"Is it normal to be attracted to other boys?"
"Can I claim food stamps?"
"Is my employer allowed to deduct breakages from my pay?"
"How much is cassava selling for in Lagos?"
Knowledge changes lives. As technologists, we are at the forefront of a revolution that has the potential to banish ignorance forever, for everyone. We have a basic moral duty to honour that responsibility, to recognise the real risks of what we are doing, and to work for the benefit of humanity.
The fun of bullshitting is something I am happy to accept as a casualty of war. Frankly, I think it's rather bourgeois to gripe about it.
I'm far more concerned about personalised search results inadvertently working to intellectually ghettoise us and reinforce prejudices. I'm concerned about the effect that paywalled academic journals might be having on the spread of pseudoscience. I'm concerned that IT systems are being designed predominantly by middle-class Americans in liberal cities, who are often ignorant of how their design decisions might affect people who are living in more repressive environments.
Bullshit should die unmourned, because we've got more important things to worry about.
I think the article was more a reflection on how radically things have changed, and that, even if things are generally much better now, there still were unexpected positives to simpler times.
A story that might be interesting: We live in Arizona. Last year two old guys (really old, about my age :-) got out of their pickup truck and walked over to me while I was gassing up our car and asked for directions to some obscure little town. After asking why they were travelling (they were on the way to some distant relative's house for a party) I pulled out my droid phone and used the voice interface to Google Now to ask for driving directions; we also got a warning about a road closure. Neither of these guys had ever owned a computer so they asked the obvious questions of how much would a similar phone cost and where to get one. I would bet that they had a smart phone within days. +1 for easy access to information.
That's leaving aside the implications of having easy access to information to answer more important questions.
Questions for which there's a known right answer should get resolved as quickly as possible. That leaves more time for the questions that the Internet and all the other resources we have available can help answer, but which still require work. (Whether those questions are useful or just amusingly absurd is up to you.)
Just look at XKCD's What If (https://what-if.xkcd.com/), which references online information but nonetheless puts it together in novel ways (density of seawater and approximate volume of a bowling ball gives the minimum weight required for a bowling ball to sink). In the future, that post (https://what-if.xkcd.com/125/) will show up on the other end of a very strange set of search terms, but there will always be many more questions where that came from, and there are myriad examples online of detailed reasoning from fictional premises. For instance, see http://www.intuitor.com/moviephysics/ , http://physicswithportals.com/ , https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ig_Nobel_Prize , or https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-uG3_RgX9JA0/TboU21S9gNI/AAAAAAAAD... .
How many of us, solo or in a group, ended up reaching for the asked piece of information basically instantly on Wikipedia, yet, serendipitously hooked on by another piece of information, ended up bouncing around page upon page like a pachinko ball until one says "wait, how did we get up to this already?".
Many years ago, someone wisely said that the problem was not computers thinking like people, it was people thinking like computers.
More productively, I wonder how people would respond to this after having grown up with the boundary of their 30s knowledge horizon roughly equivalent to that of humanity's experts 10yr prior. Anyone born since ~2000 perhaps is in this situation. Will they have eliminated this kind of "fun" "bullshit" from their behavior completely?
At the base, it's the same hollow critique of millennials: because they do things differently (e.g. interact socially online as well as in person) they must be missing out on all the great things that the Boomers experienced.
Facts are facts, and that's just about it.
This behavior is "fun" because their bullshitting about Steven Tyler led to them meeting up with some girls, going to some bars, and having a good night out.
It's weird how all these advancements in technology that were supposed to free up our time have just taken up more of our time.
It's sad, really. Learning used to be an adventure, and sometimes you were wrong. It was a game, even if you knew the answer beforehand.
Now it's a chore, and I really don't see all these bullshit facts being removed from our society today, even though almost everything is a few taps of your iPhone away.
It's a purely social process that seems foreign and awkward to a visible majority of the HN crowd. I happen to agree with that crowd, I don't see the fun in it. I don't see the point in it. I wasn't raised to respond positively to this specific situation.
Instead - and again I believe a majority of the people on HN are in the same boat - I get socially interested in people with whom I can have exchanges that have the potential to affect the way I work, I behave or I see the world.
I have a fairly arrogant (but not necessarily incorrect) theory about this. I suspect that when you work/live in an environment which constantly stimulates you intellectually, you have an easier time getting to the "rewarding" part of more intellectual exchanges (eg. the facts of a conversation) than someone who works 9-17 at Walmart, and whose curiosity in the world is not being constantly nurtured, might. Thus we see a large majority of people who do not get any satisfaction from talking about more in-depth subjects than, say, Steven Tyler and Mary Tyler Moore.
