What is the truth?

We have a big problem facing us as time goes on which is that at the moment we can be reasonably sure of when things happened and what happened when things happened and also what things we don’t know about happening because we know what we don’t know.*

My point is that Wikipedia is becoming more and more reliable, the concept of the wisdom of crowds makes people feel like they can trust what they read there. Especially as the Wikipedia puts such a premium on being able to source where they found information from. So what’s the problem? Peaches Geldof is the problem. Or More accurately Peaches Honeyblossom Michelle Charlotte Angel Vanessa Geldof is the problem.

Imagine the situation. Somebody goes on Wikipedia and tries to completely change an article because they are young and rebellious. And then soon learn that Wikipedia won’t allow you to do that because the community will very quickly revert the article back to normal and then ban you as a user. So you think to yourself, I know what I’ll do I’ll make a small change somewhere where it’s very difficult to notice that something has happened. You give Peaches Geldof a few extra names and nothing happens. It’s now the truth. Then you tell your friend and your friend thinks that this is so funny that he goes in and adds a few more. Then, after a while, somebody called peachesfan comes along and fixes the problem. So far Wikipedia is working exactly as it should. People saw the wrong name for a bit but ultimately the problem was fixed.

But then Peaches wrote an article complaining about the stupid names given by celebrities to their children and the problems that they cause. A journalist at the Daily Mail was tasked with writing an article about the article and decided to look her up on Wikipedia. A lot of people have been told not to trust wikipedia and so they carefully check the recent edit history to see if the version that they are looking at is the right version or not. Clearly the person looking at the history noticed that there were some far more interesting names in the article’s history and clearly rationalised to herself that the most recent edit by a fan was somebody trying to help Peaches out of her most silly name. This was especially as two seemingly separate users had added names more than six months apart it seemed much more likely somehow. So she diligently published an article called, ‘So, Peaches Honeyblossom Michelle Charlotte Angel Vanessa Geldof, why do you hate your name?’

And now the wikipedia article has had the names added back in quoting a venerable source for the information. Who they? Step forward the very same Daily Mail story. Talk about circular logic! Future historians are in real trouble. The only way to get the truth is to read this article by the person who added Michelle and Charlotte and friend of the person who added Angel and Vanessa. Of course Honeyblossom is actually part of her real name.

Of course I could fix the article but… It seems much more like the kind of exciting scientific experiment that we should let run its course.

*This is sounding spookily like one of those Donald Rumsfeld quotes, which everyone seems to think makes him sound stupid but I actually think sounds pretty Zen:

As we know,
There are known knowns.
There are things we know we know.
We also know
There are known unknowns.
That is to say
We know there are some things
We do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns,
The ones we don’t know
We don’t know.

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