Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
The Fine Art of Bullshit, Killed by Google (medium.com)
283 points by JacobAldridge on Jan 17, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 117 comments

"Where can I find a women's shelter?"

"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.

It's possible to both lament the loss of bullshitting, and the interaction it generates, while also appreciating the significant improvements technology has brought.

I don't think the thesis of the article was that instant access to information is bad for society.

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.

I find it difficult to relate to negative comments (for easy access to information) in this thread.

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.

The story posted in the article provides a romanticized illustration of how finding knowledge in a world without easy access to it can produce an adventure. (I like that it doesn't directly say which of the 1994 or 2014 versions was better, though there's sure an implication from how they're painted.) On the other hand, access to information can produce an adventure, as well; so can many other things. In the end, the right group of friends can end up on wild adventures for any number of reasons.

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... .

> On the other hand, access to information can produce an adventure, as well

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?".

I have planned entire holidays using online information, going to places I'd never go to otherwise. While on holiday though I prefer travel guides in book format however.

This. Hypotheticals, not questions of fact, make conversational adventures.

I once tried to find out on Wikipedia whether goldfish really have ten second attention spans. I learned that in Nix vs. Heddon the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a tomato is a vegetable, not a fruit.

Also, X-men toys are "toys" not "dolls" because they're non-human. X-men fans got mad, heh.


The X-Men are the next step in doll evolution.

Would you please go back and find out about the goldfish? I'm curious, but fear I'd never come back if I went to look for myself.


Under a specific tax statute.

Couldn't resist Googling that and there is indeed a Wikipedia page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nix_v._Hedden

Our tools have been shaping us for millennia, something that a story by Ted Chiang highlights nicely: http://subterraneanpress.com/magazine/fall_2013/the_truth_of... (via HN this week).

Many years ago, someone wisely said that the problem was not computers thinking like people, it was people thinking like computers.

I'm struggling to identify what it is about this nostalgia that infuriates me so deeply. Perhaps it's just fascinating to me that so many people find it fun to be in stupid situations. I find it barbaric and twisted.

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?

For me it's the assumption that if since a particular circumstance triggered an interesting social interaction, that the lack of that circumstance would mean that no interesting social interaction would occur.

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.

This looks to be a Gen X story. I am not sure what the Boomers have to do with this?

I honestly believe we live our lives for the moments that aren't spent learning.

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 baffles me how you can call this convoluted process "learning". It's not. It's rightfully called the art of trivia bullshitting and has nothing to do with learning.

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 learning. It's one of the things I spend my free time doing.

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.

You learn a lot while bullshitting, but probably not about what you're talking about.

Like in programming: a lot of "functions" don't return anything, they're ran for side-effects.

I wish you would go into details rather than give an absolutely meaningless analogy.

You learn about the people that you're bullshitting with. We're social animals, we live in groups, we solve problems in groups, we tackle adversity as groups. Our lives depend on our abilities to function within groups.

Bullshitting is a type of play. Play is important for developing as an individual and for a group developing a shared identity.


> Anyone born since ~2000 perhaps is in this situation. Will they have eliminated this kind of "fun" "bullshit" from their behavior completely?

They find different ways of having fun and bullshitting.

I find it barbaric and twisted.

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?

More that we've undergone a pretty significant state change in the past couple decades, and much of how we understand the world now has dependencies on full information access; inflicting variable negative reinforcement on those thought patterns by removing that dependency restricts the smooth transition to a more inclusive and durable self.

1. Provide instant answers to everyone on the planet

2. No one ever lies again

3. ???

4. Star Trek becomes real

You'll get a Riker.

Actually Google (and Wikipedia et al) enabled an even more evolved form of bullshit.

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.

While looking at wiki isn't going to make you an expert, basing your opinion on a wiki article isn't exactly the worst thing in the world to do.

I have a rule I always follow, and have convinced many friends of too -- no Googling/Wikipedia-ing in social settings. If nobody knows something (trivia-like), it's almost always a lot more fun to continue not knowing.

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!)

I'm rather shocked at the fairly visceral reactions a lot of people are having here. This is pretty classic conversational shenanigans. We had a blast with this in college; either you play along or counter with something equally preposterous or unprovable. Looking up the answer is cheating. It's like a game of verbal Calvin Ball or Mornington Crescent. As noted elsewhere in this thread (edit: at least one level up it seems (I got lost, apparently)), the goal is to specifically not make it win/lose, since that ends the game and is boring.

