Wednesday, 24 April 2019

Brandolini's law and Collection-Driven Exploitation of the Archaeological Record

Crap that people believe
The 'Bullshit asymmetry principle' (otherwise Brandolini's Law) was first publicly formulated in January 2013 by Alberto Brandolini, an Italian programmer. This states that The amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it. This has been subsequently referred to as the thermodynamics of bullshit, this means that it takes much more effort to refute a claim than to make it, hence the entropy of guff, bullshit or lies increases. It takes no effort to say metal detecting is helping archaeology. But the amount of energy required to refute superficial, glib statements like that is an order of magnitude larger than required to create it.  A similar concept, the "mountain of shit theory" (Teoria della montagna di merda), was formulated by the Italian blogger Uriel Fanelli in 2010, roughly stating the same concept. The point is that we can save ourselves the effort of putting opinions like that into their proper context, and just ignore the issues. Most British archaeologists do when it comes to 'metal detecting' (which in itself is a lazy euphemism for collection-driven exploitation of the archaeological record). But as Phil Williamson argues in contrast to the defeatism that colleagues exhibit, we need to 'Take the time and effort to correct misinformation' (6 December 2016) academics should challenge online falsehoods and inaccuracies — and harness the collective power of the Internet to fight back. Of course that actually involves first thinking about them. Apparently a painful experience for some when the mere prospect of trying to reason with an artefact hunter appears.

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