Editorial – February 2014: Scam of the Earth (editorial by GF Willmetts).

February 1, 2014 | By | Reply More

Scam of the Earth.

 Hello everyone

The world is full of fakery and I’m left in a quandary. I mean, you would have thought the average human would have wised up to at least some of the scams that are going on, not just on the Internet but in the real world as well. When I’m in my analytical mode, I often wonder why no one’s written more stories based on such gullibility, especially in our genre, as it would be such a ripe subject to satirise. From memory, the only one that qualifies is Harry Harrison’s ‘The Stainless Steel Rat’ series, but he was more the reformed thief than con man and there’s more to fakery than that. Then I wryly thought people would think an SF novel faking it would be a bit of an oxymoron considering how science gets a little fudging. Besides, there’s already been enough fakery out there to make more than one religion of it. However, I’m more interested in what makes gullibility part of the human condition, which is the topic of this editorial.

If anything, levels of gullibility is the measure of the con game, as its most recognised example, and no one wants to admit that they’ve been conned. Even when people admit to it in the press, there is more a thought in the back of everyone’s head that they might have fallen for such scams themselves.

In many respects, most of us like to believe the best of people or they are like us and would never do it. Those who do con tend to see us as prey and a weakness that can be exploited. As it was pointed out in the BBC1 TV series ‘Hustle’, you can always con someone who is greedy because they only see the gain they are going to make not they are being taken. However, this is also true of those who are poor as well. People like the idea of something for nothing and forget for nothing you get nothing but might also lose something. In a lot of cases, pride means more than money lost. It’s a common problem for all people rather than for a minority. We like to think we can’t be fooled or beat the system, so often it is the challenge than gets us.


I’m often remembered of that painting by Frank Kelly Freas of the human farmer conning an alien on a floating saddle with a tin of paint. Nicely observed but I suspect in our reality, it would be the human that would be taken in as it might never have happened in an alien mindset. If I was an alien observing Earth’s population, I would certainly recognise this level of gullibility as a means to achieve my own aims. Hell, I might even convince you all to move to an unpolluted world and provide the transport to get you there. Pack your bags and off you go. That story could end in so many ways, all of them bad and not a trace of an alien military army to take over the planet. It would be just one individual. I came up with the idea as I was typing and already see a story out of it that I’ll get written up. Always nice to know that a secondary product can derive from an editorial.

That’s a side issue and you’ll have to trust my word, of course, that I will get it written up. I suppose that is also an indication of the main requirement of the Internet, so much is done on trust and why so many cons are prevalent here. Trust is a very vital commodity which is why it’s so scary when abused. It shows a vulnerability that we didn’t expect to have in a place which was considered new territory when it was built up that would live real world problems behind. You can trust me because I’ve never done anything to break that trust…yet!

At heart, for the majority, the human species is very much tender-hearted. It is only certain groups, should I name them, where this doesn’t apply. To grow as a civilisation, we need people to act together on many things than for their own personal gain. Is it any wonder that we see it as an affront when they don’t?

Trust is everything and we should certainly point out those who abuse it. In many respects, the Internet is a policeless state but it needs global co-operation to ensure that being digital does not spare us from a measure of safety from the con artists and scammers.

Leading on from this, is just why are we so gullible? It can hardly have any survival considerations other than as a herd to obey people in command, even if we’re not entirely sure it was the right thing to do. There’s an interesting implication there that leaders are con artists but I’ll let you be the judge of that statement. It certainly doesn’t appear to be a property of any other animal on this planet. Maybe it’s there to allow us to be taken in than go in for the attack or at least to allow one of the parties to flee if caught out.

The fact that it can be exploited tends to make me think that our lack of guile wasn’t intended to be used that way and was just a means for us to get on with other people. When you consider how the early tribes fought amongst themselves, be it for food or territory, maybe the trait’s survival was unintentional but ultimately preserved us from decimation. The fact that it could be exploited by some was just bad luck.

Much of the time, gullibility can be beaten by thinking about your participation from the perspective of what is in it for the person who is offering you something too good to be true deal. If they are making far more than you are without you even holding the product and even then I wouldn’t trust an unopened package, then simply walk away. It’s a lot safer and leaves your wallet intact.

It’s a curious trait and a worrying one to think we all have it. Thinking through the consequences of choice applies to anything. Don’t be part of the herd when deciding. Maybe it’s out lack of understanding of gullibility that has stopped us using it as a story device in Science Fiction.

Thank you, take care, good night and be careful out there.


Geoff Willmetts

editor: SFCrowsnest.org.uk



A Zen thought: A sheltered sky means an umbrella is needed overhead.


Observation: If you thought the first bionic man, Colonel Steve Austin, was actually carrying six million dollars of parts need to pay attention to the pilot episode where this is actually the money for the entire project, including paying for surgeons and support staff. When you bring that into perspective, even allowing for three nuclear generators in his limbs, I doubt if Austin was connected to half a million dollars worth of kit even in those pre-inflation days.


Observation: Since reviewing those new maths technique books last year, I have noted that some aspects of it have entered my calculating techniques, especially when multiplying double figures, so it does work.



Category: Culture

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About UncleGeoff

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’
If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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