H.I. No. 1: Being Wrong on The Internet
|"Being Wrong on The Internet"
|Hello Internet episode
A graphic illustrating the terminology of the British Isles, the subject of the first Grey Explains YouTube video
|Original release date
|January 31, 2014
"H.I. #1: Being Wrong on The Internet" is the first episode of Hello Internet, released on January 31, 2014. At 38 minutes and 45 seconds in length, it is the shortest numbered episode of the podcast and the only numbered episode to have no sponsor.
Website synopsis[edit | edit source]
"Grey & Brady talk about what it's like to be wrong in front of thousands of people."
Episode summary[edit | edit source]
0:00:00: Grey tells Brady of his fears about making mistakes in his videos and being corrected. Brady says that he is less concerned since his own videos focus on experts speaking extemporaneously.
0:08:34: They discuss what to do after errors are made, including the mistakes section of the Economist and Grey's UK video. Grey reminisces over coloring Northern Ireland orange, miscoloring countries, using the wrong terms and pronunciations, and misordering lists.
0:12:46: Brady tells how mistakes in newspapers are much worse, including listing the wrong time of a parade and advising readers to look directly at the sun.
0:15:20: Grey talks about the "error that burns in [his] soul": incorrectly clarifying that the country of Ireland is officially called the Republic of Ireland. Grey tells how this is despite the fact that he himself is a citizen of Ireland and owns a passport which he referenced before making the video.
0:18:41: Grey explains why it is difficult to correct errors on YouTube videos, and why this is both a "blessing and a curse" since it forces him to move on and live with mistakes.
0:20:36: Brady talks about the news phrase "Wrong, but not for long" and how risking wrongness through speculation is potentially the better choice. Grey says he has a problem with this practice because it may lead to misinformed readers.
0:25:33: Grey covers the issue of limiting production time of his videos and stopping despite imperfection. He uses the example of not being satisfied with his nocebo effect research even when receiving script approval from medical professionals in the field. He adds that he will not be covering a medical topic soon due to the added stress of conveying incorrect medical information to viewers
0:30:38: Brady asks Grey about the validity of internet sources. As a former teacher, Grey talks about his approval of Wikipedia for general fact-checking, but has concern with citations which lack or misrepresent sources. Grey says that he considers newspapers and TV news to be the "bottom-of-the-barrel" in terms of accuracy. Brady comments that he will avoid sharing the podcast with his former news colleagues.
0:34:02: Grey points out that a research organization's bias may be due to the statistics themselves. Grey begins to conclude by saying how, in the end, a source's reliability is simply a judgment call that he has to make.
0:35:11: Grey tangents on to the topic of historical figures whose very existence is uncertain, using the example of a certain Greek philosopher, while Brady brings up Robin Hood. Grey comments that, due to this inherent uncertainty of history, he has to carefully word his videos to avoid mistakes.
0:37:14: Brady brings up the tendency of incorrect information which propagates like wildfire on the internet. Grey adds a quote about this topic, but notes that the origin of the quote is fittingly uncertain. Grey concludes by saying that nothing can be known 100%, and Brady responds by saying that he knows 100% that their time has come to an end.
Release and commercial performance[edit | edit source]
"Being Wrong on The Internet" was released to podcast clients on January 31, 2014. Grey announced the episode and the debut of Hello Internet itself in stages on different platforms. He began by publishing a blog post on his personal website on the day of release. This was followed by an announcement on his Twitter account on February 5. Two days later, Grey informed his YouTube audience of the episode and podcast by releasing a video about the project on his main channel; at that point, episodes two and three had also been released.
In the week of the announcement video's release, Hello Internet became an international success: it topped the iTunes podcast charts in Australia, Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States; peaked at number four in Italy; and charted within the top twenty in France and Spain.
The episode's corresponding video was released on the Hello Internet YouTube channel on April 30, 2014, marking the channel's first upload. The audio is set to footage of a drinking bird toy, purchased by Haran, repeatedly tilting its beak into and out of a glass of water. The video received 70 thousand views within its first five days of release and has accumulated more than 570 thousand views as of May 2019.
Transcript[edit | edit source]
Grey: First of all... I think that this podcast is a place where I'm going to be wrong, quite a lot.
Brady: That's a, uh, that's a really positive note to start on.
Grey: And I'm going to guess, maybe you're going to be wrong a lot as well, unless you've come prepared and I don't- I don't know about that. Have you come prepared?
Brady: I think you know me well enough to know that I have not come prepared. But does that- is that a bad thing, like, I know you don't like wrongness, well that's the impression I've always had of you, but like... it doesn't bother you in conversations, so why is it such a problem?
