We’re in low power mode for a few days due to spring break and Easter. Thanks for reading!
The world record for most tricks performed by a pig within one minute is 13.
Highest jump on a pogo stick? That’d be 11.15 feet.
Most pinky pull-ups in a row without stopping: 36.
I know all these facts—well, to the extent that anybody knows anything, I suppose—because the nice folks at Guinness have recorded them in a book.
Bear with me, however, this isn’t quite true, because I haven’t actually looked at the Guinness Book of World Records book in many years.
In fact, I know these facts because I googled “strangest world records,” and they’re among the results, because they had previously been published in the book.
The Guinness record folks are the same folks who brew Guinness beer. In 1964, Sir Hugh Beaver, director of the brewery, came up with the idea of a book comprised of strange facts that would settle pub arguments.
As my wife said when I told her this fact, “Oh, that makes perfect sense.”
Now, as it happens, one of my big pet peeves these days is “arguing over facts.” There is no point to it, not when we all walk around with devices smaller than a deck of cards that can connect you, more or less, to an archive of almost all human knowledge.
There’s no reason to debate how high someone can jump on a pogo stick, or what player was named to the most MLB All-Star Games but never won the World Series, or whether it’s really true that the color “blue” does not appear in the Bible.
It’s all right there in your pocket.
I am a card-carrying member of Generation X, and for better or worse one thing my generation can lay claim to is that we’re the last generation to have experienced a pre-digital childhood, but that we also dove nose-first into all things Internet during young adulthood, and never looked back.
Thus, I know firsthand what it’s like to be a 20-year-old arguing for an hour about whether the Islanders, Oilers, or Canadiens won more Stanley Cups in a single decade.
But, I also know what it’s like to—well, there are a million examples, but here’s a colorful one—to meet retired NBA player Gheorghe Muresan, who stands 7 feet 7 inches tall, and within 30 seconds afterward be on my phone, googling whether he’s actually the tallest player ever, only to have him turn back and look over my shoulder (easy enough given the height difference) and catch me doing it.
(Tied with Manute Bol, in case you were wondering.)
And yet, I admit: When I first thought about all of this a while back, my reaction was mostly curiosity and nostalgia. Remember all the arguments we used to have about things that could have been solved with a simple Google search, if only there had been such a thing as a Google search?
I don't want to go back in time, but you tell me, have I missed something. I wonder:
Was there something to be said for these kinds of meaningless arguments—if only because the time we spent on them stopped us from arguing over politics and whatever the manufactured outrage-of-the-day would have been?
I don’t know if we can look that one up, but we could share our thoughts in the comments!
Thanks for reading! Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on Unsplash. I wrote about some of this before at Inc.com. During low power mode we usually skip the 7 other things section. It'll be back next week ... or maybe sooner!
That definitely pushed a button for me. In the early 2000s, my husband and I owned a bar and grill in St. Pete Beach. (It was one of those things people did as a result 9/11, not wanting to leave this world with regrets.) If you aren't aware, the average age in that part of the world is older than dirt. Look it up. Most weekday afternoons, we had a lively crowd of curmudgeons who enjoyed sitting around the bar while I read questions from Trivial Pursuit cards. There were plenty of disputes.
I've often thought about how different that scenario would have been just a few years later. It was good fun to argue that which could not be definitively proven. And in that environment it is ever so clear how Guinness came up with the idea to publish a book of records.
If you can set aside the negative aspects of the internet for a moment, it is interesting to ponder the benefits. Oftentimes, the benefits come with a price. For example, the debates Bill noted often included vigorous conversation and, yes, even an application of thought and logic. You had to get your hands on an encyclopedia or other recognized source to prove your point.
Now, a quick search effortlessly gives you almost any definitive answer. The corollary is that we often attach less value to those things that are too easy. Moreover, the internet is also a hodgepodge of pseudo and “alternate” facts. It requires as much or even more effort to sort through fact or fiction, real vs. made up, and legitimate vs.illegitimate sources.
Are we better off? That depends. AI is greater complexity. From my experience we seem to argue more with exponentially greater impact on our social structure than we did when drinking in a pub with record books as the only arbiter of the truth.