## On the Value of Wikipedia

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This discussion was created with comments split from Kantianism vs Deontology
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Don't - don't, don't, don't - go to Wikipedia for insight. Wikipedia is not an academically respectable source, as your institution should itself have told you. It is shot through with mistakes. Nothing on there is subject to proper peer review. If you are at a university then read from proper peer-reviewed sources - that is, academic articles and books by respectable academic presses (not books by philosopher-wannabes with no academic credentials in the area).

Every phrase in Wikipedia is attributed or attributable.

That is much more than you can say of the average academic textbook, which is just one more way to part a fool and his money.

Furthermore, peer review is just mutual back patting. "I have your back and you have mine." It is very prone to corruption and that is why most peer-review processes are effectively corrupt. Just look at the scandalous academic journals for a good example. They are a corrupt business platform for trading citations. I cite you, you cite my friend, and my friend cites me. It is absolutely trivial to game that system.

In technology, the free and open-source software movement utterly rejects any attempt by the academia to prevent collaboration by re-appropriating copyrights with a view on funnelling them to corporate overlords.

We detest these people, seriously.

Shunning the academia from the knowledge industry is a sheer necessity. Therefore, support Wikipedia.

Only reference open-access research and ignore everything else. The academia are involved in an impossible pile of bullshit with their closed-access journals, and we do not want to have any part in that.

Ignore research published under proprietary corporate copyrights. Join the open-source and open-access movements and reject the academia's self-serving mentality.
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I cite you, you cite my friend, and my friend cites me. It is absolutely trivial to game that system.

I have an anecdote about that. I once discovered a citation circle. Several publications referenced each other for support, but none actually contained the original argument nor a citation of an original source. Worse, the only non-circular citation was to an article that argued the exact opposite.
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Wikipedia is not peer reviewed and no respectable university will be happy with anyone citing wikipedia in student essays.
Wikipedia has its uses, of course - but so do chats down the pub.
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Wikipedia is not peer reviewed and no respectable university will be happy with anyone citing wikipedia in student essays. Wikipedia has its uses, of course - but so do chats down the pub.

The academia are certainly not an absolute reference with regards to knowledge.

On the contrary, their detestable practices concerning locking up publicly-funded research in copyrighted journals make the academia the least appropriate standard for the dissemination of knowledge. We despise their wide-ranging corruption and we view their practices with contempt only.

As I wrote before, only open-source and open-access should be considered as reference material. Seriously, we are justified to spit on the academia and their detestable ways.
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That seems a bit OTT to say the least.

I think your beef is with the publishers who make lots of money off peer review publications. And, perhaps, with the disney disciplines who publish each other's work without subjecting it to proper peer review.
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I think your beef is with the publishers who make lots of money off peer review publications. And, perhaps, with the disney disciplines who publish each other's work without subjecting it to proper peer review.

No, my beef is with the academia in general, and their obnoxious mentality.

A very typical example of what is totally wrong with their mentality, is the Tanenbaum versus Torvalds debate.

Tanenbaum pointed to his endless list of PhDs and other worthless credentialist dead-tree paperwork to argue that he knew better about operating systems than Torvalds, and that his debile mimix joke of an imbecile piece of crap was better linux.

Tanenbaum did not want to compete on the merits of his work. No, he only wants to compete based on the corrupt citation carousel that he is so proudly engaged in.

But for heaven's sake, whose work powers Android and therefore 80% of the world's mobile phones? Isn't the proof simply in the pudding? Is it linux or his stupid mimix? Seriously, that is the problem with the academia, the vast majority of whom have nothing to show for, besides imbecile paperwork and ridiculous citation carousels. Even though they have nothing to show for, they still know everything better. Seriously, it is so obvious that they know fuck all about operating systems. Zilch. Nada. Nothing.

Criticism from the academia on Wikipedia is of exactly the same nature.

Where is their alternative for knowledge dissemination? They simply don't have one! Knowledge is all about arrows. According to the JtB doctrine, i.e. Justified (true) Belief, it is the following modus ponens that powers it all:

justification statement $\Rightarrow$ knowledge conclusion

Hence, arrows, i.e. links, are the essence of knowledge. Wikipedia supplies us with the ability to link straight to the mainstream knowledge narrative, which in turn, links straight to the original sources that justify it. This is exactly how knowledge is supposed to work.

What alternative do the academia propose? None. They do not have one. Their outdated dead-tree text books and libraries are absolutely unusable in this context. They cannot handle new technology and therefore try to stop its progress. They simply have become an impediment to progress.

The academia sound exactly like the erstwhile middle managers in corporations who complained about the introduction of new technology, couldn't handle it, couldn't work with it, but still insisted that they knew everything better. Corporations, however, tend to smarter than universities. The corporations just fired them all. They terminated their contracts and threw them out of the window. There is no other solution for people who know everything better but objectively have nothing to show for and hence know nothing at all.