Grey: Conversations are different. Right, so, uh, you- you do know, I get a little freaked out when I make those videos. You know, that's why a podcast is a different kind of thing, right? I can just talk to you and the expectations are lowered.
Brady: It's a different format, so you think because you've written a script, there's a new level of responsibility on you...
Grey: On the internet, if you're making something for other people, and it is a purportedly factual thing, and if you're not just a total jerk, there's some kind of burden on you, to make sure that what you're saying is correct. And I think that that partly comes from just having an audience of people who are interested in maybe hearing what you have to say. You have to make sure that what you're saying to them is right. Because those people are then going to maybe say what you told them to other people, and it sort of spreads, and if you've said something that's wrong, it's like you're making the world worse. Because you've put out like this incorrect piece of information that might also have a real chance of spreading to other people and to their conversations, and that's just no good. And that would make me feel very guilty.
Brady: So these months that you famously spend researching videos,
Brady: are you wanting them to be really correct because you feel this responsibility to make the world a better place, or because you fear hateful comments and criticism? Which is it?
Grey: Um... I would say very honestly that a huge part of it is actually that I just, I don't want to be wrong in public right in such a visible way. Um-
Brady: There's a pride.
Grey: Yeah, there's a pride- I guess the thing that I'm really afraid of is, um, if you go back and watch some of my videos, in some of my videos I am advocating for a position. So... the voting videos for example, I am trying to convince people of something there. Or the video about the electoral college, I'm trying to convince people how terrible the electoral college is. Um... or the copyright video. I'm trying to convince you, I don't say it explicitly, but I'm trying to convince you that the copyright system that we currently have is kind of a terrible idea.
Grey: And the thing that I live in terror of, on those days, the days that I have uploaded a "I'm trying to convince you" video, is that within the first thirty minutes, someone is going to leave a comment that just demolishes my central argument. And, that is a terrifying thing to worry about because, you know, I've just made this video, I've put it up on the internet, a bunch of people are watching it, and I'm doing my best to try and convince you of something, and then someone comes along and just devastatingly shows that I am incorrect. And I'm very happy in casual conversations to try to change my mind and to discover that I'm... wrong about something, and then to adopt a correct opinion, but to have that process happen in front of maybe hundreds of thousands of people is kind of terribly embarrassing. So, when I upload something I really don't want it to be wrong. And that's part of-
Brady: Are you worried about the big howler, or the little thing that slipped through the net? Because something that was said to me by a very wise man, and it was very true,-
Brady: -is that when you're making an argument, like the ones you're talking about there, it can be the small thing that undoes you, because someone might point out, "oh you said that that treaty was signed on January 13, when in fact it was January 14", suddenly they use that mistake to undermine every single other thing you've said in your video or your argument. So are you worried you're going to trip over the small thing or are you worried about something so huge and fundamental, which seems like a harder mistake to make?
Grey: I worry about everything, but I do have, to keep my own sanity, I do have a kind of hierarchy of errors. And so at the top of this, the worst thing is what we've just been discussing, is the "your argument is invalid"... error, someone comes along and just demolishes the thing with a sentence. There are lots and lots of factual errors that do creep in to my videos and that it is just.. it is totally unavoidable and that is a kind of mid level error, which is... irritating, but it's survivable if it's an error that doesn't relate to the main point necessarily, so like you say the treaty thing. You know, if I get a year wrong on the treaty, that's embarrassing and... if you have too many of those, that can start to undermine your credibility.
Grey: You know, I think everyone makes mistakes sometimes, but if you always get the treaty year wrong, right or if you're always doing something just a little bit off, it does start to undermine your main point.
Grey: And at the bottom of this hierarchy, I have things like pronunciation errors, which I have made an embarrassingly large number of times,. And things like typos, where I do my best to just totally ignore those, I think if I make a pronunciation error, that's- that's okay. That's an okay error to make. I'd rather not, but, I don't- in my own opinion, I don't think that really detracts from a central point. But enough little mistakes like treaty years, that's a bad sign. That doesn't help. Um-
Brady: So you're being quite introspective here and talking about, you know, how you feel about your videos and errors in them-
Brady: -how do you feel watching other people's videos there or other content on the internet, how you- does it- do you apply the same standards to other people you apply to yourself and get really upset when people make mistakes or... do you think this is just something you apply to yourself?
Grey: Well, okay, so here's a great thing, right? I watch, say, your videos. Almost every time, the person talking is some expert on this topic, and I have no ability to judge whether or not they've made mistakes.. right? There is an asymmetry here, I would say most of the educational videos I watch on YouTube, I wouldn't even notice mistakes. The people who are making them are so much more integrated into the topic, and they've done so much more on it, that they're always going to be super aware of mistakes that come up, whereas, I can't necessarily see that. I'm going to guess that you get emails from people who are wanting to correct mistakes in your videos, right? Where- 'Cause- You're then on the receiving end, right? You've made a video and you've put it out there to the world and, you know, someone in the world knows more about a topic, or they think they know more about the topic than you do, and then they contact you. Like, how do you deal with that?
