From Einstein to Web’s Challenges
I read yesterday a short humorous biography of Einstein  and, even if relatively well-written, combining some facts from Einstein’s life with a few comical exaggerations and wordplays, in the end it left a sour taste. When put in a broader context, the respective piece adds to the volume of false information available on the Web. Therefore, I felt the need to share with you a few personal observations made during the past decade.
The average Web user seems to be more interested in being entertained than learning interesting facts or information. This seems to be reflected also in the material shared on the social medias — a silly cat, dog or situation have the potential of bringing more likes than a well-written piece of fiction or non-fiction, and this by several factors of magnitude. On one side, this reflects the needs for shorter pieces of “useful” content, while on the other side, it kind of reflects the superficiality of the average consumer, superficiality sometimes understandable though.
It’s also true that for a writer it’s easier to exploit some superficial facts, especially when they can become good material for a piece of work. Digging for the truth or truthful content takes time and quite an effort, considering the number of sources that need to be consulted and the information that needs to be extracted, aggregated and put to good use. To make the truth or information understandable by the average reader, the writer needs to find the right words, ideas, metaphors and representational forms.
It’s much easier to denigrate or joke about than constructing something meaningful, than building a piece of work that can make a difference. Unfortunately, the quality of the information available on the Web decreased during the past years and it became more and more difficult to find useful and reliable content. Of course, I find it good that people attempt expressing their creativity and sharing their knowledge, however lot of the content is poorly written and questionable.
Sometimes fiction, especially through its comical and story-like character, has more power to be outspread over the social media, enlarging the volume of myths or half-truths available on the Web. Even if human can still in theory differentiate between fictitious content and facts, for machines it will be difficult to bridge the gap. The greater the gap between the two the higher the risk of the gap having a bigger impact on the information and knowledge repository consumed by our society.
Unfortunately, the social networks and their characteristics started to be exploited for various purposes, purposes sometimes found at the border of morality. The social platforms seem to be disinterested in answering timely to behavior that has the potential to be dangerous, and typically react late, sometimes even too late, when the respective behavior became already a problem. When not treated timely, it will become more difficult to countermeasure the effects the respective problems have directly or indirectly on our lives.
The problem resides not only with the social platforms but also with the organizations responsible for monitoring and addressing the flagrant deviations from common-sense. Sure, it’s understandable that some policies take time, especially when are considered the political, economic and social aspects — aspects reflected also in the complex relations existing between these areas and the various ecologies existing within. It’s maybe difficult to define policies that don’t trench upon individual’s freedom of expression, however a way must be found — otherwise the problems will widespread and impact our society considerable.
The next decade will bring its challenges and opportunities — from a spectator’s perspective it will be interesting to watch and ponder.
 New Yorker (2019) Einstein: The Untold Story, by Hart Pomerantz [Online] Available from: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/01/06/einstein-the-untold-story/amp