People once believed that the Earth was flat. Can you believe that?
If you can, then you’re as gullible as the people who thought the Earth was flat. Don’t worry though – since those people never existed, you’ll be OK.
In fact, no one of any scientific bent has ever believed the Earth was flat, nor that you would fall off the edge if you sailed too far. As long as human beings have had the capacity to wonder about the shape of the Earth, we’ve known it was a sphere.
The idea that anyone thought the Earth was flat seems to have emerged a few hundred years ago as a way to insult people whose theoretical positions differed from your own. “If you believe that you must also think the Earth is flat” sort of thing. Ironically, the belief in that belief has taken root fairly firmly.
What has any of this to do with the technology industry, you ask? I’m glad you did.
We of the geek persuasion have a tendency to frown somewhat condescendingly upon those whose understanding of technology is inferior to our own – which, let’s face it, is most people, am I right? We place them and their ignorance right alongside people who believe the Earth is flat. Or people who believe there were ever people who believed the Earth was flat. Can you believe there were people who believe there were people who believe the Earth is flat?
I’ll give you a second to work that one through.
The fact, unfortunately, is that we are, as a group, incredibly gullible.
A couple of weeks ago a video emerged online purporting to be of a “dummy” iPad 2 that Apple had sent to a manufacturer of iPad accessories, which said manufacturer had carelessly left lying around CES in Las Vegas. While there were a few “could this be a hoax?” disclaimers, the story was widely reported in the technology press as being potentially true.
Forget for a moment the way Apple responded when a prototype iPhone 4 made it into the wild. Forget that no iPod, iPhone or iPad accessory manufacturer has ever mentioned getting “dummies” to design accessories around in advance of a product release before. Forget the likely consequences to any accessory manufacturer who did allow such a thing to reachthe media.
The background audio in the clip is a 12-second loop of generic chatter. It obviously was not recorded on the exhibition floor at CES. Knowing nothing of Apple, anyone with ears could have identified the video as a fake. But we want to believe.
More recently, a clip hit a number of tech sites – including normally relatively sceptical ones – showing a French inventor demonstrating a device (attached to his temples) that forced his eyelids to blink rapidly, alternating left and right, hundreds of times a second, allowing him to view a 3D movie without special glasses.
I have no further comment on that. Just the description should make it obvious it was a fake, seriously.
My point is that these were just the latest in a long, long line of technology hoaxes that have taken in people who really should have known better. Perhaps it is a byproduct of working in an industry where what is “possible” changes almost daily; we tend to be willing to accept something pretty unlikely is actually possible.
Perhaps it’s that very willingness to look at an utterly incredible notion and think “maybe” instead of “no way” that separates innovative from the merely credulous.
We’ll never learn. And that’s not a bad thing.
Matthew JC. Powell has dedicated his life to not learning. Share your ignorance on email@example.com
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Issue: 315 | May 2013
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