Idiots who criticize Wikipedia are more often than not just a bunch of losers who almost surely know nothing, and have nothing to show for, but still insist that they know everything better. They are worthless. Technology just keeps moving ahead while these idiots will sooner or later just get thrown off a cliff.
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Ah, I think you've been drinking. Wikipedia is written by people who like pub quizzes, not experts. For instance, consider something you know a lot about. Look up a wikipedia entry on that subject, whatever it may be. Then notice all the mistakes.
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h, I think you've been drinking. Wikipedia is written by people who like pub quizzes, not experts.

There are no experts. There are only justified knowledge claims. Seriously, if it matters who says it, then what he says, cannot possibly matter.

The concept of "expert" is just a ploy to mislead and manipulate the gullible populace. The cognoscenti do not care about who says it. The bitcoin paper was published by an anonymous author. Does it matter? No. What the paper says, is provable from number theory. That is all that matters.

The academia are mostly populated with clowns and circus monkeys, who believe that we should be impressed by their imbecile PhD paperwork and stupid citation carrousels. Sorry, we are not. We only care about justification. We do not care about who says it. We only care about how it is said: justified or not.
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No, there are experts. If your doctor - an expert on the human body and what can go wrong with it - says that the mole on your arm looks dodgy and you should get it checked out, then you're a fool if you think his/her judgement provides you with no better justification for believing it to be dodgy than your mechanic friend's judgement that "it is fine - nothing to worry about" provides you with justification for believing that it is nothing to worry about.
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No, there are experts. If your doctor - an expert on the human body and what can go wrong with it - says that the mole on your arm looks dodgy and you should get it checked out, then you're a fool if you think his/her judgement provides you with no better justification for believing it to be dodgy than your mechanic friend's judgement

No, there are no "expert" doctors. There are only justified diagnoses. It does not matter who came up with a diagnose. All that matters, is that it is justified. The only purpose of the entire system of so-called "experts" is to mislead the gullible populace, and to part the fool with his money.

Nassim Nicolas Taleb writes extensively about IYIs, i.e. Intellectuals Yet Idiots, i.e. the academia, the credentialist idiots they produce, and their bullshit ways.

Example: The Intellectual Yet Idiot. What we have been seeing worldwide, from India to the UK to the US, is the rebellion against the inner circle of no-skin-in-the-game policymaking “clerks” and journalists-insiders, that class of paternalistic semi-intellectual experts with some Ivy league, Oxford-Cambridge, or similar label-driven education who are telling the rest of us 1) what to do, 2) what to eat, 3) how to speak, 4) how to think… and 5) who to vote for.

Another example: Charlatans & economists use logical flaw: because a pilot is expert, they are experts. But Pilots are selected via skin-in-the-game mechanisms. Plumbers, dancers, dentists, mathematicians, snipers, pastry chefs are experts. Not this @kaushikcbasu. Economists BS for a living.

Another example: Why do experts, CEOs, politicians, and other apparently highly capable people make such terrible decisions so often? Is because they’re ill-intentioned? Or because, despite appearances, they’re actually stupid? Nassim Nicholas Taleb, philosopher, businessman, perpetual troublemaker, and author of, among other works, the groundbreaking Fooled by Randomness, says it’s neither. It’s because these authorities face the wrong incentives. They are rewarded according to whether they look good to their superiors, not according to whether they are effective. They have no skin in the game.

The entire "expert" concept is bullshit. The USA are bankrupting themselves on exactly that problem in health care. If you believe in that concept, you will simply go bust.
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Like I say, if your doctor says the mole is cancerous you are justified in believing it to be cancerous, whereas if your mate Tom says it is cancerous, you are not justified in believing it to be cancerous (even if it is).
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Needless to say, when experts start talking outside their areas of expertise - so, when a neuroscientist starts talking about free will or a biologist starts talking about metaphysics - then you are no more justified in believing what they say than your baker's opinion on these matters.

But if you want to know how to bake a loaf of bread, then listen to a baker.

If you want to know about what's up with that weird looking mole on your arm, see a medical doctor.

If you want to know if you've got free will, consult a philosopher.
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Needless to say, when experts start talking outside their areas of expertise - so, when a neuroscientist starts talking about free will or a biologist starts talking about metaphysics - then you are no more justified in believing what they say than your baker's opinion on these matters. But if you want to know how to bake a loaf of bread, then listen to a baker. If you want to know about what's up with that weird looking mole on your arm, see a medical doctor. If you want to know if you've got free will, consult a philosopher.

Every practitioner of a knowledge discipline faces the threat posed by the Church-Turing thesis:

"A problem belongs to the knowledge domain of beliefs, if there exists a purely mechanical procedure that can reach its solution."

