the original post is positing that somehow observing the improbable event by millions of people on you-tube is going to cause a quantum change (which would be an interesting discussion), the probability remains unchanged.

How Video Games Make Violence Into The New Normal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42585719)

If you believe the premise of the QP, then you must also accept that the prevalence of violence in video games makes it seem normal, too.

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