dimanche, janvier 31, 2010

GOOGLE NOUS REND-T-IL STUPIDE?

La question a été posée par N. Carr dans un article de la revue The Atlantic, en 2008.

Il mérite réflexion et je suis tombé dessus en préparant un texte sur les usages du numérique en éducation, sujet sur lequel, sans aucunement nier des avantages évidents à ces technologies, je reste sur bien des plans sceptique, surtout compte tenu des coûts qui leur sont associés. J'y vois, souvent, une manière de naiveté positiviste qui attend de la technologie des solutions qu'elle ne peut donner à des problèmes qui sont plus profonds et d'un autre ordre. Quoiqu'il en soit, l'article de Carr a suscité bien des discussions dont on trouve écho ici.

À ce propos, Massimo Pigliucci vient de publier sur son blogue un texte qui me semble intéressant en ce qu'il suggère une manière par laquelle la thèse de la stupidité induite par Google trouve un début d'explication.

Pour suivre et apprécier son argumentaire, on peut tenter cette petite expérience sur ses amis.

Vous annoncez qu'il (ou elle) devra trouver la règle qui permet de construire une suite donnée. Vous leur en donnerez les premiers chiffres; puis, ils pourront risquer une nombre: s'il poursuivent la suite, vous répondrez: oui; sinon, vous leur direz: non. Ils peuvent recommencer autant de fois qu'ils le souhaitent. Quand ils croient avoir trouvé la règle, ils l'annoncent. Vous donnez ensuite le début de la suite: 2, 4, 6, 8.

Vos amis diront probablement: 10, 12, 14. Et, très vite, ils concluront que la suite en question est celle des nombres pairs.

Mais, pensez-y, ce n'est pas nécessairement le cas. En fait, ici, la règle était que le nombre suivant doit être plus grand que le nombre qui le précède. De sorte que si votre ami vous avait dit: 8 1/4; ou 13; ou 245; ou 3999; vous auriez à chaque fois répondu: oui. Et s'il avait dit: 7, vous auriez dit: non.

C'est bien entendu la raison pour laquelle on ne dit pas ces choses qui est intéressante. Ce qui semble se produire est qu'on trouve vite l'hypothèse qu'il faut poursuivre la suite en ajoutant 2 et qu'on s'y confine. Pour trouver la bonne règle, il aurait fallu envisager des hypothèses autres que celles avec laquelle on est parti. Mais on ne le fait généralement pas et on interprète toutes les données à la lumière de cette hypothèse.

Des lecteurs auront reconnu l'expérience rapportée par P. C. Wason dans : On the failure to eliminate hypotheses in a conceptual task (1960). Un expression destinée à devenir célèbre y apparaissait: biais de confirmation. Elle signifie que nous recherchons, remarquons et nous souvenons de ce qui conforte ce que nous croyons déjà.

Revenons à Google armés de cette idée.

Massimo donne un bel exemple. X a entendu dire que le féminisme a été créé par la CIA dans le but de contrôler le monde. Délirant, non? Certes. Mais X rentre chez lui et met dans Google: CIA feminism. Il trouve ceci. Et le premier lien donne des tas de preuves que ce complot est bien réel. Ce lien renvoie à d'autres liens, qui tous confortent la même idée.

Mais , direz-vous, X va avoir l'idée de mettre dans Google: CIA feminism debunk. Sans doute. Comme d'autres ont l'idée de dire, après 8: 217.

Massimo ajoute que le nouvel algorithme de recherche de Google risque d'empirer les choses.

Ce n'est là qu'une goutte d'eau dans l'argumentaire du papier que je médite; mais je la trouve jolie.

47 commentaires:

François Gagnon a dit…

Lorsqu'il s'agit de ce genre de questions, je vous conseille d'écouter/de regarder l'excellent Search Engine, de TVO.

Voici une discussion sur la question :
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6TW9HGuWMJo

Normand Baillargeon a dit…

@Françis Gagnon: Amusant. Merci.

Normand

Gabriel a dit…

Intéressant l'artciel et le commentaire de François! Merci!

toutankh a dit…

Pour les suites, ce genre d'exercice est typiquement énervant (pas la version du post, mais la version pseudo-jeu mathématique), car il révèle généralement l'étroitesse d'esprit des gens qui attendent exactement une réponse et pas n'importe quelle autre qui aurait un sens. Par exemple, la suite 2 4 6 8 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 (etc) commence bien par 2 4 6 8, mais allez la faire accepter comme réponse valide :)

Yannick a dit…

En France, la plupart des écoles de commerce (instituts d'enseignement supérieur privés dépendant des chambres de commerce) ont recours à des tests semblables pour sélectionner "les meilleurs". Que penser également des épreuves écrites de dissertation corrigées selon une grille précise des éléments devant figurer au petit a du grand 1, section 2 ? N'est-ce pas Chomsky qui qualifie le système scolaire de machine à filtrer par le conformisme et la docilité ? Les épreuves de sélection des élites en France méritent d'être contemplées comme un modèle du genre.

Jean-no a dit…

Aussi décevant que ce soit, le fait que l'on considère que 2,4,6 doit être suivi de 8 est ce qui donne à nos gènes (je suis dawkinsiste :-)), en moyenne, les meilleures chances de survie : il vaut parfois mieux prendre une décision imprécise que passer trop de temps sur une décision juste, s'enfuir quand on entend un rugissement plutôt que de se demander "qu'est-ce qui me prouve que ce n'est un herbivore enroué, une bonne imitation ou un enregistrement ?".
Il est clair (comme votre manuel le démontre régulièrement) que cette intelligence efficace mais approximative peut être "hackée", détournée par ceux qui savent en exploiter les mécanismes.

Franck Wilmart a dit…

Bonjour,
Traduction française de cet article :
http://www.framablog.org/index.php/post/2008/12/07/est-ce-que-google-nous-rend-idiot

Franck Wilmart a dit…

Le travail de Maryanne Wolf a l'air des plus intéressants.
J'espère qu'il y aura une traduction française de son livre "Proust et le calamar".

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Google a grandi à partir d'un outil formidable pour obtenir accompli dans les différents types de champs et devrait croître encore plus.

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