Therefore, if what you do, is based on only knowledge, then what you do, will sooner or later be done by a computer, and you will be replaced by software. The medical profession knows that too. No matter how much political clout they think that they have, we are going to liberally destroy their jobs; and that is a done deal already. Every fake intellectual IYI will have to contend with the same problem.

At the same time, knowledge discovery is protected by Gödel's Incompleteness theorems, by Alan Turing's Halting problem, and by the third millenium problem. So, if your job consists of discovering new knowledge as opposed to merely applying existing knowledge, you will still be relevant in the future.

You see, nothing will stop us from disrupting and destroying, as we please. With cryptocurrencies (i.e. bitcoin) we are kicking out the central banksters, and the commercial fiat banksters, which is another bunch of IYI idiots.

Who can stop us from doing that?

Unless they are protected by the aforementioned limitations, these so-called "experts" are out already. We do not respect merely rehashing existing knowledge, and we shouldn't. These parrots are simply arrogant idiots.
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Like I say, if your doctor says the mole is cancerous you are justified in believing it to be cancerous, whereas if your mate Tom says it is cancerous, you are not justified in believing it to be cancerous (even if it is).

The justification for "the mole is cancerous", is never "who" says it, but "how" he says it: justified or not. If the justification for that claim falls within the realm of knowledge, then sooner or later Tom will be a computer system and trivially defeat your doctor. If it is not pure knowledge -- that depends on the precise epistemic context -- then neither an "expert" nor a computer system can systematically be counted on to reach the correct conclusion.

Therefore, this question is not decidable within this context.

There are trivial counterexamples for the type of argument you are making. If Carl is an accountant who believes that the sum is 12535 after adding up a list of numbers, but Tom which is software and which has actually produced the list of numbers, says that it is 11978, then we will believe Tom and not "expert" Carl.

Pure knowledge jobs are shaky things. They were condemned in 1936 already, by the Church-Turing thesis. You must produce something else than the mere application of existing knowledge, in order to stay relevant.
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Many people are naive about information. They do not have the experience to assay information for accuracy and reliability that they come across in the newspaper, television, internet, or down at the pub. I'm pretty good at it, if I do say so myself, but I'm in my 70s and have a couple of degrees and have spent decades engaged in (mostly personal, some professional) study.

In 1983 I was naive about AIDS. There were all sorts of facts and concepts I either had wrong or did not have at all. I could say "retrovirus" but I really didn't know what the "retro" part meant. When I first started to do AIDS prevention work, I had to bring myself up to speed. It took a couple of years to acquire, absorb, and integrate the unfamiliar information I needed.

I met a college student the other day working as a check-out at a local grocery store who explained he didn't know how credit cards worked (a customer was having difficulties with her card). He went on to explain that he didn't know how checking or banks worked either. Very naive about financial information. Sad, but quite curable.

From my experience, Wikipedia (and a lot of stuff on the Internet) is good, solid information -- BUT one MUST bring at least moderate skill in recognizing garbage. A lot of people don't have that skill. No matter where they get their information from, the naive will have difficulty judging quality.
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I don't really know what you're talking about now. To know something is to have a true belief about it, whatever else it involves. And computers cannot have beliefs.

So I don't see what problem you're highlighting or why you think expert testimony counts for no more or less than the testimony of an idiot.
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I don't really know what you're talking about now. To know something is to have a true belief about it, whatever else it involves. And computers cannot have beliefs.

A machine can know something, because it can store any knowledge declaration P => Q along with a proof R in first-order logic that proves that Q necessarily follows from P. Therefore, the two-tuple (P=>Q,R) is a justified belief, i.e. knowledge.

So I don't see what problem you're highlighting or why you think expert testimony counts for no more or less than the testimony of an idiot.

If the idiot looks up the tuple (P=>Q,R) in a knowledge database, there is no way in which the expert can refute this tuple. He simply knows nothing more about P=>Q, simply, because there is nothing more to know.

If you believe P=>Q because an expert tells you, then your belief is NOT justified. There is absolutely no reason why it would be knowledge. If you believe P=>Q because an idiot provides you with the two-tuple (P=>Q,R), then your belief is effectively justified. The only legitimate reason why it is justified has been supplied to you, i.e. the tuple (P=>Q,R).
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I have an anecdote about that. I once discovered a citation circle. Several publications referenced each other for support, but none actually contained the original argument nor a citation of an original source.

How does that work? An earlier publication referencing a later publication?
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Wikipedia is not peer reviewed and no respectable university will be happy with anyone citing wikipedia in student essays.
Wikipedia has its uses, of course - but so do chats down the pub.

Good call. I've been relying heavily on wikipedia these last few years. I haven't had time nor the resources to crosscheck facts but by and large there seems to some agreement, serving as validation, between wikipedia and other "independent" sources.

