Reimagined and Revamped. Fighting the spread of nonsense often feels like a Sisyphean task. However, the joy is in making the information available, not the hope of conversion.

Fractal Wrongness

Maybe I am not part of the 'in' crowd. Maybe this term has been around for a while, I'm not sure. But I heard it for the first time today. It really hit home with me since I tend to peruse around the blogosphere and see this type of thing almost on a daily basis. For those who have not heard it:

Fractal Wrongness:

The state of being wrong at every conceivable scale of resolution. That is, from a distance, a fractally wrong person's worldview is incorrect; and furthermore, if you zoom in on any small part of that person's worldview, that part is just as wrong as the whole worldview.

This isn't simply one person's worldview with respect to another persons worldview. For example if a muslim and a christian consider an atheists world view, they will simply presume wrongness (and most likely vice versa). However only by using actual data and not accepting things that do not have hard data, the state of fractal wrongness be avoided.

The most frustrating part about listening to (or reading) people who are in a state of fractal wrongness, is that no matter where you examine their view, you simply find more wrong stuff. If you examine parts of the part, lo and behold, more wrong stuff. The funniest part is that throughout it all, they still consider themselves to be expert and infallable. Its psychopathy.

Two encounters I had recently at other blogs with people who were mired in a state of fractal wrongness were John Best at Skeptico's and Justin at Berlezebubs. Its an interesting and sometimes hilarious, read if you can make it through.

I often question myself when I engage in debate with folks like that. It seems to be an obsession I quite enjoy.


On 2/13/08, 8:13 AM , Anonymous said...

The concept of "Fractal Wrongness" has apparently been around for several years, although I hadn't seen it used until a few days ago. I found the full definition at this lexicon of computing. The full definition is:

The state of being wrong at every conceivable scale of resolution. That is, from a distance, a fractally wrong person's worldview is incorrect; and furthermore, if you zoom in on any small part of that person's worldview, that part is just as wrong as the whole worldview.

Debating with a person who is fractally wrong leads to infinite regress, as every refutation you make of that person's opinions will lead to a rejoinder, full of half-truths, leaps of logic, and outright lies, that requires just as much refutation to debunk as the first one. It is as impossible to convince a fractally wrong person of anything as it is to walk around the edge of the Mandelbrot set in finite time.

If you ever get embroiled in a discussion with a fractally wrong person on the Internet -- in mailing lists, newsgroups, or website forums -- your best bet is to say your piece once and ignore any replies, thus saving yourself time.

On 2/13/08, 8:13 AM , Anonymous said...

This is similar to a term my team came up with when we were working on a large software project where the primary contractor was Andersen Consulting. Our term was "fractally broken" -- every part of the AC software development process was broken, at every level of resolution from high level architecture to detailed design to the actual coding.

On 2/29/08, 2:46 AM , Genewitch said...

never heard of it, but i would also apply it to the state of our world, country, states, counties, cities, and neighborhoods... Meaning that if you find the solution to one problem, there's another one that gets worse. Affirmative action fixed some things, made other things worse. welfare fixed some things, made other things worse. you can go on and on and on, up and down (vertically) on a scale of problems, and if you exhaust that line, shift to the right from ANY PART OF THAT SCALE, and you have a full vertical scale offshooting from there. It's obnoxious.

On 3/1/08, 12:15 PM , Techskeptic said...

interesting genewitch,

but that doesnt sound like fractal wrongness. It sounds like "conservation of wrongness"

And I see what you mean, we may make gains in giving minorities and women equality, we make great gains in medicine and increasing lifespan but now we have school shootings and anthrax and ricin poisonings and extreme suffereing in the middle east and afrika. And we blindly elect someone who may in fact be retarded for about equal opportunity!

Whoa! take it easy, I'm not suggesting they are related, I am joining in on the concept of conservation of wrongness. Problems in on earena don't get fixed unless new problems crop up in another!

Fortunately (for me), I do not believe in it. This is because my world view contains the entire world and not one sect of it. For example, if I am a southern babtist and I am seeing these high powered women around and gays are allowed to roam free, then I would have the impression that while my religion expanded recently, the problems are getting worse (and of course I would put the blame directly on those damnable atheists and moderates who enable them!)

But I do not have a world view like this. I see medical technology, sanitation and biological understanding enabling us to live longer, healthier and with less suffering than ever before. This is a condition that could be shared by everyone in the world.

I see progress being made in america, progress that has already been made in europe with respect to equality and respect for the planet we live on. This is a condition that oculd be shared by the world.

There is no technical reason why the whole world can't share in the benefits and learning that we, as human beings have made, even our methods of analysis have improved.

Of course we will have to do away with all this nonsense religion, but it must be done in a way that allows people to choose to drop it, not forcibly remove it.

Only then will we start reaping the rewards of all this advancement as a species. Its a lot like an engineering problem, very often you fix something, only to find the problem that was hidden by the bigger problem. You fix the big problem and lo and behold there is another one, one that may even be accentuated by the solution to the first one. The key is to keep at it, refine and improve and soon what do you get? Cars that last a million miles, appliances that dont break down for 20 years, eye surgeries that correct eyesight in one day, eliminating the need for glasses. Its an iterative process, all of it, but it is improvment. We just all have to understand this and get on the same page.