Believing the Fake

A good quote is a dream for a lecturer or a writer. I was very amused and happy when I came across this nugget. It was just what I needed:

Students today depend upon paper too much. They don’t know how to write on a slate without getting chalk dust all over themselves. They can’t clean a slate properly. What will they do when they run out of paper?

Principals Association, 1815

See? It’s perfect. It gives us a luddite from the past to mock while we may gently think about the firm beliefs we hold about technology today. But, unfortunately, like all good things… they need to be looked at suspiciously. And according to Quote Investigator these quotes were created as a humorous addition in 1978.

A personal favorite in the genre of past predictions is the 1954 article in Popular Mechanics demonstrating what a home computer may look like in 2004.

From Popular Mechanics 1954 - RAND Corp. model of home computer for 2004It’s my favorite because I have used the image in several lectures before being told. Really I needed to be told. That it was a fake. According to Snopes the picture was created in a photo manipulation competition. Now when I look at it I see how clearly staged the whole thing is.

A final example was posted online yesterday (President’s Day here). It’s the wonderful image of Teddy Roosevelt riding a moose across a river.

Its naturally a fake and yet it gets reposted.

It’s not that these fakes are particularly good that makes us fall for them. It’s that we want to believe them to be true. They suit the worldview that we are seeking to confirm. It’s almost like we choose not to look closely at the fake. Today the fake is everywhere and we cannot trust our screens. I often think about things that I see: I hope this is true, I want it to be true… but it probably isn’t. Or is it?

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