Brady: I mean, I think- I mean, I guess in most cases, like you say, I'm interviewing experts so I am a step removed, so I can always say, "Hey, it wasn't my mistake!" But also, I guess, I have one extra level of protection that you don't have, and that is that hardly any of my videos are scripted or pre-prepared. And I guess they are like conversations, and might as we were saying at the start of this chat, people forgive a lot more in conversations than perhaps they do in a script, so if someone gets a year wrong or misspeaks or, or just stuffs up... you can always say, "Well hey, you know, there was no script, we were just chatting, how can- he or she didn't know what questions I was going to ask. How can you possibly expect them to say everything perfectly?" So I guess I have that extra level of protection. That doesn't make the wrongness hurt any less, but it makes it maybe.. less embarrassing in a way. So in terms of dealing with it, I guess that's another thing to talk about though, once it's out there and it's wrong, and it happens to everyone, how do you deal with it?
Grey: For me, personally, the way I look at this is I try to keep a record of all the mistakes I've made on my own blog. And I'm actually going to try to see if I can pull it up here right now.
Brady: I must- I want to read that. I always love in the newspapers the corrections section, where they correct mistakes from the previous day's paper, like it's the best bit of the newspaper, seeing them apologize for all their mistakes. I love that you have one.
Grey: It honestly is, and I know I've mentioned this on Reddit a few times before, but my favorite mistakes section is the one published in The Economist magazine. Their mistakes section... is just hilarious.
Brady: Why is that?
Grey: It's normally hilarious because the errors they're correcting are so minor as to be laughable. I do look it over and, I mean, sometimes they have genuine mistakes, right, everyone does that, but for the most part, they have these deep apologies for very minor, minor mistakes, and I do appreciate that.
Brady: That's probably really tactically smart too, isn't it, because you're probably thinking "Gosh if they're apologizing for that, everything else must be correct because they let nothing slip through the net."
Grey: Yeah, it definitely is, it's a good PR move. Okay, so I'm looking at my most famous video, the UK one, and I have a website where I've kept track of things that I need to change. And, oh god, some of these are just embarrassing to look at now. It's... I haven't looked at this list in a long time and it is really uncomfortable. Um... Okay, well, the very top one I will tell you at the end, so remind me if I forget.
Brady: All right.
Grey: The burning one. Um, oh, so, oh god, this is awful too. This is not so much a mistake as it was just terribly insensitive. But I colored Northern Ireland orange at one point on my map, right? I was not aware of the political implications of coloring Northern Ireland orange, but boy, did I hear about that, right after the video was uploaded. And so I have a note here that I say in- 'cause these are... notes for if I ever redo this video-
Brady: Do not do Northern Ireland-
Brady: -in orange.
Grey: That's exactly right. Northern Ireland will be yellow, not orange. And also, okay, so a minor mistake was I was trying to do the national colors to some extent and I reversed England and Wales. I had... So England should be white, Wales should be red, I had it reversed in the video. Um... I neglected to mention that the United Kingdom was part of the commonwealth realm, I think I described it as being sort of above the commonwealth realm, like it rules over this thing, not as part of the thing itself. Oh god, now- see, here's the thing I'm going to mess up again because I don't know how to do it right. I mispronounced the... Orkney Islands?
Brady: Yeah, that's right.
Grey: Is that right- is that right now?
Brady: Yeah. That's how I say it. Although I notoriously mispronounce everything in the UK as well, so...
Grey: I'll take your word for it.
Grey: Uh, I have... oh god, so yeah. I said the Church of England was the church of the whole of the United Kingdom, but it is not, as the name itself might specify. It is just the church of England, it is not... the church of Scotland as well. Um...
Brady: Aw, don't do this to yourself, Grey-
Grey: Aw, no-
Brady: -it's just terrible.
Grey: I'm just-
Brady: I can feel your pain.
Grey: Oh god this one, this one just killed me, this really kills me too. I used the word "sovereign" in just the wrong way... many times. And I just, I felt really dumb about that. I called the constituent countries "sovereign", and this is not the correct term to use at all to describe the situation.
Brady: This video is like the foundation of your success. It's where it all started, and, you're undermining everything I believe in now.
Grey: Oh I know, and then I have this whole- I messed up a couple of places in the order- I'm saying the British overseas territory in order of descending population, and there were a couple that I got out of order, which is also just very painful.