From what I gather access to knowledge is restricted and requires a certain combination of dollar digits to unlock. I have nothing against that. People must protect their intellectual property and need money to put food on the table. However, the value of knowledge increases when it's propagated among an audience. If it continues to be restricted to only those who pay then it's likely to degenerate into something like the caste system of India, only pundits having access to knowledge.

Of course it could be said that only people who're deeply interested and ergo will make contributions will have the motivation to part with their money. To that I agree.

As for wikipedia I think it serves as a "least worst" option for those who want to learn but lack the funds. It's not that bad a source of information. I've noticed some of the articles are cut-and-paste jobs but I can't confirm which is the primary source and which the copy.

Even if wikipedia fails and is inaccurate it's a first step and therefore laudable towards a free education to those who can only afford an internet connection.
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How does that work? An earlier publication referencing a later publication?

Who knows. Those were legal commentaries, so a lot of different authors work on them, and they get overhauled every couple of years. It's possible there was originally a source, but someone dropped it, thinking it was superfluous since all other commentaries said the same thing, so why not quote them. It's also possible someone just completely misunderstood the one article that was actually cited and everyone else just copied the outcome, citing each other.
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From what I gather access to knowledge is restricted and requires a certain combination of dollar digits to unlock. I have nothing against that. People must protect their intellectual property and need money to put food on the table.

Current technology is driven by open-source software, most of which is freely accessible on platforms such as github.com. If hoarding knowledge were a requirement to put food on the table, then how do you explain that? Are these millions of software developers starving?

In technology, the concept of "intellectual property" is considered to be rather an impediment to progress than to be of any benefit.

Even if wikipedia fails and is inaccurate

Wikipedia pages are attributed. You can always find the original source in the foot notes. Wikipedia's no original research policy is strictly enforced. That is much more than you can say about the average academic text book.

If you add up the billions of dollars spent on public libraries and university ones around the world, do they produce even a fraction of a fraction of the value that Wikipedia gives away free of charge?

It reminds me of the silly debate in Europe. The governments there want to tax Google, so that they can fund, at great cost, outdated and expensive alternatives to Google search, that cannot possibly compete with Google search, while Google provides its search engine free of charge to its users. They even try to defend that on moral grounds using arguments that invariably end in infinite regress ...

I would personally even pay real money for the privilege of using Google search, while I would never pay a dime for the crap produced by these European governments.
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Like I say, a machine cannot know something because a machine does not have mental states and beliefs are mental states and knowledge essentially involves having them.
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Like I say, a machine cannot know something because a machine does not have mental states and beliefs are mental states and knowledge essentially involves having them.

Knowledge as a justified (true) belief is a tuple of two language expression: the knowledge claim along with its justification. A machine can perfectly store that. It can also perfectly use it in an inference engine to reach conclusions based on this knowledge.

Knowledge is not restricted to humans. On the contrary, according to the 1936 Church-Turing thesis a problem is only decidable in knowledge if there exists a purely mechanical procedure for doing so.
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So if you're looking up something in philosophy, which is better - Wikipedia or Stanford Encyclopedia? It is Stanford hands-down. Why? It is written by academics - experts in their field.
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Knowledge requires a belief, machines do not have beliefs, therefore machines do not have knowledge.
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Knowledge requires a belief, machines do not have beliefs, therefore machines do not have knowledge.

Such belief must be expressed in language. Ineffable beliefs cannot possibly be knowledge.
A machine can store language expressions and use them in inference rules.
Hence, a machine can use knowledge.
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You're changing your position. Knowledge involves having a justified true belief, whatever else it involves (actually, I'm sceptical it has to involve that - but it has to involve a true belief). Beliefs are mental states. Machines don't have mental states. Therefore they do not have knowledge.

Now you're saying they use knowledge. Well that's different. I used a bus to get home, but I don't have a bus.
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So if you're looking up something in philosophy, which is better - Wikipedia or Stanford Encyclopedia? It is Stanford hands-down. Why? It is written by academics - experts in their field.

I have to interject the Church-Turing thesis to your comparison of both sources. Your evaluation is legitimate knowledge only if there exists a purely mechanical procedure to reach that conclusion. Where can we find the description for the epistemically-sound method that you have used to reach that conclusion? We need this in order to supply it to a machine and verify if it reaches the same conclusion as yourself.
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I don't know what you're talking about again.
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You're changing your position. Knowledge involves having a justified true belief, whatever else it involves (actually, I'm sceptical it has to involve that - but it has to involve a true belief). Beliefs are mental states. Machines don't have mental states. Therefore they do not have knowledge.

Beliefs that are not expressed in language or not possible to express in language are ineffable. They are not part of knowledge. You must be able to express the belief, or else it is not knowledge. Hence, legitimate knowledge can always be represented by using language expressions. We do not need undocumented, internal, mental states for that purpose.
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