Journalism [ was: RE: Making HAL Your Pal]

From: Ben Goertzel (
Date: Fri Apr 20 2001 - 12:50:44 MDT

Having written some journalistic articles myself, I suppose I have something
to say on the topic of accuracy versus interestingness.

It's easier to write a long article than a short one, in many ways. In a
long article, one can explain things in detail. In a short article, one has
to choose a few evocative details, hoping in this way to get across the
essence of the big picture, which one doesn't have the space to explain

Really great journalism achieves the dual goals of
excitingness/interestingness and complete accuracy ~simultaneously~. But,
this is hard to achieve, especially when working under tight deadlines as
real journalists usually are.

Sometimes, oddly enough, the essence of the overall picture is better
transmitted by details that are **slightly off** than by truly accurate
details. This is the funky gray area of journalism....

I had numerous differences with the way Declan wrote the article about
Webmind. I think he could have done a much better job. On the other hand,
I also have some understanding for his position. Unlike us, he's not an
expert in these areas, and he was doing his best, on a very tight schedule,
to assemble an appropriate collection of details that would optimally evoke
the whole picture **as he understood it**. I am sure that if he'd had more
time to research Webmind and SingInst, he would have been able to formulate
articles with both sensationalist appeal ~and~ real faithfulness to the
subject material.

The issue then comes down to economics. Why doesn't pay their
writers enough per story to allow them to carefully research each story?
Well, because their business folks have told them that it sells better to
create a large volume of quickly written stories than a smaller volume of
more carefully crafted stories. Are their business folks right? Maybe.

If they're wrong, then there's a market opportunity to start a competing
hi-tech/new-economy online news service focusing on depth and quality of
reportage rather than volume and breadth of coverage.

Anyone want to start a media company?? ;p

-- ben

> -----Original Message-----
> From: []On Behalf
> Of Declan McCullagh
> Sent: Friday, April 20, 2001 2:29 PM
> To:
> Subject: Re: Making HAL Your Pal
> Arona,
> If you want me to take action, it makes sense to address your comments
> to me, rather than a third party or a mailing list I read infrequently.
> That said, I'm not going to change the article or "rewrite" it.
> -Declan
> On Thu, Apr 19, 2001 at 08:20:47PM -0700, Arona Ndiaye wrote:
> > Greetings to each and everyone,
> >
> > Eliezer... Declan McCullagh should 're-write' this article or
> do a sequel,
> > QUICKLY...
> >
> > Quotes from the article:
> >
> > 1. "Yudkowsky's reason for shunning formal education is that he
> believes the
> > danger of unfriendly AI to be so near..."
> > Is it so ? Has it not got more to do with being a CSX ?
> >
> > 2. "Of course, some of the brightest people in the world,
> including Nobel
> > laureates, have spent decades researching AI -- friendly or not
> -- and have
> > failed to realize their dreams..."
> > Why isn't a distinction made between Friendly AI and Classical AI ?
> >
> > 3."The only problem is that academics don't seem interested.
> When asked for
> > comment, one well-known researcher said in response to the
> essay: "Worthless
> > speculation. Call me when you have running code."..."
> > Which academics ? Did Declan McCullagh do a study on this ?
> Since when does
> > "one well-known researcher" mean "all of the researchers" or
> "most of the
> > researchers" ?
> >
> >
> >
> > I could carry on 'till next year. This is just
> > typical-boring-semi-sensational "Wired News" journalism... This
> article (not
> > intending to offense anyone - I honestly could care more if I
> did but I do
> > not[care]) is misleading and it sucks. Period.
> >
> >
> > Most kind regards,
> >
> >
> > Arona, *annoyed, disappointed but hey... not surprised =) *

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