Brady: Let me tell you this
Brady: I know this is about being wrong on the internet, and being wrong on the internet is a bad thing. But as someone who used to work in newspapers, I can promise you being wrong in newspapers is worse, because it's printed so many times. And it's in har- it's a hard copy, and you see it everywhere, and then you go out for a coffee break, and you see piles and piles of your newspaper, sitting in the shop with your mistakes sitting on the front page. That has happened to me. One of my first ever front page stories was about a big march or parade that was happening in my home town. And I swaggered into work the next day Mr. Front Page, thinking I was all that, and then the boss called me over and said, "Have a look at that." And I had the start of the parade happening at like 9 PM instead of 9 AM, so all these people would turn up at the wrong time, and it was this huge-
Brady: I went from hero to zero very quickly.
Brady: The best example of this though, it didn't happen to me, it happened to a good mate of mine. There was a solar eclipse and he was given the job of writing the story for the paper,-
Grey: No... No...
Brady: -and he doesn't know too much about solar eclipses and he obviously misunderstood something he was told. And he wrote in this story, on the front page of the paper, big big newspaper, "Do not look at the solar eclipse unless you are wearing sunglasses."
Grey: Oh no! No...
Brady: And of course the advice should be do not look at it even if you are. And it was such a big deal, that the newspaper had to, like, call all the TV stations and radio stations in the city and have them put out these emergency broadcasts saying, "Don't do what it said in the newspaper today, you'll all go blind, you mustn't do it." and it became this huge, this huge incident, and there's nothing you can do about it, you can't even take the video down, you can't kill the web page, you can't print new newspapers, you've just made this mistake that is there in hard copy, all day.
Grey: That is-
Brady: it is terrible.
Grey: Those two are particularly bad because you are compelling someone to action in an incorrect way.
Grey: Potentially, a permanently life-changing kind of way.
Brady: Yeah. I'd rather have someone miss the parade than go blind. But yeah, definitely, it's a terrible thing.
Grey: Yeah, so I will grant you that those are particularly bad kinds of errors, and just- to have someone, uh- Yeah, to have someone not know the perfect order of the British territories' populations- that is less bad than missing a parade or going blind.
Brady: Yeah, no one's going to, like, you know, turn up to the wrong country because they misunderstood a CGP Grey video.
Grey: Yeah, I hope so anyway. Someone might blame that on me. Um. although- okay, so now, compared to your story of potentially blinding people, the error that burns in my soul is going to just... pale in comparison.
Brady: Let's do it anyway-
Grey: Um, okay, so-
Brady: Let's hear it. What's this one that's top of the list?
Grey: This is top of the list and I try not to think about it, but it- it's- I will just honestly be minding my own business and this mistake that I made in my first video will still just pop into my head and I feel great shame. And so now I'm going to talk about it publicly.
Brady: Talk to the group, come on.
Grey: Right, so, um... Yes, my name is CGP Grey and I have been wrong on the internet.
Brady: Go ahead.
Grey: Um, alright.
Brady: Hello CGP Grey. Sorry, I thought I should go with you there.
Grey: That's fine, it's hard to even build up to this, but- So in the video, I am talking about the islands of Ireland, right so, next to Great Britain, we have the island itself, the geographical entity-
Brady: Just sitting to the west there, of the main-
Grey: Yeah, just sitting to the west of Great Britain, although in the video, I can't remember the exact phrasing now off the top of my head, but I start to talk about the various places here, and we say okay we have this island which is Ireland, we have northern Ireland, which is part of the UK, which as we mentioned I already showed in orange, which is bad as well, and then I move on to talk about the country that takes up the rest of the island. Which I made a big point, like I hammered it home, that the name of this country is the Republic of Ireland.
Grey: Now, here's the problem. I'm a citizen of this country.
Grey: Right? And I say it's- the name is the Republic of Ireland. And immediately after the video goes up, I have a whole bunch of people emailing me going, "That's not the Republic of Ireland. That place is called Ireland." And I- I think this might have even happened on a public forum, there might be a record of this somewhere. I got into an argument with a guy where I said, "No, the name is the Republic of Ireland, you don't know what you're talking about, I'm a citizen of the country, that's the name." And he says, "That's not the name." And I go, "Yes it is, I have my passport in the other room, I checked it before I made the video, that's the official name." He goes, "Check again." I go, "Fine, I will." I walk into the next room, I look at the passport, and it says, "Ireland." It does not say, "Republic of Ireland." And it just- it burns in my soul that I made a point of it in the video to say, "People sometimes think it's called Ireland, but it's really the Republic of Ireland and Ireland just means the island itself". Right, and I'm a citizen of this place, and I got it wrong in such a public way. And I thought I had checked it, but obviously my brain was already pre-committed to this piece of information, so when I glanced at my passport, my brain was like, "Oh yeah! It's the Republic of Ireland, that's what it says on this piece of paper. Don't look too closely! You'll have to change your beliefs!" and- oh god, it's just awful, I'm getting-
Brady: So people are going to say, people are going to say-
Grey: -flustered even talking about it.
