RE: Journalism [ was: RE: Making HAL Your Pal]

From: Ben Goertzel (
Date: Fri Apr 20 2001 - 13:52:32 MDT

> > 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....
> >
> This sounds like a euphemism for something--but I don't know what.
> Intellectual dishonesty comes to mind.

This is why some writers write thinly fictionalized versions of actual
events. In a thinly fictionalized version, one can make up fake events that
reflect the real truth better than the real events!

However, in the case of Declan's article about Webmind in Wired News, it
seems to me that some details were fabricated or exaggerated for purely
sensationalist appeal, distracting from the essence of the story rather than
accentuating it.

For instance, he said we were evicted from our offices in New York. Not
true. Actually we're still there, though we're moving our stuff out next
week, and much of it is out already. No eviction took place.

And he referred to staff turning to alcohol and prostitution. There was
plenty of drinking going on, which I mentioned in my essay, but in fact
portions of our staff were ~always~ hearty partiers. There was one incident
where a staff member got arrested for supposed solicitation of prostitution
(he says he wasn't guilty). But this was a very minor part of it all. A
more ~interesting~ human angle to the story has to do with the 10-15 staff
we brought here on H1-B's who are scrambling to find jobs in a tough job
market, lest they be deported. This is a much more major "human aspect" of
the WM dissolution than "alcohol & prostitution," and ties in with general
social & economic trends with which Wired news should be concerned.

Also, in reporting on the technical aspects of the story, Declan gave the
incorrect impression that recoding the system in C could speed it up by
30,000 times. No. As I explained to him carefully, this kind of speedup is
obtained by a combination of a change in programming language and, much more
significantly, a change in design.

But I'm not too ticked off by the inaccuracies and peculiar emphases in the
story, although some others in the company are. At least he linked the
story to my own essay on the Webmind Inc. situation, which contains a more
faithful rendition of what's going on.

-- Ben

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Wed Jul 17 2013 - 04:00:36 MDT