Editorial – April 2023: Can knowledge be a dirty word?

Hello everyone,

With widespread computer access these days, anyone can appear to be an expert on any subject, provided they know how to access the right information and choose the right words. However, it can be challenging to discern what is correct from the misinformed or fake information. If anything, the latter two are far more damaging than the correct information. It is alarming how many people still believe that the Earth is flat, highlighting failures in various countries’ education systems. Many of us here are geeks who likely paid attention in class and continue to learn or, as one of my review books indicated last month, relearn some early information. Correct spelling isn’t always necessary with software predicting our typing, but it is not perfect. Regular computer users should ideally have some shared common sense.

Even when knowledgeable on a subject, there will always be someone who knows more. As long as the information is verifiable, knowledge is shared to benefit everyone. Our brains store a lot of trivia that we can draw upon when needed. Why our brains retain trivia versus educational material is not well understood. It likely depends on how sticky our memory is and the capacity for junk information.

As I’ve mentioned before, it is now nearly impossible for any genre fan to be an expert on all aspects of science fiction. There is just too much content, too little time, and limited funds to acquire more than a decent sampling. This doesn’t mean you can’t be knowledgeable, just a bit more selective than when we were young and had fewer options. Many of my articles are shared elsewhere, indicating that my observations are noteworthy and worth sharing with others. A lot of it involves observing and questioning what is seen from within a reality. I rarely enter with preconceived ideas, and I credit General Semantics for teaching me to avoid fundamental biases and focus on observation before judgment.

Editorial – April 2023: Can knowledge be a dirty word?
Editorial – April 2023: Can knowledge be a dirty word?

For any subject, it pays to have a basic understanding. For science fiction, read some popular Golden Age authors and their well-known works. You won’t read all of them, but they are the building blocks of today’s science fiction. Understanding our sci-fi roots puts modern sci-fi into context, even if many tropes are repeated. The same applies to genre films and TV series. We have more content available now through various sources than ever before, although I would recommend accessing them without ads. Even some of the low-quality ones are worth a look, if only to recognize the good from the bad and establish your own standards for what you like.

There are always levels of taste, and in today’s internet age, you can find people who agree or disagree with your preferences. Our genre leaves room for fans to become obsessed with franchises like ‘Star Trek’ or ‘Star Wars’, but this can create challenges in recognizing homages and borrowed elements from the creators.

It can become apparent that there is nothing new under the sun, though other stars may offer possibilities. Every science fiction writer hopes to discover something that hasn’t been used or to create a new take on an existing concept. I’ve done both but only know this because I’ve conducted sufficient research. It takes an unconventional mindset to break away from standard ways of thinking, a useful skill for writing your own stories.

Knowledge is power; it’s not a dirty word. However, it also pays not to take things at face value. Online, identical phrases often mean someone has copied content without verifying it, which should raise suspicion. When your opinions are based on facts, you can trust your knowledge and compare it to the information in your head, as well as check different sources from various perspectives.

With autotext software capable of writing essays, it is important to double-check the information used, as AIs string words together but can’t read or understand what they write. Checking the content for accuracy is crucial—it’s the difference between a thoughtless AI and a thoughtful human. We shouldn’t take shortcuts, especially when we know there’s a lot of false information on the internet. You might be aware of this, but AIs can’t tell the difference, and if a document is important, like an exam, don’t blindly trust it to be accurate. An AI can’t tell the difference between honest and dishonest information, other than by the number of letters used.

To give this a science fiction twist, will we ever have AIs that are better than those we have today? I’m less certain about that. AIs are unlikely to mimic the human brain without a vast number of synapses and the ability to learn from the ground up. Granted, they would also be unlikely to require repetition, unless resolving contradictions, so they would likely progress through schooling more rapidly than humans. The real question at the end of all this is whether we would want an AI capable of lying, and if so, would that be desirable? The fact that AIs can lie now without being able to tell the difference is just as frightening as humans who do it knowingly.

Thank you, take care, good night, and remember—honesty is the best policy.

Geoff Willmetts

editor: www.SFCrowsnest.info

SFcrowsnest now also has something new called ‘push notifications’ as a sign-up option, where people can sign up to get a server-to-server notification each time a new story goes live. Someone who doesn’t understand what that is might mistake this as an ’email newsletter’. You can turn said notification either on or off by going to the home page and clicking the little floating bell icon in the bottom left hand corner of the web site.

A Zen thought: Who wants a dumb editor?

What Qualities Does A Geek Have: Seeking truth wherever it might lie.

The Reveal: You can’t buy the parts to build an interositor on the Internet.

Observation: Now here’s an interesting observation with ‘Close Encounters Of The First Kind’. All the people on the light side of the moon of Devil’s Tower must have seen the mothership before the people on the landing area. So, too, must any people for at least a hundred miles around assuming it came in low from that area.

  This is what started my article this month but thought I’d show where it started.

Observation: There’s always been something that might be wrong but is actually right about the original Thunderbird 3. The base of the living quarters is in the direction of the engines firing. Fine for taking off but in space, TB3 is shown on its side, so wouldn’t it make sense for the living quarters to also be moved onto its side?  However, the thrust still comes from the motors so they are still ‘upright’.

  There is one other however, that is docking with Thunderbird 5. John or Alan Tracy in switching between the two TBs will have to change their orientation when they get to the TB3 entry hatch. This is something we don’t see. Then again, there some a lot of things in the original show we don’t see but take for granted.

Observation: Most SF films and SF TV series get things wrong with their spacecraft when it comes to orientating the living habitat. Enough to make me think there’s an article in there.

Computer Observation: For ages now, I’ve been trying to figure out the PC USB architecture when it comes to booting up or restarting a laptop computer after a Windows update and what is plugged in. If you want to keep your scanner there, then it pays to leave it plugged in and turned on. I haven’t worried about the radiolink with a printer with the scanner attached. I mean, with its limited resources, why would you use it unless it was an emergency as they don’t have the full resources of a standalone scanner?

  I doubt if many of you will have a graphics tablet, but the same applies there as well. It needs to be there in the reboot. Quite why this hasn’t been resolved between laptops and desktop computers needs some sort of resolution or, at least, an explanation from the various manufacturers and any possible resolution.

  After a major reboot, the scanner doesn’t necessarily fully engage once you’re through the password stage and, in fact, doesn’t appear to be on and software turns on can be a little, shall we say, sluggish loading up. However, assuming you have your scanner on a separate USB power hub, if you then turn the scanner off and on, it will engage and all your software loading speeds go back to normal.

  If anything, it does show the weirdness of order the computer has under Windows guidance as to what can be on and off and readjusting the order. When you consider looking up PC USB architecture on-line says it can support up to 127 USB connections and is actually struggling with 3 (I’m including an auxiliary keyboard and mouse on a power hub here that actually work fine because they ae relatively simple) with the graphic tablet directly plugged in, you do have why Google shows things so wrong.

Feeling Stressed: That’s always another month to fret over.



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