And that lack of satisfaction is present on both sides. Once you have tasted what it's like to fire pure knowledge and experience at each other in a conversation and having all parties enjoy it, it's very hard to find any pleasure in exchanging senseless, bullshit factoids that will only serve to be repeated to someone else in the same social situation later on.
I love being able to hold conversations about things I like learning about or know a lot about -- politics, computer science, programming, whatever.
Still, I can't only have intellectually stimulating conversations all day. I'd lose my social skills.
Humans are remarkably social animals. In all reality, our socialness keeps our society flowing and from freezing. A lot of intellectuals like to think they're the ones who keep computers computing, robots robotting, etc., and rightfully so.
But had we all the social skills of some "intellectuals" I've worked with and gone to school with, our communication would be piss-poor and we'd never be able make it anywhere as a country or planet earth.
I say all that because those people, the farmers, politicians, small business owners, managers (even CEOs!), directors -- people who have to deal with the general public -- didn't grow up only seeking conversations where they "fire pure knowledge" at each other.
They went to bars, partied, made friends, bullshitted, watched some mind-numbing TV, played contact sports, read People magazine... you get the point.
Thing is, some of us enjoy the mundane. Ivory towers are a bad thing. Believing there's no joy the non-intellectual aspects of life leads to isolation.
Like in programming: a lot of "functions" don't return anything, they're ran for side-effects.
Bullshitting is a type of play. Play is important for developing as an individual and for a group developing a shared identity.
They find different ways of having fun and bullshitting.
Sounds kind of like a high horse. By this line of thought, are you not saying people of fifteen years ago were barbaric? Have we really become so enlightened and superior since then?
2. No one ever lies again
4. Star Trek becomes real
The kind were people with shallow (or none) knowledge of a topic check some reference source they half understand and try to pass of as experts in the subject matter...
At least with reference books you had to own them in the first place and get into the trouble to locate a reference in their index etc.
Now any bozo can check an obscure lemma in a matter of seconds and pretend he knows what he's talking about in an online discussion (and often offline), going back to check more details in the process any time his bluff is close to be discovered.
Sure, look it up when you get home. But a little group self-discipline goes far in keeping the fine art of bullshitting alive.
(And it's not just the answer that kills the conversation, but also the fact that someone is right and someone is wrong, game over. Much better to keep the game going!)
Or, if you know your friends well enough to guess what they're going to say, it's the art of picking the third or fourth dialog choice from the top, Monkey Island style. And if you're really friends, they'll do the same and it'll work.
And then there was the other side, where you tried to derive the answer. One of my favorites was attempting to determine if you could neglect the earth's core in modeling gravity; ferocious debate for an hour and a half by a dozen engineers. Best lunch ever.
Really, this is more about people being boring. Jumping immediately to the obvious instead of enjoying a meandering argumentative stroll. It's a way to play. Simple as that.
Otherwise you're just the adult saying, "that's not lava, that's carpet." Killjoy is the word, I think.
Edit: Ah, here we go: Mornington Crescent.
Was the real conversation better than that?
It wandered like that. It was a direct result of our introduction to modeling in the early core engineering courses. Wherein we abuse the power of deciding what gets into the model. (It all started with one person noting that we frequently neglect gravity in electrical engineering.)
I think you nailed it with the shenanigans reference. So long as it doesn't cross the border into inappropriateness or blatant insults it's just lighthearted humor to break the ice or stimulate conversation. After all, if we wanted boring robots to talk to there's always SmarterChild.
Conversation is sharing personal interpretations of the world. It should be ok to be wrong. You'll always gain far more insight in to people around you, build closer bonds with them, and have more fun if you're willing to let a few trivial mistakes slide.
Conversation is not simply sharing facts.
Gradually, I've recognized the artifice that goes into these constraints and their denial of the human condition - especially since I can observe them become increasingly unprepared to perform this task as they get older and so lean on me more and more to drive the topics, while getting agitated and defensive if I deviate from the chosen railroad.
On the other hand I find it incredibly difficult to shut up when someone says something wrong about computing (or usually about some current affairs topic in computing). Don't be that guy.
I look it as an opportunity to see how many people outside the computing field see it. It's sometimes horrifying, but on the other hand, my most common reaction is "that explains so much".
Who goes to his friend's place and wants to google?
I'd rather go somewhere without them.
Or when something is on the tip of your tongue for an hour.
I agree with you. That sounds like much more fun.
Rule: all phones head down in a stack. That's it, go enjoy people a little
"I always tell guys, put away your phone and work on your car. Nobody ever got laid in the back seat of an iPhone." - Billy Gardell
Why anyone would ever choose bullshit over facts is beyond me. Facts are interesting. Facts are fun. Bullshit is just the unrestrained spew of the ignorant ego. There's no point to it other than mate competition, and making what amount to factual claims that are known to be false so you can score is what created a vast amount of human misery for untold thousands of years, and continues to do so in the less enlightened parts of the world (philosophy departments, for example...)
