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Posted by Nicholas on November 30, 2002 06:14:35 UTC

I think the internet can be a great forum for exchanging ideas, but there are ways in which you really have to draw the line. It requires years of intense training to become a professional in any field of science. As Mike so politely pointed out, I am not exactly a complete professional myself, it will take at least four more years before I'm a full professional, though my experience still exceeds that of the general public by quite a bit. The public should be kept informed about scientific news and should have a basic understanding of scientific concepts, but I can see no way in which it is feasible for the public to be actually involved in the process of science. Like I said, if we entertained every idea presented on forums on the internet, we couldn't do our jobs.

To be honest, I don't really see the level of change that you see for some of the other things you were talking about. There is no easy way for politicians to campaign on the internet and most of the lobbying that goes on is done through other means. Political websites are popular, but they just reinforce things what people already think. You're much better off getting new information from newspapers, magazines, and other people. Marketing on the internet has, by and large, failed. Part of the reason that a lot of these dotcoms have gone belly-up is that they can't turn a profit with internet advertising. How many things have you been impelled to buy from internet advertising? It's just not very effective for anything but pornography.

I don't want to say that the internet has had no impact on our culture, that would be idiotic. I just think that certain aspects of the information revolution have been overstated. The way that computers and the internet have revolutionized science are quite different. They have allowed for better communication among professionals and a more effective way for the results to be dispersed among the general public. Computers, of course, have been of great help in modeling physical systems and processing data from experiments.

We still need some kind of "class" structure built into the system, however. The issues dealt with are far too complex to be left to the layman or the amateur. Another reason is that there is just too much information out there, we need a structure to tell us which information we can trust and which we can't. Without that, there is no way that one person could keep up with the progression of the field, there would be just too much to read. The information superhighway is not limited by its own capacity, but rather by ours, as human beings.

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