Brady: People are going to say, why not take the video down? Or replace it? Perhaps, you know- I guess- I don't know if this is really obvious to people or not, or whether it's something that it's more people who make videos think about, but perhaps you should point out why you haven't just pulled down this video and corrected it. It would, you know- not that hard thing to do technically.
Grey: [sighs] Yeah okay, there's- there's a- you're- you're entirely right. There's- there's a couple things here, um, but- but the- the technical side is that it is- it is difficult on YouTube to do this. Um, and so you cannot edit a video that is in place in the YouTube system. I- I cannot submit a- a fixed version of a video and have YouTube replace it, and-
Brady: with the same link
Grey: -and I was gonna say that that's- that is the problem there, with the same link. And, this is both a blessing and a curse, because I- I- (I've spoken to other YouTubers about this), if YouTube did allow people to correct the video, to up- to upload an amended version, I would still only have that one video, right? I would- I would have just spent all of my time revising and perfecting,-
Grey: -and changing a whole bunch of stuff in it, because even if I watch it now, there's a couple of places where I know there's a few little- little visual glitches, you know, and then listening to it again I would think "Oh god, I have to just record the whole of the audio", right? Which would then doubtlessly introduce some kind of additional error which then I would have to fix, so if YouTube did allow me to replace the videos, I would have only made one video. So, it is a blessing in the sense that it- it forces me to move forward, but it's- it's a curse because-
[Lulu collar shake in the background]
Grey: -it forces you to live with your mistakes, right? Which is- which is why I think I tend to obsess about this stuff so much, because you know, once it is up there, you cannot-
[more Lulu noise]
Grey: -change it.
Brady: Can I put something else out- out there that I want to talk to you about? Because I know you're a stickler for things being right.
Brady: And I don't want to come across as the advocate for wrongness,-
Brady: -because, I hate wrongness as well, but this is some- this is-
Grey: No, no, I think that that's obviously- that's obviously has to be your position, right? You are the advocate for wrongness if you are-
Grey: -if you are making any kind of ulterior argument. There's no- there's no gray here, it's all black and white.
Brady: Let me... put this to you, I- I don't know if it's a term you're familiar with, but, I mean- I used to work for the BBC and in media, and there's this term that they say: "wrong, but not for long". And what that refers to is usually when there's, like, a breaking news story, I'll- I'll give you an example, say there's been some- some catastrophe or something's happened, something- something serious.
Brady: And I don't want to belittle serious catastrophes,-
Brady: -but they happen, and there's a lot of interest in them. And when that happens, an institution like the BBC, which sort of prides itself on correctness, is very cautious, and they're very careful about what they broadcast and say, and they won't release any information about, maybe, casualties, and names and information until it's been, you know, triple checked and confirmed by the appropriate source, and signed in triplicate, and then you get your m- your TV stations perhaps like, in The UK Sky which is, you know, a big commercial news network, and they're perhaps a bit more cavalier about things, and they'll- they'll just say what they know or what they hear, speculation you know, "we're hearing that there could be five people dead",-
Grey: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.
Brady: -and then, if it turns out they're wrong, or they're "wrong not for long", and they'll- they'll change it and say "well actually it turns out no one's died", or- or that it might be "Oh, turns out it's even worse than we thought, and, this- this has happened". And, I used to work for the BBC, and we used to sit in meetings sometimes and discuss this cavalier attitude, and all the BBC people would be very sniffy and smug, and say "well, we would never do that", and "it's irresponsible to be incorrect", but when these things happen, when- when a big story like this happens, I find myself gravitating towards... Sky, or the more gossipy- the more gossipy ones, because most of the time it turns out they're right, and they're right sooner, and I think there's a case to be made for risking wrongness for the sake of, sort of, time and information,- it's the same if you read a story, like, on the BBC website, you'll read some story that will say, um, "this politician has resigned in disgrace", and they won't tell you any more information, and the first thing you do is you go straight to the tabloids,-
Brady: -and, all the other websites, and you- you find out "Oh, this is what they were really doing, they had a mistress and they were with this celebrity" and-
Grey: Right, right.
Brady: -that sort of stuff, so where do you- where do you stand on tolerating the risk of wrongness for the sake of, I don't know, gossip, or information, or just fast information?
Grey: I think- I think you and I, in this- in this 10 episode series, we should see if we can do one on the news. Uh, because I think we can have a whole- a whole separate conversation about that.
