Gell-Mann Amnesia

Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the Newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case (Murray Gell-Mann), physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the Journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them. In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know. Michael Crichton in "Why Speculate?" speech

See related: IgonValue: The Igon Value Problem is a way of summarizing the lack of depth often encountered in modern journalism that focuses on esoteric subjects in which the journalist (or any writer in general) is not an expert themselves. The problem states: "[W]hen a writer’s education on a topic consists in interviewing an expert, he is apt to offer generalizations that are banal, obtuse or flat wrong." This was coined by Steven Pinker in a review of Malcolm Gladwell's book What the Dog Saw.[1] Its name is a humorous[citation NOT needed] reference to the eigenvalue problem in mathematics[wp], and stems from a misinterpretation of the term "eigenvalue" as "igon value" by Gladwell as discussed below. Such problems arise because the journalist or writer in question doesn't have the full understanding of a topic that comes from a full education and becoming a true expert in the subject. They are then prone to comparatively simple errors arising from mis-hearing or misunderstanding a topic in their interview with an expert.

Dave Winer's solution is to have "Sources Go Direct". Everyone A Journalist


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