Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Army of Davids, Gatekeepers, and the Global Warming Debate

Information is Royalty – Instant Access is Divinity

I experienced two independent events today that have a common element: Barriers to communication and information are disappearing. They are not doing so voluntarily, but are being forcibly knocked down.

First Encounter:

I looked at the newspaper rack as I went through the turnstiles to work this morning and noticed the top headline was something I had read all about online. Yesterday.
Before I went to work.

I immediately thought about Glenn Reynolds’ meme in his new book: Army of Davids. It’s not released yet, but the subtitle reveals the general thrust of it: How Markets and Technology Empower Ordinary People to Beat Big Media, Big Government, and Other Goliaths. I’ll probably buy this one instead of borrowing it from the library, because it’s a concept with major implications in all areas where there is competition (which essentially means ‘everything’). There are also direct implications in my Military Operations Research work. Gatekeepers are potential chokepoints or 'centers of gravity': potential weaknesses that can be exploited.

There are a lot of constructs for thinking about how information (or anything else for that matter) is created, accessed, and distributed. ‘Stocks and Flows’ and ‘Producers and Gatekeepers’ are two of the more widely known constructs. The thought occurred to me (once again) that newspapers would be a lot better off if they changed their business model from getting incomplete or incorrect information out as fast as possible to a business approach that would provide more accurate detailed information on complex news. This would leverage their inherent advantage in research resources and production capability, and stop a losing battle against the millions of ‘Davids’ who have picture phones and camcorders and are on the scene everywhere. Let the ‘Davids’ get the ‘instant’ word out: Newspapers could give us the ‘meat’ of the story.

I don’t hold much hope of it happening though. It looks like the allure of the ‘scoop’ still holds sway.

Second Encounter:
(Sidebar for Full Disclosure: I am an Anthropogenic Global Warming Skeptic. I understand the difference between models and reality, data and evidence, anecdote and proof.)

So tonight I am researching the latest Global Warming news and I come across an interesting post at Climate Audit. What caught my eye, beyond the excellent article referenced, was this comment (#12, emphasis mine):

My father-in-law, Dr AB Hollingshead, a noted social scientist and department head at Yale in the 60s and 70s were [sic] discussed the weakness of the peer review processes over a couple of beers in my back yard in 1973. He pointed out that most shifts in scientific theory comes at generational boundaries, as those protecting 20-30 years of academic work die off, allowing the next generation to stake their reputation on new ideas and better information. He saw peer review as nothing more than a job protection mechanism, newly minted academics conformed to the current dogma, or they do not get published. In a [sic] publish or perish environments, this could have long term implications for young professors, but it was job protection for the old guard. In dad’s view when the old guard died off, there was a window of opportunity to introduce new ideas. Now, we have outsiders like Steve and Ross, who are not waiting for a generational boundary to identify the errors of the old guard and providing new insight to the problems of calculating past temperature trends from cherry picked tree rings.

That last sentence aptly identifies the Climate Audit authors as the ‘Davids’ of this little corner of scientific controversy.

A little later in my daily reading on the same subject, I came across this excellent opinion piece, highlighting the point that (from my POV) Climate Alarmists seem to think as little of the ‘Anti-Alarmist’ Davids, as the MSM does of theirs:

Phil Maxwell makes the snide comment that “most of the Global Warming Deniers are elder members of the scientific community desperately carrying on a rearguard action”. It is indeed true that a large proportion of these independent scientists are retired people. They can afford to be independent.

Thus, from the news of the day to pressing scientific issues, the Army of Davids are on the march.

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