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.


I realize you may have omitted some nuance, but to me, "debating" whether you have to consider the entirety of a mass when modeling gravity sounds incredibly boring. If you use 9.8 m/s*s you are papering over all the nuance, and otherwise 2 masses and a distance is pretty obviously fundamental.

Was the real conversation better than that?

Oh, it was a meandering conversation. Really, it revolved around what the implications were if one neglected the core such that it was a valid premise. How would you torture a model of the earth to allow a person to compensate for not bothering to keep track of the core in a model? Gravity is the most obvious start, which you can get away with some perverse shell geometries (which has the added benefit of ruining the shape of the planet). And there's all manner of heat and magnetics (I think we largely assumed those were also neglectable, which in retrospect is poor planning due to solar wind).

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.)

Would this qualify as well? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f68VXKMZT1Q

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.

I disagree. The conversation is so much more interesting when there are more connections, more tangents to explore than one mind can contain. Facts build on facts, and you can chase down endless rabbit holes when you're not limited to what one wrinkly lump of cholesterol can scrape out of its interconnected canyons.

Except exploring those connections is something people do by quietly clicking links on their screen and reading out the facts presented to them. That is not conversation.

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.

From personal experience, many people will treat conversation as a business event where sharing of facts is paramount. Certainly around my parents and their family, the tendency to railroad towards references, prepared stories and newspaper citations is overwhelming. Original criticism and self-reflection is too confrontational or vulnerable for them. Pauses and silences are considered "awkward" and to be avoided. Decorum is of high importance. This creates a stifling, repetitive conversational flow as they get to ruminate out loud on the same thoughts over and over, without really exploring anything.

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.

At least with the people I know, most trivia is the sort of thing they already found on the internet. If you browse Reddit and none of your friends do, you're pretty much guaranteed to know some bizarre fact. Similarly with programs like QI, it's often quite easy to know where people get their facts from (the conversation usually ends with "You got that from QI didn't you?" "Yes. I did.")

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.

> 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".

No offense but that doesn't sound fun at all. Imagine walking into your friend's place and he says to you, "Oh yeah, no googling. Thanks."

In what sense does that not sound like fun?

Who goes to his friend's place and wants to google?

Arbitrary rules & restrictions on behavior aren't fun, even if you don't intend to break them.

I'd rather go somewhere without them.

Modern civilization in general must be a huge bane to you then.

What, googling and stopping a fun conversation when your riffing with your friends is more fun?

In my experience there's riffing, laughter, someone thinks to check google, then more riffing and laughter.

But sometimes Google can keep a non-bullshit, non-serious conversation going, say when two friends talk about a movie and it doesn't ring a bell, but then you google it and the first image suggestion reminds you that you've seen it too, and it was THAT movie! Back into conversation...

Or when something is on the tip of your tongue for an hour.

Just back from a family meeting. When someone didn't know some trivia fact, most of the time another one looked it up while te conversation continued. When the right answer was found on Google or Wikipedia, that was often a starting point to go more in depth and explore the topic even further. Or it was the start for an new conversation about other topics. To me, that was more fun and satisfying than just waisting time and having to hear endless bullshit around minor unverified facts.

Oh wow. Preferred ignorance as entertainment. In hindsight, it is so obvious that this would be a preference in our information overloaded lives.

I agree with you. That sounds like much more fun.

Weirdly I wrote a blog post on this last year (http://www.toenex.net/2014/04/08/information-super-highway/). I only say weird as I don't really write blog posts, preferring to keep my demons to myself.

My rule goes further: it's called the phone stack. I suggest you try, it's pretty awesome.

Rule: all phones head down in a stack. That's it, go enjoy people a little

Sounds awful. For me social situations always tend to be boring or exhausting after a while and then my phone is my saviour until I feel like getting back into the action again. Without it I wouldn't even attend.

Yep, it is an extroverts world out there.

Guess how much fun it is to hang out with people who are perpetually "bored," "exhausted" or on their phones...

About as much fun as it is to hang out with extroverts who get upset when they are told the world isn't all about them.

I'm not an extravert, I just understand basic social dynamics.

The real fun begins when some phone is on vibration and someone calls.

