Over more than 10 years, the author wrote several million words of fake Russian history, creating 206 articles and contributing to hundreds more. She imagined richly detailed war stories and economic histories, and wove them into real events in language boring enough to fit seamlessly into the encyclopedia. Some netizens are calling her China’s Borges.
Now an American teenager – who does not speak Scots, the language of Robert Burns – has been revealed as responsible for almost half of the entries on the Scots language version of Wikipedia.
One could feel outrage at the arrogance of these two individuals, creating and altering a public record (which is how we treat Wikipedia). One could feel some measure of pride at their chutzpah. I feel a strange blending of both — something I need to examine more.
Consider Herodutus, is he the father of history or of lies? Or as a rhetorician tried to label him: a story-teller? (/spits/)
History might be a narrative plucked from the happenings to explain how we int his moment arrived here, from back-then. It is not an accurate record of the important events and people, it is a record of that historian’s decisions as to importance. There is an anecdote (I’ll link it if I find it) that there is an incredibly common multi-volume biography of someone important, let’s say George Washington. Someone finally decided to analyze the paper and the binding and the bookness of the biographies because there were so many of them relative to other books. Most of the extant copies had never been read - the books that were read had been consumed: oils from fingers and soot from candles, creased pages, broken bindings, passed from hand to hand and read and read and read until they ceased to exist. These biographies were numerous because they were for presentation, not consumption.
Were these anonymous Wikipedia authors trolling? Did they have a political agenda? Was their politics the mutability of the historical records? Porquoi pas les deux? Ou les trois?
What about Chinese history changing as the government gaslights the citizens? The parents remember what happened and the children remember what they are told…
Watch Obi-Wan’s fight with Darth Vadar in A New Hope, then watch the rest of Star Wars properties and rewatch it. Does their duel in Obi-Wan change the battle on the Death Star? What about Ahsoka and Vadar in Rebels?
“That’s a made-up word. All words are made up.” Avengers: Infinity War
If we let people like Harari convince us that surveillance technologies can “know us far better than we know ourselves,” we are in danger of letting the algorithms gaslight us.