"I'm just turning a rational eye to your dogma"


I went to see Randall Munroe, creator of xkcd, a few weeks ago at MIT. Unfortunately the line to get him to sign books was about fifty frenzied geeks long, so I didn't stay for that. But I did enjoy his dialogue with the audience, which mainly consisted of answering questions ranging from obsessive fanboy minutia (why is xkcd published on Monday, Wednesday and Friday?) to vast and metaphysical (what is the true difference between geeks, nerds and dorks?) The latter question led to Munroe doodling and tinkering with a ridiculously convoluted Venn diagram, the details of which I can't remember, except that those of us brave enough to venture out on a frigid night during finals week to see him talk were represented as a smiley emoticon in the center of the Venn diagram. Unfortunately that didn't mean we were either socially well-adjusted or the center of the universe - just that we displayed all of the questionable traits of geeks, nerds, dorks, fanboys, etc. We were also just above and to the left of an enigmatic tentacle-armed stick figure. I don't know what that meant.

At one point, there was nearly bloodshed in the row in front of me when a young girl - she couldn't have been more than 18 - admitted to her noisy gaggle of Joss Whedon-loving, xkcd-quoting, math-pun-making peers that SHE HAD NEVER SEEN STAR WARS. There was dead silence, and one of her friends said in a dread-filled voice, "this is the worst possible room in which to admit that right now." Another friend said soothingly to the group, "It's ok. It's ok. I'll take care of this."

Oh, my.

Anyway, this particular xkcd comic is just too apropos, given our recent discussions on scientific expertise, consensus and the wisdom of crowds. . . . the internetz are just full of philosophers these days.

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