903: Extended Mind

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Extended Mind
Wikipedia trivia: if you take any article, click on the first link in the article text not in parentheses or italics, and then repeat, you will eventually end up at "Philosophy".
Title text: Wikipedia trivia: if you take any article, click on the first link in the article text not in parentheses or italics, and then repeat, you will eventually end up at "Philosophy".

[edit] Explanation

This comic refers to the fact that the narrator has become so dependent on Wikipedia as a source of information that although it gives him the great advantage that he appears learned on any topic with a remarkable degree of specificity, the downside is that whenever Wikipedia goes offline, the limitations of his actual knowledge are revealed.

Luckily, he will not have to face this predicament too often, as the only Wikipedia outages that have occurred (that have been reported in the news) were in March 2010 and on January 18, 2012 for the SOPA protest outage.

The title, "Extended Mind", refers to a theory proposed by philosophers Andy Clark and David Chalmers, which postulates that the mind not only includes what can be found in the skull, but also incorporates external things, like Wikipedia.

The title text refers to an observed phenomenon that Wikipedia's page links eventually lead to the Philosophy page. This may be due to the fact that the first few links in any article tend to reference more general or abstract ideas, which eventually gravitate towards philosophy.

[edit] Transcript

[An IM window is open over a Chrome window with tabs for Spark Plug, Feeler Gauge, and Wikipedia.]
Message with Mike1979
Mike1979: I replaced my spark plugs and now my car is running weird.
Me: The spark gap might be off.
Me: You can check with a feeler gauge.
Mike1979: What should the gap be?
Me: Usually between 0.035" and 0.070".
Me: But it depends on the engine.
[An IM window is open over a Chrome window with a single Wikipedia tab, marked ERROR. The page says: "Wikipedia has a problem. Try waiting a few minutes and reloading (can't contact the database server: unknown error (]
Message with Mike1979
Mike1979: I replaced my spark plugs and now my car is running weird.
Me: What is a spark plug??
Me: Help
Me: What is a car??
When Wikipedia has a server outage, my apparent IQ drops by 30 points.

[edit] Trivia

  • The error code shown in the right panel caused a bit of a discussion from the wiki techs. Randall replied with:
Randall: "I drew it based on an older error message where the IP was I changed it to 242 (a) because I try not to get too specific with those things, and didn't want people poking the actual machine at .243 (if it was still there) - I actually considered putting .276 and seeing how many people noticed, but figured they'd just think I made a dumb mistake. and (b) as part of this ancient inside joke involving the number 242 ..."
Comment.png add a comment!


Title text is true - unless you happen to stumble upon any one of: Fact, Proof (truth), Evidence, or Truth. Then you'll be stranded in an eternal loop.

What do you mean? Fact works fine, you get there in 7 steps. Proof gets you there in 6 - you go to Necessity and Sufficiency not Evidence. Same for Evidence. Truth leads you to Fact. So all of your examples actually work.

--T0IVI (talk) 09:27, 28 December 2012 (UTC)

Also, I add another rule to my wikiwalks: No purple links. 21:05, 28 March 2014 (UTC)

Yeah, I hit a loop on the page Community. Went right from National community to Community again. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

These infinite loops seem to be 'fixed', I went through fact and other stuff right to philosophy. (talk) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)

Another loop is "England". It goes right to "Countries of the United Kingdom" which returns immediately to England.

Finally we all end up in Reality. 21:16, 29 May 2013 (UTC)

I do have to say that the best loop that doesn't feed to Philosophy is Sand Fence and Snow Fence. The first sentence of each article is identical except for switching the instances of sand and snow. -- 05:17, 6 July 2013 (UTC)

Saying that everything ends up in "philosophy" is simply choosing from a long list of possible entries to suit an argument. I found it much more interesting, having gotten to philosophy, to keep going through the loop, then to see where certain pages drop you into said loop. The loop currenty is reality, existence, world, human, hominini, tribe, biology, natural science, sciences, knowledge, fact, proof, necessity and sufficiency, logic, reason, consciousness, quality (philosophy), property (philosophy), modern philosophy, then finally philosophy. It's as if we've stumbled upon a new classification of knowledge. If only we could look recursively at ALL the things that lead into a certain topic in the loop. For example, goat drops you into the loop at biology, which makes perfect sense, but Volvo drops you in at natural sciences from a very convoluted path which includes physics, time, dimension, list of time periods, and scandinavia. In other words, it's the journey not the destination that I find interesting. - naginalf 15:39, 12 March 2014 (UTC)

Randall is either mistaken or intentionally misinformative (or rather, politically correct) in his IQ estimates. What's a car hyperbole aside, the cluelessness, sentence length, and spelling of the outage-messages remind of a person in their low 90s-high 80s, if not lower, and Randall is clearly more than 120, (conservative) average for physics majors as it might be. 20:08, 13 July 2013 (UTC)

What can we learn?

I've learned that memorizing facts is so yesteryear. Over next few years facts will be even easier to find, understand, use, reference and forget. When in school we should concentrate not on memorizing facts we can look up later, but rather new methods to think outside the box full of facts others placed inside it. (Thank you Mr. XKCD) - E-inspired (talk) 13:42, 28 February 2013 (UTC)

That is true, but the overhead for looking something up versus remembering it is usually great enough that memorizing some things (multiplication tables come to mind) can increase the speed we can arrive at conclusions, or can give us other options (correlation between spark plug gapping and engine performance) that might not have come to mind otherwise. Outside of that, even though we forget much of it, having a vague sense of things (dates, locations/countries, etc) allow us to start out knowing at least something (order of things that occurred, Egypt being in Africa, Pythagorean theorem). This is just my opinion, and I may be biased, since I like facts. Tryc (talk) 13:19, 25 July 2013 (UTC)

You can't teach everyone to think outside the box, that would spoil my advantage over the common man. 03:03, 26 August 2013 (UTC)

Wikiloop: (noun) A loop that results in wikipedia articles from clicking the first link not in brackets or italics over and over again. Here is the most commonly encountered wikiloop. (Reality is also the first link in Philosophy) --ParadoX (talk) 09:03, 13 December 2013 (UTC) Reality Existence World Human Primate Mammal Clade Tree of life (biology) Metaphor Figure of speech Word Linguistics Science Knowledge Fact Reality ...

wikipedia outages

There was a major outage in 2005 when a power failure hit their database servers http://cyberbrahma.com/power-corrupts-power-failure-corrupts-absolutely/. I also remember countless minor outages over the years (though not recently). -- plugwash

And just after I wrote the above wikipedia went down....... -- plugwash [[User:{{{1}}}|{{{1}}}]] ([[User talk:{{{1}}}|talk]]) (please sign your comments with ~~~~)
Yeah, a link like Sand Fence should be work like Sand fence, but it doesn't right now. So some outages for the "Extended Mind"... --Dgbrt (talk) 00:10, 14 February 2014 (UTC)
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