Friday, July 1, 2011

The Death of the Bet

I was reading another blog this morning, discussing how smartphones had revolutionized our world, and how that revolution was a good thing. While I don't fully disagree with this, I do think that both smartphones, and I would argue the internet in general, has taken the fun out of many conversations.
Remember the days when you and your friends would be talking (actually paying attention to one another, because you weren't both just passively listening as you were texting with someone else), and one person would say some random fact, the other person would dispute it, and you would then "bet" that the other person was incorrect; typically using some small monetary value or inane task as the wager.

A: Did you know that Charles Darwin had a turtle that lived to be 175 years old.
B: No chance. Turtles don't live that long.
A: No, I'm serious. Turtles do live that long, and his turtle is actually one of the longest lived.
B: I don't think so, that's ridiculous.
A: I'll bet you ten dollars that his turtle lived to be 175 years old.
B: Alright, I accept.

There would then be standard delay of several days or weeks, in which time both parties forget the original argument and bet, until something reminds one or the other of the argument, and they actually decide to consult their encyclopedia or library to find the correct answer. There would then be another delay of several days or weeks before the parties were together again with one or the other (whoever looked it up) finally remembering that they had looked up the fact, and that they had either been proven right or wrong. The other party would then have to very the fact, which would add another several days or weeks. So this process could last up to several months if both of these parties were rather slothful.
However, in our modern age, the question is pretty always answered before its even been finished.*

A: Did you know that Darwin's turtle...(cut-off)
B: (cuts-in)...Darwin's tortoise Harriet; she lived to be 175 years old, and was the third oldest living tortoise ever.
A: Yeah... (totally deflated)

Smartphones, or the internet in general, just ruined both this conversation, as well as argument and bet that was sure to ensue. Now I'm not suggesting that we shouldn't have knowledge at our fingertips, but it certainly makes conversations a lot less interesting when everyone already knows everything we're going to say, or at least can verify it immediately after we say it. Makes it hard to bullshit; and bullshit has really the basis of conversation throughout the ages.
Basically, I think that we should take a step back from all the smartphone/internet detective stuff, and just go back to having conversations. Even if you look up the answer an hour later, at least you were interested in the conversation enough not to interrupt it with the proof of your own rightness.

*I won't even go into the fact that because of the sheer amount of information - and sources of information - on the internet, facts have actually become less reliable instead of more, because everyone out there has an opinion on everything, and the internet gives them a good forum to present their opinions as fact; just like I do on this blog.


Crystal Marie said...

Great post! I agree. People force me to validate my claims all the time and I hate it! Where is the trust?!?!?

mpm210 said...

For real.