Myths of Computing: The Computer is Always Right

There is an acronym that is used among IT people that seems appropriate for this posting:

GIGO

Stands for “Garbage In, Garbage Out”

This is used against the un-spoken but almost universally accepted Doctrine of the Infallability of the Computer which simply states that if the computer says it, then it must be right.

Seems comical I am sure when put in this light, but this doctrine has adverse effects on real people quite often.

Such as the case where a data input error caused the computer record for a man to show that he was dead. As such his Benefit checks stopped coming. When he went to check on the problem he said “Look and me I am not dead”, but somehow it did not register.

If computers were not informed by people, then GIGO would not be a problem; but everything about the computer is designed by imperfect people. The program that is running. The database that holds the data. The data entry itself (a common point for errors to be introduced). The computer operator who may out of ignorance or carelessness push the wrong button.

The problem is when folks trust what a computer says like it was scripture or something. It is not.

The same goes for the Internet. A comical TV commercial says “Sure! They are not allowed to put anything that is not true on the Internet!”. Of course no one knows how much of the Internet is true information because NO ONE IS CHECKING IT.

I research things on the Internet all the time. When doing this, I keep in mind that the Internet has now given a voice to every person in the world whether they know any truth or not. Folks can self publish such that no one else even sees what they write before it goes live. There are some who purposely deceive, and there are others who like to talk about things that they do not know anything about.

Even in cases where the same bit of information is found in several places on the Internet, that is STILL no guarantee that it is true. It happens that some false info is put out there that sounds good, and as folks read it they tend to republish the same (faulty) info in their own way.

The only way to try to verify the truth of something that is on the Internet is to try to verify it with a non-Internet Source. I know that is not what some of you wanted to hear.

My main message for Internet Researchers: Reader Beware.

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