Monday, 7 March 2011

Lines and random errors

You may have to stay with me on this short piece which is another one of my 'other musings' postings. I am going to try and show how information spreads, and how subtle changes to that information along the way can distort the original message. I will admit that I am not the first person to discuss this; but from a research point of view it is a simple yet interesting experiment which is transferable to many situations.
First, follow this link and watch the video titled "a sequence of lines traced by 500 hundred individuals'.
OK, so what did you see? In the UK it's a version of what we call 'Chinese whispers' (I know, not very politically correct), in the United States 'Telephone'.
What is shows is that over time even the simplest thing can become complicated very quickly; sometimes to the point where the original message is replaced by something altogether different as a function of different interpretations.
The Huffington Post article has created quite a stir over the use of this experiment as a metaphor for the evolutionary process. I am not really buying into that given the simplicity of the experiment.
So, the next time you are presented with information via a second or third party (newspaper, press release, blog, etc), try and go to the original information source.