Archive for December 1st, 2010
The question at hand is, who decides what you find on the web? I recently read Regulating the Information Gatekeepers about search engines. This article focused mainly on commercial implications of search engines changing their rules, and the ongoing arms race between companies that sell the service of tweaking web pages and links and click farms to optimize search engine ranking positions, and the search engines trying to filter out such bare toadying in favor of actual useful pages.
On my MrTitanium.com site, I ignore all those search engine games and just provide solid content and current items for sale. In 2002, MrTitanium was usually in the first dozen results when Googling for “titanium jewelry”. In 2003, Google decided that the number of links to a page was the primary sign of its usefulness. Within days, link farms popped up, and my site dropped from view. I waited it out, and in 2004, Google changed the rules again, and MrTitanium reappeared in the top 30. Top five for “titanium earrings”.
But the real question is, should someone be regulating these gatekeepers of information? Who decides whether a search for “antidepressants” should feature vendors, medical texts, or Scientology anti-psychiatry essays?
There are two ways to censor information: Try to block and suppress it, or try to bury it. The forces of disinformation and counterknowledge are prolific and tireless. A search engine could (intentionally or inadvertently) favor certain well represented but misleading positions (such as Truthers or anti-vaxxers) over proven science, and give all comers the impression of validity and authority to “bad” ideas.
But the question of regulation is a dangerous one. The best access to information is open. But if a well meaning legislature decides that there needs to be an oversight board, this board could evolve into information police and be taken over by populist electors who choose to suppress good information.
On the other hand, the unregulated and essentially monopolistic search industry began with great ideals, and so far has been doing a good job at a hard task. But it, too, could become malignant if there is no oversight.
Another facet is, whose jurisdiction would this fall under? If the U.S. congress passes laws that Google doesn’t like, they simply move offshore. There are designs for, and even prototypes of, data centers that float beyond any countries jurisdiction, powered by waves and sun, and connected via fibers and satellites. If the U.N. starts regulating, then whose rules apply? North Korea? Iran? China? And who could enforce it?
The information revolution is just beginning: We do live in interesting times.
The Salvation Army does an immense amount of good for poor folks and others needing help. For this I applaud them. Members espouse beliefs in the Old and New Testaments, in three persons in one God, and in atonement thanks to Jesus Christ. The Salvation Army is ostensibly militant; it sees itself as a fighting army. For instance:
Corps community centers are the focus of the spiritual work and are organized in a military manner, using military terms throughout. The corps building is sometimes known as the “citadel.” The pastor serves as an “officer.” Members are “soldiers.” This sphere of activity is known as the “field.” Instead of joining The Salvation Army, members are “enrolled” after signing the “Articles of War.” When officers and soldiers die, they are “Promoted to Glory.”
On the other hand, I had never before examined the beliefs of those who belong to the Salvation Army. You can review an official list here.
As you can see, item number 5 indicates the following:
We believe that our first parents were created in a state of innocence, but by their disobedience, they lost their purity and happiness, and that in consequence of their fall, all men have become sinners, totally depraved, and as such are justly exposed to the wrath of God.
[Emphasis added]. The logical conclusion is that since all men are totally depraved, the friendly man ringing the bell to gather money for needy folks, is “totally depraved.” What happens to people who are not “righteous”? That’s covered in item 11:
We believe in the immortality of the soul, the resurrection of the body, in the general judgment at the end of the world, in the eternal happiness of the righteous, and in the endless punishment of the wicked.
Endless? That’s harsh! What else does the Salvation Army believe. Here is a sampling:
We are . . . active in supporting legislation likely to reduce the consumption of alcohol.
All people have the right to economic initiative, to productive work, to just wages and benefits, and to decent working conditions. All people, to the extent they are able, have a corresponding duty to work, a responsibility to provide for the needs of their families, and an obligation to contribute to the broader society.
We believe gambling is wrong, regardless of any perceived benefit of entertainment, charity, or personal gain, even when its destructive influences may not be seen on an individual basis.
Scripture forbids sexual intimacy between members of the same sex. The Salvation Army believes, therefore, that Christians whose sexual orientation is primarily or exclusively same-sex are called upon to embrace celibacy as a way of life.