Grey: Um, but- but for- for the moment,-
Brady: I could do 10 episodes just on that one.
Grey: Yeah, um, [laughs] yeah, I think- I think we can have a lot to talk about there. Um, I- I- I would say that- right, the- the whole reason that those tabloids exist is- is because you're exactly right, right? The BBC is all stiff upper lip and, you know, "oh, someone has resigned and we're not going to tell you why", right? And of course,- of course, you want to know why, right? People want to know the gossip, and that- and that's why other news channels can exist, right? Because you- you go over and- and you see,- right, even if you're- even if you hold the BBC in high regard, and, you know, you would never trust anything from anywhere else, you're still going to go and try to find out more information.
Grey: Um, that's just human nature, and, the- uh, I think- I- I have a real problem with that, just because of- of naturally people's short attention spans, and the way people's memories work, is that, well sure, a news organization can say that they- they're "wrong, but not for long", "oh, we corrected it later", um, but, lots of people don't pay attention for the full duration of the story, and they only catch a headline,-
Brady: I should point out by the way, Sky, or no other news organization actually uses the slogan "wrong, not for long",-
Grey: [laughs] Yeah-yeah-yeah.
Brady: -it is a derogatory term that's sort of applied to them, but yeah. [laughs]
Grey: [still laughing] Yeah, I didn't- I didn't mean that that- that like- that's the- that's the banner underneath Sky, "wrong, but not for long", right? Um,-
Brady: That wouldn't be a good selling point, would it?
Grey: No, that would- that- [laughs]
Grey: That would be a terrible selling point. So,-
Grey: I- I- I- you know, if I was- if I was in charge of- of- of some TV news organization, I- I would try to resist that pressure, but I'm not gonna- I'm not gonna sit here and say "oh, you know, I- those other news organizations are terrible for doing it". I understand structurally why it happens. Um, I- I would just say, I think that that's- that's not good. I- I think that that doesn't- that doesn't help anybody, the "wrong, but not for long", uh, kind of attitude of like, you've made a mistake but you're gonna- gonna correct it later. Um, but I- I- I do think this kind of- this kind of segues into the- the issue of- of "how much time can you spend researching anything"?
Grey: And- and that's- that's what this is at-
Brady: -'cause I was gonna say "Grey, you know how much I love your videos, but you are the worst person in the world to run a news network",-
Brady: 'cause like that, something would happen, and it would be like, six months later until you actually made a video about it.
Grey: Yes, that- that is right, I- I would-
Brady: But yeah,- but I would like to hear about, yeah, where's the- where is the cutoff point? That is- that's a really interesting thing to hear your opinion on.
Grey: I know, you're right, I- I would drive any news organization just straight into the ground, right? Just, destroyed. Um, and- and- yeah, it's- it's a problem because you can't research stuff forever. And- and news- TV news or newspapers with a breaking story, they're on a certain- they're on the cutting edge of- of one side of that, the quick side.
Grey: But- but even on the long side, right? So, uh, you know, on average it takes me sort of five weeks to make the videos, and, they still feel rushed from my perspective.
Grey: Um, it honestly- I have never made a video and thought, you know "Oh boy I had just the right amount of time". I have always thought I could- I could use another five weeks to really iron this out. Um, but, you know, I have to draw a line and say "No, you can't spend another five weeks on this, you need to finish it, and- and just record and animate it over the weekend, and just get it done", right? You can't continue to research. I want the videos to be perfect, but the- the cost- this is the way I look at it: the cost of perfection is infinite in terms of- of time and in terms of resources.
Grey: So you're always going to have to make some judgment call about "how reliable is a source?", or, um, "how many experts do you want to contact before you're okay with this".
Grey: Um, and, I- I mean I will give- I will give you a- I'll give you an example of a place where I fought my ten- uh, tendencies to continue to research, and this- this might sound just crazy, but, um, for the last video about the nocebo effect, I was really nervous about this, because I- I felt a- a little bit responsible in a video like this, where I'm talking about medical stuff, right? I'm not talking about history. And I- I felt like there was a greater burden in a video that touches upon a medical topic, to make sure that it's really all correct.
Grey: Um, and so I- I ended up, uh, going through a whole bunch of research archives online trying to find papers from doctors or- or researchers who had worked on this- this nocebo effect, you know, the opposite of the placebo.
Grey: Um, and I- I- I ended up sending out about twenty emails to people who had published a bunch of papers, and I ended up getting, I think in the end I got six people to reply, and they had looked over the script, and basically every one of them gave it a thumbs up. And,-
Brady: Alright, amazing.
