Congratulations little guy. You’ve arrived. You’re off to see the world. And we’ve been eagerly awaiting you.

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Boaty McBoatface Prepares for First Antarctic Mission

You’re off to explore the deepest, coldest regions on this planet in search of knowledge to help understand our planet a little better.

And to think, the main reason you’re being recognized in the media is because of your goofy name.

Boaty.

McBoatface.

Thank you internet for providing us with this spectacular example of a historic artifact yet to be. Digital historians from decades, or even centuries from now will marvel at the fact that this little drone was named after a world-wide joke.

The fuck?

I know, right?

For those of you who may already be familiar with the ballad of Boaty McBoatface, feel free to skip ahead. But for the uninitiated, there’s a lot to unpack here as to why I even care about this little submarine robot.

So it started innocently enough

In the spring of 2016 (last year for me, so there’s some perspective to you historians!) the British agency, Natural Environmental Research Council (NERC), hosted a naming contest for their new research vessel.

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This research vessel. The one without the name. Yet. Dun Duuun

It was advertised to be the largest research vessel yet, and NERC was even kind enough to grant it its own hashtag, #NameOurShip. This was all part of a campaign likely to raise awareness to the agency’s achievement, as well as the need to gather more information on the larger implications of climate change. This being 2016 after all, it made sense to incorporate social media and that new-fangled thing called a Twitters to add to the democratization to the naming contest.

And so, the internet being what it is, decided that the proper name for the newest, most advanced research vessel in the British fleet was to be the

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Yup.This is what we landed on.

Of course we did.

This is what you get when you let the internet decide these things.

Full disclosure: I voted for that name too. So I’m part of the problem.

With such an overwhelming popular support for the name, surely the government would heed the will of the voters. Not quite. It was finally decided that the new research vessel would be named after the famed naturalist, Sir David Attenborough.

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I ain’t mad.

NERC had publicly stated that the final decision would be left up to their chief executive, and it is a name worthy of this ship and its mission.

But it’s not what the people chose.

Unfortunately, the majority of those who voted in this naming poll were often those who had the least investment in the outcome.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

The 21st Century Printing Press

I’m sure that comparisons between the Internet and the Printing Press have been made before, likely among more respectable publications that have things like… money… and a readership.

The means by which we spread ideas is connected to the our communications technology. We’ve already seen what has happened when a new technology affects the dissemination of information.

If the ability to affordably print text suddenly became available, then populations have the opportunity to question current dogma on a large scale. This would then cause all kinds of social upheaval as it did when Martin Luther nailed a document on a church door and we’re still dealing with the fallout to this day. The fact that the written word and its easy distribution is part of the reason there’s still religious conflict in Ireland is amazing.

This might suggest that as more people are suddenly engaged in the exchange of ideas, there then follows a period of chaotic social reorganization. When there is an exponential increase of influential voices, it’s understandable that the population will need time to adjust themselves. Unfortunately, sometimes strange or violent ideas will become attractive to those who might have found the traditional methods stale or no longer relevant. What may follow is a lot of unpleasant things such as political revolution, economic crises, or the formation of new curse words. All because more ideas suddenly flooded the population’s consciousness. Including the dumb ideas.

Like Boaty McBoatface.

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