Eric Jakobsson: I second the motion. Getting involved with these types of issues is not a way to work less hard.

John Schwab, National Institute of General Medical Sciences: I have heard people here comparing the Internet-driven information glut to a fire hose. This is a valid metaphor in terms of quantity, but not in terms of quality. The water that comes out of a fire hose is of uniform quality. What comes off the Internet is quite variable; there are good data and lousy data. There are good applications and flawed applications.

Unfortunately, there has long been a tendency, even in pre-Internet days, to think that if data were obtained from a machine, that those data were somehow validated. Clearly, that is naive. The utility of the Internet as a learning tool depends ultimately on how knowledgeably it’s being used. This leads me back to Dale Poulter’s point regarding the importance of mentoring. It’s absolutely critical that Internet users be taught to question and evaluate the quality of the information that they are accessing.

Eric Jakobsson: I would even go further than that. There are not only bad data and bad applications, but there is also evil. There are hate groups. We learned a couple of generations ago that there is nothing incompatible between evil and technical competence. That extends to the Web as well. It is up to people who want to, and are capable of doing good things with it, to take it over and use it as well as possible.

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