Grey: -for most of them I got a thumbs up and a "by the way, you- you cannot mention my name or the organization that I work for",-
Grey: -um, you know, "I- I can't have it be publicly, you know, known that I, like, gave this the thumbs up", right? Because they- they face the similar kinds of- kinds of issues, but let's just say, if- if I said the places where these people worked, everybody would recognize the names.
Grey: Um, but even after I'm getting thumbs up from- from people in the field, I- I had this feeling of "okay, I have to- but I have to really make sure". I- let me- how many- "let me wait until I get responses from more doctors", or- and that is the point where it is clearly just insanity. Um, and I- I had to say "okay, I just have to stop there", and "I have a thumbs up from actual doctors, I'm gonna go ahead and I'm going to record the script", um, but my natural in-
Brady: Is the- is the tipping point for you kind of, that kind of rational thought, that, you know, "well I can't do it forever and I have to draw an arbitrary line", or is it just, the need to eat?
Grey: [chuckles] Well, I mean, yeah, that's- that- that is the ugly side of the business, is that at a certain point there, you have to pay your own bills, right? Which is- which is why I don't exactly have, but fairly close have a monthly cycle. Um, there is- there is that pressure on- on one side of it, right? I can't release one video a year because I will be homeless, um, right? That- that just is not practical. But it is- it is something that I keep in mind very much, that- that the cost of perfection is infinite, and so you have- you have to draw the line somewhere, but with the last video it- it was very difficult, um, because I was- I was extra worried, and I- I think because of that, I might not be doing another medical topic anytime soon, because that was, uh, that was a very stressful experience, um, and I was very nervous when that one went live for quite a while. I kept- I kept waiting for some email that would just, you know, make the whole empire crumble. Um,-
Grey: -unfortunately it- it hasn't come yet.
Brady: Let me ask you something else that I'm- I mean I'm- I'm conscious of time, and we can't talk forever, or-
Brady: -I'm- I'm sure we could talk forever, but- but you do talk there about sort of sources and that, and this does tie into being wrong on the internet,-
Grey: Yeah, yeah.
Brady: How much do you trust the internet? Will you use the internet-
Brady: -as a source, or will you- do you only trust sources like human beings and, I know you spend a lot of time in libraries and things like that, is- can the internet be trusted?
Grey: The internet, it represents a whole lot of things, um, so I- I think where- where this comes up the most is- is like with Wikipedia.
Brady: Yes, of course.
Grey: So, right, so when I used to teach kids, um, there was- there was a fierce debate between teachers on the- on the pro versus the anti Wikipedia side, and I always came down very strongly on the pro side, um, and I told my students if they were researching something for me, like "Wikipedia is totally okay, copy and pasting from Wikipedia is not, but there's no place to get a better overview from things". Um,-
Brady: You'd be amazed the number of times I've been with, like, top professors in the field, and asked them a question and they've said "I'm not too sure about that, let me check", and gone straight to Wikipedia.
Grey: [chuckles] Yeah, so- so here's the thing, right? There- it all depends on- on "what do you need?". And if- if you just want to check some quick fact about something, Wikipedia is totally reliable. Now, there's reasons why you can't cite it as a source, but ignoring that for the time being, Wikipedia, for a huge number of people's needs, is totally fine. Um, the thing that I have, uh, and I've complained about this on Twitter sometimes, but, the thing that I am occasionally disturbed by is, um, if I see something interesting on a Wikipedia article for a- a topic that I'm pre-researching, I will go through the sources and try to find, like, the original source of some comment that is mentioned in the Wikipedia article, or the original source of some statistic that is mentioned. And,-
Brady: That often leads to some great extra material too, but that's uh, that's probably a talk for another day, yeah.
Grey: Yeah, I mean, well, that's just it, right? You can't- you can't- you know, you can't just make a video from the Wikipedia page, right? It's just- it's not possible. But, but the thing that is disturbing is the number of times that that source link doesn't go anywhere. Or, I have found, an, um, some times where the context of the source link says something that is completely contrary to the feeling that you got from the Wikipedia page itself. Um, and so nothing in the world is- is perfectly reliable, and- and it's- it is hard to know when to trust a source completely, and, you know, for me again, while we- why we can have a conversation about newspapers another time, for me general newspapers, you know, TV news, that it- that is the absolute bottom of the barrel for me, right? That is just the-
Grey: -that is the- if you want an accurate representation of- of knowledge of the state of the world, that is the worst place that you could possibly start.
Brady: The- I'm just crossing a whole bunch of people off a list I'm gonna email this uh, this podcast to.
Grey: Yes, yes, perhaps all your former work colleagues,-
Grey: -maybe don't share this with them.
Brady: Most of my best friends also on that list, yep.
