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How the Internet Makes the Improbable Into the New Normal 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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How the Internet Makes the Improbable Into the New Normal

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  • by paiute ( 550198 ) on Monday January 14, 2013 @03:21PM (#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.
  • by bondsbw ( 888959 ) on Monday January 14, 2013 @03:22PM (#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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 14, 2013 @03:24PM (#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.

  • by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Monday January 14, 2013 @03:45PM (#42584595) Journal

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

    Want to try again?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 14, 2013 @04:30PM (#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.

  • by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <> on Tuesday January 15, 2013 @05:39AM (#42589587) Homepage Journal

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

    I can't speak for anyone else, but I know I was much more of an optimist before I became involved with systems administration and internet security.

Civilization, as we know it, will end sometime this evening. See SYSNOTE tomorrow for more information.