Analogy. Ur doin it rong.

One might assume that having being a professor in ethics might give you some understanding of society. Maybe a little understanding of the basic precepts of logic, too. Apparently they are not requisite, though, since only someone who fails to understand both logic and society (and analogy for that matter) could come out with something as ridiculously stupid as Professor Clive Hamilton from ANU. From the NY Times:

Clive Hamilton, a senior ethics professor at the Australian National University and a supporter of the plan, dismissed the arguments.

“The laws that mandate upper speed limits do not stop people from speeding, does that mean that we should not have those laws?” he said. “We live in a society, and societies have always imposed limits on activities that it deems are damaging.” he said. “There is nothing sacrosanct about the Internet.”

The stupid. It burns.

Professor Hamilton apparently misunderstands: (a) what an analogy is and (b) how it works. For the unintiated: an analogy is supposed to illustrate a point by providing a similar situation which shares certain common features. It should provide an example in easier to understand terms, but is only valid for those features which are comparable. To paraphrase my high school English teacher: you can illustrate by analogy, but never prove. Hamilton’s analogy doesn’t even do that. It fails. Epically.

Hamilton may be a good professor, I don’t know, I’ve never studied at ANU. Maybe this was just an unfortunate choice of words in an otherwise illustrious career.

Simply put, the analogy is wrong. Completely, incontrovertibly wrong. It is wrong in every possible way. Having an ISP-level filter is not like speed limits on the road at all. It is more akin to having the car manufacturers being forced to fit an auto-limiting device on the speedometer in the car which also tracks your every move, and won’t let you drive down certain roads until the government decides it’s safe for the children. On top of that, about 10% of the time (at a minimum), it provides incorrect information regarding the legal speed or which roads can be accessed. And you’re not allowed to know in advance which roads these will be. (That, Professor, is an analogy of ISP-level filtering.)

If anything, Professor Hamilton’s argument is one of the best arguments against the filter: ultimately it is the responsibility of the driver to follow the rules of the road; likewise it is the responsibility of the individual user on the interwebs. Sure, there are measures in place to catch people performing illegal acts; no-one in their right mind would suggest it should be otherwise for the internet as well. In fact, there are such measures in place. There are whole departments at most law-enforcement agencies, including the AFP and InterPol which are dedicated to exactly this. ISP-level filtering simply does not work. Not when the money could be better spent further funding the AFP (which has received a budget cut under the Rudd Government) and providing education to children (and parents) about the potential dangers. (Hey, anyone else here remember ‘Stranger Danger’? No-one stopped people from going for walks or driving cars or going to the park or …)

Professor, if you must support this idiotic idea, you could at least do us the courtesy of providing a coherent reason for doing so.

(Hat tip: John Wilkins)


Update: Just for clarification, the reason Prof Hamilton’s analogy fails so badly is that its point of comparison (i.e. the societally imposed ‘limit’) is far outweighed by the differences in how this limit is imposed/managed. Prof Hamilton, I believe, should have a better understanding of society and human nature than this statement suggests; from his statement, however, it appears he has little to no understanding of how an ISP-level filter actually works. (I believe his opinion of the filter may change if it were imposed on his university access.)

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~ by MattR on December 15, 2008.

One Response to “Analogy. Ur doin it rong.”

  1. […] goes beyond Clive Hamilton’s wrongness. In the words of Pauli, it’s “not even wrong”. There is no comparison to be made. […]

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