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The Majority Rules on the Internet

Posted August. 13, 2005 03:06,   


The Standard of Right and Wrong Changes-

Most people believe that there is a right answer for every question. But, the power of the Internet is changing this belief fundamentally, adopting the system in which the right answer is formed by many people`s participation.

A translation service provided by Google is more accurate than general translation software created by popular foreign language experts. The software relies on a pre-determined translating system, significantly limiting its translation potential.

Google, however, simply selects from several translation alternatives of the given sentence that appears most frequently on Internet search results. By using the original and translated versions of UN conference records and some statistics, in theory, all languages can be translated. Adding more samples can increase the accuracy rate.

NHN, an Internet company in South Korea, launched “Naver Knowledge Agent,” making it a phenomenon and creating a popular new expression, "Ask Naver if you are curious about something." The service lets Internet users post a question, and other users post their answers, approaching the most likely answer as more and more people post answers.

If an answer seems wrong, users points out, fix, and add their own opinions, forming the proven answer. The chance of getting the right answer increases as more people participate.

The Truth from the Masses?-

The principle of majority rule, however, should not always be right. If the principle applies to every case, the truth can be distorted and dissenting opinions can easily be ignored. Experts say, however, that the Internet has its own system to solve the problem.

Hwang Sang-min, a psychology professor at Yonsei University, said, "The wrong answer turns out to be a truth in a community of small members. But on the Internet, where millions of people interact, there will be someone discerning the wrong answer, giving the possibility of moving to the right direction.”

Heo Jin-young, the director of Oncat and the founder of Igloos.com, said, "The ruling opinion is formed through multiple opinions, but dissenting opinion still can coexist on the Internet.” The one characteristic of the Internet is that dissenting opinions remain as a record and have a chance to get their own sympathizers, contributing to social diversity."

Heo continues, “But opinions can also be challenged. As there are more samples, the ruling opinion has a higher possibility of approaching the truth, but philosophical question still remains about whether the truth should be in the hands of majority, and whether there is actually a definite truth which can be agreed upon by all the people."

Sang Hoon Kim Do-Young Kim sanhkim@donga.com nirvana1@donga.com