I'd much rather find out the facts and discuss them--and there is always something for anyone who isn't completely brain-dead to discuss--than listen to some egotistical ignoramous spew nonsense, and then have to argue against them knowing that in the absence of facts the standard of proof is "what just makes sense", which only an idiot would take as an interesting guide to reality, because reality, in the absence of facts, does not make sense.
Quantum mechanics? Totally incoherent.
Evolution? Pull the other one.
The Earth moves in an elliptical path around the sun and the wandering stars are huge balls of gas and rock? Ridiculous!
In a world before we invented the discipline of publicly testing ideas by systematic observation, controlled experiment and Bayesian inference--that is, science--people based their ideas on the "game" you are describing. If you're a member of SCA I guess it might be fun to continue it, but from an epistemologist's point of view it looks about as civilized as cat mauling as a means of social entertainment.
Such things are best left in the Middle Ages, where they belong.
The world, post-Google, abounds in serendipitous quests to find many pieces of information online, such as starting at a given book on Amazon and moving down the chain of Amazon's "Customers Also Bought", or embarking on a semi-infinite dive through Wikipedia.
Any of these can turn into a game given the right mindset. Who can connect Klein bottles to the Gettysburg address in the fewest links?
Of course, that's not to disparage the fun of lacking access to proper information. Just look at these bodybuilders arguing over the number of days in a week: http://www.deathandtaxesmag.com/233107/two-body-builders-arg...
There's a dark side to bullshit. There's a side which creates endless pain for no good reason, because things 'sound good' or are 'too good to check' and nobody likes a party-pooper, do they? Especially when the party-pooper is pointing out how this little piece of bullshit could kill someone.
No. Go along to get along. Don't be so serious all the time. Don't imagine you know better. It's rude.
Alternatively, I invoke Poe's Law in case I'm being That Guy. (Tone's hard on the Internet - it's much better to play in person!)
I had to show them recent videos of Bobby McFerrin, his webpage, and then prove he had done that song.
My step-dad always posed with his fact-knowledge as if it was the holy grail of wisdom. It even led to this bullshitting in the link. If he didn't know something, he made it up. Or he would tell us about some (anecdotical!) evidence for this and that.
Today, I just flip out my smartphone and look it up and after that, everyone learned something.
Sometimes the facts are so ridiculous or shocking that knowing the truth can be funny or exciting too :)
This was exposed quite starkly with this story: http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/...
If you exclude the pro/cons comments (and the abuse) you're left with loads of "charities have the cure, they are holding them back"
they defy sense, yet are reassured by the people about them.
Did you know that early South-Americans used the shells of giant turtle-like mammals as houses? Isn't that crazy? Here, check out a picture of one. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/cb/Glyptodon...
Or as xkcd put it, you are one of the lucky 10,000! http://xkcd.com/1053/
There are claims which have no proof or disproof on the web.
You have to be more creative in 2015.
I believe I'm missing some profound point that the TFA is apparently making.
1) Koalas are from Australia, and in Australia every animal tries to kill you.
2) The AUSTRALIAN MUSEUM has an entire page on them.
3) Australian Geographic (the Australian cousin of National Geographic) has a long post about how they tend to target non-native homo-sapiens
4) This study shows how they are best tracked by indirect means. PDF available at 
For increased social cohesion play-fighting over bullshit is better, there's a subtext that the only reason it's worth it is you actually enjoy the company of those around you.
Hilarious. We're not quite there yet, but soon though.
Just wait until we go from predictive search to preemptive search.
No one care to check: "it's in the news, so it must be true". Or the alternative, we assume it's all bullshit, even when it's not.
It often seems that we don't care if somethings is bullshit. If it appeals to us we don't want to run the risk of being proven wrong. If we don't like the bullshit that's coming our way there's no point in proving it wrong, because "everyone knows that it's bullshit".
The segment in question runs from about page 29 through 34.
I unfolded my napkin and got the silverware out. "I don't remember."
She got out her phone.
"No, don't go there."
"I. M. D. B." Her fingers.
"Oh, Cristian Douglas," I said. "It was Cristian Douglas."
Still typing, head leaned back, under the spell of her phone.
The old 'Swear to God' that would prove any piece of fine BS to your friends, is no longer valid. Swear to Google is the new 'believe me'.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoVxOLew_cU (towards the end).
OK, it's not really the fun entertaining sort of bullshit, but you've got to take what you can get.
“We wondered about stupid stuff all day until we forgot about it.”
Here in france we have a lot of people that believe theses websites
You best not believe much you see on the Internet! So much crap is made up and goes viral for surprise the almighty dollar.
I don't go in for this but I do find it entertaining to read sometimes.