Grey: Right, right, um, so that- that is at the- the bottom of- of- of my list. But it- but it gets really ambiguous very quickly. And, it is ultimately going to have to come down to some judgment call that I have to make, and that's- that is not easy to articulate, because... sometimes, particularly when you're looking at statistics, the organization producing those statistics has some agenda, right? They're pro or anti something. And I think on the internet, too often people will just dismiss that. They'll say "oh, you can't trust statistics from that organization because they're pro whatever". But an interesting question is, "maybe they're Pro whatever because- because of those statistics".
Grey: Right? That- you know- there has to be some actual state of the universe, right? There's some state of this thing that is correct,-
Grey: -and so there's going to be some organization that is advocating for that thing, because of those statistics, or against a thing, whatever it is. Um, and- and that is... yeah, I don't have a- a- a solid answer for that. It ultimately just comes down to a judgement call, and it is very, very, hard sometimes to know... who to trust, and at one point- what point you have to stop, uh, stop looking. Um, I- I will just mention one- one last little thing here, quickly,-
Grey: -which is, um, oh, I wish I could come with an example off the top of my head, but the number of times I've been looking at some historical stuff, and I come across information about how some historical figure- the existence of this person is not certain. And, I find that just fascinating. You know,-
Grey: -I- I think history is a topic in particular where the realm of the unknown is very large, and, so, here- here's a case where I won't- I won't venture- venture to be wrong, I'll just be vague,-
Grey: -but I- I know this is true for one of the Greek philosophers. That there is- there is a- there's serious debate over whether or not they existed, or whether they were just a debating tool in the writings of other philosophers, right? And that's probably not gonna ever be solved,-
Grey: -right? You- we'll never know, maybe, if- if, you know, Greek philosopher X was real or not real, or if they were just a rhetorical device that was used by everyone at the time.
Brady: Yeah, or an amalgamation like Robin Hood is- is sort of said to be this amalgamation of a whole bunch of different rogues who were around at the time, and they get sort of merged into one uber rogue.
Grey: Right, that- that's the same kind of thing. An infinite amount of research is never going to make that situation any more clear. Um, that- you know, there's only so much data that has survived. And, you run into those kinds of situations as well which is very strange and sometimes very hard to talk about without trying to be wrong, or- or stating something too clearly. Um, which is one of the reasons why I can say my videos take a very long time because, uh, I think, sometimes if you listen to my wording, I have chosen very careful wording to not explicitly say something when I- when I run into those kinds of situations where, you know, maybe- maybe we don't know, maybe there's some amount of uncertainty about this thing. Uh, and so I- I- I think very hard about how to get past something without necessarily bringing this up as a big problem. Uh,-
Brady: And I mean I guess the other thing about internet wrongness that sort of flows from that in some ways as well, that we haven't touched on, is the amazing ability now for incorrect information to propagate, replicate, uh, spread wildly, and it's just become- I mean, it's crazy, Google searches show that all the time don't you, where just so-and-so is citing so-and-so is citing so-and-so, and you're like "well hang on,-
Brady: -are you all just-" and it just happens so quickly and it's so per- all pervading.
Grey: Yeah you- you come across these- these sort of information infinite loops,-
Grey: -where- where the- the citations just go in a circle. and that is very disturbing. Um, or it's- it's very hard to find out the original source of a thing, because it- it's just so convoluted, and, it makes me think of the quote, right?, which jumps right into my head, which is, that, you know, the- "A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to put its pants on",-
Grey: -which is usually quoted to Winston Churchill, but it's- if you look into that it's- it is not clear where this first came from.
Grey: It's- it's quoted to a whole bunch of people, and I love that this- this quote about the spreading of incorrect information, the origin of it is also uncertain. Um, and I think that's- those kinds of things are just very interesting sometimes, and we- we live in a world where things are just uncertain. It is- you can't know for 100%. Like, I mean unless you're a mathematician I guess, mathematicians know 100%. Um,-
Brady: I think there's one thing we know almost for 100%, and that's that, our times pretty much come to an end,-
Brady: -but we're gonna do another one of these soon, what do you reckon?
Grey: Okay, I think that sounds good, I think that sounds good.
Brady: All right.
Grey: All right?
Brady: Good one.
Brady: Thanks for your time, man.
Grey: Yeah, I'll talk to you later.
Brady: Bye then.
Grey: All right, take care.
References[edit | edit source]
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- Grey, CGP. "Been working on a secret podcast with @BradyHaran: "Hello Internet". The first episode is up now:". Twitter. CGP Grey. Retrieved 25 September 2017.
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- "CGP Grey & Brady Haran – Hello Internet International iTunes Chart Performance". iTunesCharts.net. Archived from the original on 9 August 2016. Retrieved 8 May 2019.
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