Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Bad information spreads and spreads

Bad information can spread fast. And a first-moved advantage in information often has a pernicious effect. Whatever fact first appears in print, whether true or not, is dry difficult to dislodge. Sara Lippincott, a former fact-checker for The New Yorker, has made this explicit. These errors "will live on and on, . . . deceiving researcher after researcher through the ages, all of who will make new errors on the strength of the original errors, and so on into an explosion of errata." 
Samuel Arbesman, The Half-Life of Facts: Why Everything We Know Has an Expiration Date (New York: Current, Penguin USA, 2012), ch. 5 (citing Michael J. Mauboussin, See for Yourself: The Importance of Checking Claims (Legg Mason Global Asset Management, 2009))

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