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Illustration: “Duty Calls”/xkcd – Creative Commons (Fair Use) I’m sure you’re familiar with the XKCD comic “Duty Calls” in which an internet users is passionately typing away late into the night because “someone is wrong on the internet!” The comic illustrates Cunningham’s Law, the tongue-in-cheek axiom that states “the best way to get the right answer on the internet is not to ask a question, it’s to post the wrong answer.” The principle behind Cunningham’s Law isn’t new—there’s even a French saying that translates to “preach the falsehood to know the truth”—but even though it’s well-established, Cunningham’s Law is hardly an effective way to gather information online—and actually tells us more about how the internet seems to invite us to disagree about everything. The philosophy behind Cunningham’s Law Posting a lie to get to a truth works (sometimes) because people love seeming smarter than other people. But while the rush of dopamine and smugness that comes with making a stranger feel stupid is a stronger motivator than answering a question honestly, the substances of those answers are likely to be way worse. That means that though the number of people intentionally posting incorrect information in pursuit of the right answers is probably small, you can’t actually trust the heated corrections posted in response to any disagreeable opinion you encounter online, even if it was sincerely given. Why Cunningham’s Law doesn’t work It disproves itself. Cunningham’s Law is attributed to Ward Cunningham , the man who created the first online […]