I wouldn't oppose this and I'd probably even further it with a put-away-the-phone rule to encourage social interaction. That and it certainly helps with women/girls to be able to bullshit effectively because even if they know you're lying it is quite disarming and even charming and intriguing to engage in such banter. Another thing that helps with women is not necessarily having an expensive car but a nice car.

"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

Sure, because what fun are facts? What have facts ever done for us? Other than cured disease, ended hunger, doubled lifespan. But lately, I mean!

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.

All of this is well and good, but has very little to do with a bullshit session with one's friends where everybody involved is having fun with an argument about something that is ultimately meaningless.

@eropple - I agree and if it pleases the court I'd like to narrow down your statement to the idea that interacting with actual people should take precedence to interacting with your smartphone as that skill seems to be getting whittled away.

The world, pre-Google, abounded in serendipitous quests to find one piece of information offline.

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...

That bodybuilding.com thread is gold

The bullshit didn't even have to be believable: "Marilyn Manson was the kid that played Paul from the Wonder Years. Also, he had a rib removed so he could perform autofellatio." Kids everywhere believed that. Hilarious.

Right, like "Vaccines cause autism" and "Homeopathy is something you should say without laughing". Also hilarious.

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.

As stolio notes elsewhere in the thread, there is a blunt difference. On the one side there's bullshit that matters, and on the other side is "no seriously, they both have Tyler in their name!" It is absolutely necessary to be able to tell the difference, since it's a basic way to avoid being conversationally tone deaf.

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!)

Yet "vaccines cause autism" has spread like a virus over the Internet. I had never heard about it before the recent (ten years) memification. It's not like the recipients google it and go "no it doesn't" because it you really do you might as well go mad about the insane "facts" put forth. Google and the web in general probably spread as much bullshit as it kills. It's complicated.

On those kind of issues, the google results are a bit muddled. You'll get the results saying "No, of course vaccines don't cause autism", alongside a bunch of BS articles saying "It totally does, because I had my kid vaccinated once, and he's autistic!". Unless you actually search through the sources and figure out which is more credible, it's hard to get a straight yes or no answer.

Yep, my nieces and nephew, all six of them from 12 to 20 all believed that the guy who did the song "Don't worry be happy" had committed suicide.

I had to show them recent videos of Bobby McFerrin, his webpage, and then prove he had done that song.

We heard that about Gabriele D'Annunzio...

I'm happy that it's over.

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 :)

Its actually become a fun game around here. Someone makes an outrageous claim and it starts a race to be the first to call them on it. Phones get drawn like six-guns and its on! We call this little victory of fact finding the "fonesnope". (Or "getting fonesnoped" if you happen to be the claimant). Its a fun party game. Try it.

As a kid I remember family discussions surrounding the legitimacy of certain pieces of trivia, often reaching the point where people began trying to shout over each other. Eventually, my uncle would pick up the phone, dial a random number and say, "Hi there, you wouldn't happen to know who directed Casablanca would you?"

Sadly google hasn't killed "the bullshit". The rise of personal/social media means that we can live in our own bubble of whatever view we choose.

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.

I mostly see upsides. Instead of uncertainty about random trivia, the conversation can be based on certainty about amazing trivia.

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/

All that's changed is the bar for creativity.

There are claims which have no proof or disproof on the web.

You have to be more creative in 2015.

Good riddance?

I believe I'm missing some profound point that the TFA is apparently making.

The point is that uncertainty about some things creates social engagement.

Not to mention that you can come up with some interesting ideas, art and even inventions when facing such uncertainty -- stuff that is lost otherwise.

Well, there are still things to be uncertain about that aren't useless trivia, factoids, or urban legends. Hopefully the new BS free era will trickle down to the lower classes, gradually eroding their ignorance and prejudices, at least about one-liner facts.

Hopefully this new era will also gradually mitigate lazy generalizations and atavistic class distinctions.

Point taken, but please read for the kernel of truth that remains after all the nits have been picked off.

It has indeed been entire minutes since I saw somebody rationalize their well-actuallying into social good. Well done.

Drop bears are a carnivorous, highly aggressive cousin of the Koala.

1) Koalas are from Australia, and in Australia every animal tries to kill you.

2) The AUSTRALIAN MUSEUM[1] has an entire page on them[2].

