As someone who has had more than his fair share of annoying people due to ill-advised and off-the-cuff remarks, a post I read recently on PandoDaily made me wince. Now I have to say that I absolutely love PandoDaily – founder Sarah Lacey is doing amazing work, has amassed an incredible roster of writers and balances just the right amounts of breadth and depth to create something amazing. But sometimes things don’t quite fall into place.
In the post, Michael Carney talked of his real concerns about the security and safety of Google Drive, in his words:
In the process of writing this story yesterday, I composed a draft in Google Drive. The last time I opened that draft was 3:37pm, and then transitioned at that point to WordPress. The story was then published on PandoDaily at 5:14 pm. At 5:25 pm, I got the first email from Google, informing me that an absolute stranger had requested access to this Google Document. In the roughly 18 hours since, I have received eight more such requests, making nine in total.
While Carney is adamant that nothing in his article had changed since it was first posted, a number of people commented on the post saying that the link he originally included pointed to a Google drive document and, when they clicked on the link, they were invited to send a sharing request to him.
Now I’m not suggesting that Carney is lying when he says nothing has changed. But he created a draft in Google docs, published the post on WordPress and miraculously had requests from people to share the document, most of whom suggest that they clicked on a link he’d places within the post. It’s not a huge mental leap to suggest that when editing the WordPress post he inserted a hyperlink into the post and inadvertently pasted in the URL for the Google doc rather than the address he was trying to send people to.
Unfortunately the post has been read, and linked to, by a large number of people, many of whom would have read the headline and first paragraph and leaped to a “oh no, Google must be bad” point of view. While Google is a large company and we needn’t feel sorry for any discomfort they might feel because of this, there is a bigger societal trend at play here, the trend of knee jerkism and a preference for instant gratification over critical analysis.
This was a theme explored by Francisco Dao in another PandoDaily post (see a theme here, Pando tackling the bigger issues). In his post Dao discussed what he described as a “cult of ideas” or a preference for wanting to believe rather than wanting to learn As Dao says:
The difference between wanting to learn and wanting to believe is not trivial. Learning includes a large component of critical thinking, of questioning and, if possible, testing hypotheses. In contrast, there is no critical thinking component in wanting to believe. Wanting to believe is essentially an emotional push for faith in whatever you’re being told… Practitioners of the cult of ideas will dismiss anyone who dares to question them as an ignorant non-believer. For example, any time I’ve questioned anything about Burning Man I’ve been attacked and accused of being close-minded. Shouldn’t a culture that is supposed to be based on open mindedness be open to questioning? It should be, but I can’t tell you the number of people who have accused me of ignorance and even launched personal attacks against me for simply pointing out inconsistencies.
It seems to me that in the same way that people are happy to take whatever TED speakers say as the pure truth, are willing to chant meaningless mantras in the face of a persuasive and charismatic speaker and are willing to adopt blind sweeping statements the leverage the populist vote, are the very same people who will real Carney’s article and tell all their friends that “Google Drive is dodgy, because I read this article someplace…”
So let’s not throw away critical thinking for a desire to follow. Let’s not succumb to the temptation to easily adopt appealing and digestible statements – the equivalent of McDonalds for the mind. Let’s not make blind sweeping statements that actually have deleterious impacts on others. Let’s remember that we’re distinguished from the beasts by our ability to think, and let us exercise that distinction for the betterment of ourselves, others and society generally…