« »
April 14, 2005 » 7:51 pm

Ghosts of Sokal

Three MIT graduate students — Jeremy Stribling, Daniel Aguayo, and Maxwell Krohn — wrote a computer program to autogenerate a “research paper” entitled, “Rooter: A Methodology for the Typical Unification of Access Points and Redundancy.” They submitted it to the World Multi-Conference on Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics (WMSCI). It was accepted.    (IML)

The CNN article about their accomplishment noted that it was reminiscent of the infamous Alan Sokal hoax. Sokal submitted a fake paper to a postmodern scholastic journal, Social Text (not to be confused with Ross Mayfield‘s company), and the paper was accepted. Sokal wanted to show that postmodernism was a farce, but what he ended up demonstrating was that peer review was incredibly flawed.    (IMM)

The “Rooter” paper isn’t the first fake paper to be accepted at a scientific journal or conference, but it’s the first to my knowledge that was computer-generated. It’s not that hard to point out the problems with peer review. What’s more interesting to me are effective alternatives that challenge our assumptions. Wikipedia is an obvious example, but arXiv.org is a much more compelling one.    (IMN)

In any case, many thanks to Jeremy, Daniel, and Maxwell for giving me a good chuckle. Please donate to their cause so that they can deliver a randomly-generated talk at the conference.    (IMO)

Tags: , , , ,

« »

Leave a Reply