The Cloak of Anonymity Stifles Respectful Debate

Anonymity aint what it used to be.

The Miami Herald announced today that it is outsourcing its comment function to Facebook.  Concluding that ‘the cloak of anonymity stifles respectful debate,’ we must assume that they’ve had enough of those who can’t stand behind their own words.  Perhaps they should have referenced the ‘cloak of pseudonymity’ since online anonymity is increasingly impossible to achieve.

Once the bastion for mudslingers, trolls and angry, self-righteous cyberlibertarians, Brian Stetler of the New York Times suggested that the internet is now where anonymity goes to die.  Maybe that’s a good thing.

The freedom to publish in the absence of accountability may be the type of ugly hybrid responsible for all this as described by Jaron Lanier in Culture:

Individuals best achieve optimal stupidity on those rare occasions when they are both given substantial powers and insulated from the results of their actions.”

A few more bits of thinking on the anonymous.

In a world of information distributed along channels of trust, expect shouting from the shadows to be increasingly unsustainable.

Will Things Really Get Worse for Doctors Online?

The more I read the more warnings I hear about doctors online.  It seems that as more doctors interact online, the more problems we can expect to encounter.  According to authorities, things are about to get worse for all of us.  Imagine the clinical chaos we can expect come 2050.

Or maybe not.

The problem with this pessimistic view is what Matt Ridley has referred to as extrapolationism: the assumption that the future is just a bigger version of the past.  What’s bad now will be worse later.

But as history has taught us, the future is not simply an extension of the past.  We have a remarkable capacity to correct ourselves.

Going forward:

  • Doctors will learn from experience.
  • Digital professionalism will be part of every medical student’s curriculum
  • We’ll be smarter.

So pay no attention to the apocaholics who have hijacked the public discourse on doctors and social media.   And don’t expect the sky to fall any time soon.

For a realistic view of the future of the human race, read Matt Ridley’s The Rational Optimist.