3) Australian Geographic (the Australian cousin of National Geographic) has a long post about how they tend to target non-native homo-sapiens[3]

4) This study[4] shows how they are best tracked by indirect means. PDF available at [5]

[1] http://australianmuseum.net.au/

[2] http://australianmuseum.net.au/Drop-Bear

[3] http://www.australiangeographic.com.au/news/2013/03/drop-bea...

[4] http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00049182.2012.731...

[5] http://eprints.utas.edu.au/16293/1/2013_Janssen_APAS2013_pro...

For those looking for never ending talks and debates about what is true or not, we still have philosophy, religion, and of course politics. Moreover, there's a lot of room the "The Fine Art of Bullshit" there.

Those are divisive topics, those are debates that matter.

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.

Funnily enough, the Guinness Book of World Records started for a similar reason, settling barroom trivia bets

Comedian Pete Holmes' take on this from a few years ago:


"It's like having a drunk know-it-all in your pocket."

Hilarious. We're not quite there yet, but soon though. Just wait until we go from predictive search to preemptive search.

Bullshit hasn't gone anywhere, sadly. Politicians, the media, companies and people in general spew out more bullshit than ever before, despite the fact that we have easier access to facts than ever before.

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".

You can still bullshit. You just cant do it by inventing random easily unverified factoids. You need to be a bit more inventive and creative these days.

9/11 was an inside job.

Not only bullshit. I remember in one of the Beatles interviews how early on they found out that some guy in town knew the B7 guitar chord. They would get on a bus to meet this guy to learn the chord. This journey would not exist today :(

Smells fishy to me. I could figure out B7 in like, a minute, and I'm not a good guitarist at all.

_why wrote about this phenomenon in CLOSURE:


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.

If anything google made all types of bullshit more accessible. Just search for articles about: Non-stick pans, chem-trails, hollow-earth theory, etc. etc.

What is the bullshit associated with non-stick pans? The off-gassing when they heat up to much?

I found myself thinking "the fine art of bullshit, as told by a bullshitter" while reading this article. I was annoyed because there is no subheading or useful intro that tells me what this is about so i can decide if I want to read it or not. Just a vague title and a vague picture. The writer might think this is clever -- I think its misplaced.

There was a comedian that talked about this a couple years ago.

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).

Read any newspaper article on global warming - the comments section is guaranteed to contain humongous amounts of bullshit. Actually, the comments section on just about any news article is guaranteed to contain humongous amounts of bullshit.

OK, it's not really the fun entertaining sort of bullshit, but you've got to take what you can get.

What did we do before Google?

We wondered about stupid stuff all day until we forgot about it.


(From http://www.absurdnotions.org/page112.html)

Now known as the finer art of bullshit.

Given the plethora of competing bullshit-castles being constructed online, a google search could easily end with them believing that Steven Tyler and Mary Tyler Moore are not only brother and sister, but are also secret agents of the Illuminated Seers of Bavaria.

Except if you find a conspiracy website that say that they are, and your friend will tell you that's a conspiracy and THEY are sibling. That's juste what they want you to believe.

Here in france we have a lot of people that believe theses websites

This art is well and truly alive in football(soccer) pubs today, at least in the 10+ ones I frequent on occasion. No one there respects stats or facts or whatever. Everyone is always right.

Holy moly, the Internet thrives on bullshit.

You best not believe much you see on the Internet! So much crap is made up and goes viral for surprise the almighty dollar.

"Oh great, now we don't have a reason to go out"... SAID NO ONE EVER.

Cool narrative :)

This is stupid, you're all stupid.

If he wants to engage people he should switch to trolling.

Trolls are what folks in my day used to call assholes. Trolling isn't just joking with your buddies about something innocuous. It has become an excuse for just being a jerk to people and hoping they don't pop you in the nose. On the other hand there are genuine good pranksters whose craft is finely honed and deserving of appreciation.

Of course that in this context it's the latter just as anigbrowl's comment proves.

Yes, because attacking people and bullying them is a wonderful way to make friends and influence people.

I think s/he means the type of trolling where you pretend to be monumentally stupid to see whether other people catch on, eg 'what do you mean the world isn't flat, I've been up in a plane so don't think you're fooling me with that round nonsense.'

I don't go in for this but I do find it entertaining to read sometimes.

Applications are open for YC Winter 2020

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact