For many years, humanity has wondered: are we totally fucked? For almost as many years, humanity has tried and failed to answer this question. Native Hawaiians felt a certain oversexualized dance could foretell humanity’s fate. Cree hunters assumed the answer lay hidden in burnt caribou knee bones or something. The New Age movement of recent years believes things shaped like pyramids hold some sort of answer. The problem with all these methods is that they are wrong.
Unlike these crackpots, I have an education and an internet connection. This is what sets my experiment apart – it is happening in an informed age, where we’re all geniuses – even in infancy – compared to our stupid ancestors. This is also what makes the fact that we may still be fucked frightening. After several hundred years of relative economic, technological and social progress, the Western world now has (in theory) more power, ability and information than ever before. In short, we’ve got what anthropologists oughta call “cultural moxie”, or “psychosocial git-R-done”.
In theory, we privileged first-worlders should be accomplishing the greatest feats in all of history. In reality, we spend our time on far less worthwhile pursuits – increasingly elaborate bullshit like Harry Potter releases, cosmic bowling, and drinking alcohol with gold floating in it – things so worthless that our extended involvement and obsession with them will ultimately spell our doom. We come to believe our justifications for spending time on such fuck-aroundery, eventually leaving civic projects and societal betterment by the wayside. Nowhere is this more evident than on Wikipedia, where anyone can submit, edit, extend and/or squabble over articles which indicate our society’s relative interest in a panoply of horse shit.
Given its popularity, Wikipedia can serve as an index of cultural obsession and fascination. Concordantly, the sheer volume of inanity (and justification thereof) hosted by this website leads me to believe that it tells the story of our human civilization’s imminent decline from technocratic global dominatrix to cave-dwelling whipping-bitch.
In this, the first of many experiments to quantify just how fucked we actually are, I propose to examine a cross-section of the most inane, pointless, stultifying, brain-raping articles I can find in all of Wikipedia. It is my contention that a measure of their worthlessness, the involvedness of their creation, and their current level of activity can generate a measure of how misplaced our society’s priorities are, and thus how likely we are to totally die out, or at least embarrass ourselves badly.
1 internet connection (broadband)
375 mL whiskey (not Jack Daniels)
20 hours free time
Given the jadedness of the experimenter – a result of a lifetime surrounded by (and engaged in) the very idiocy to be investigated – it is essential that some distance be created between his or her apathy towards humankind and the Wikipedia pages in question. For this purpose, 375 mL of whiskey will be administered prior to investigation. Jack Daniels is best avoided, as it tends to engender the sort of societal destruction to be searched for. The whiskey, by damaging the neural pathways responsible for detachment from one’s surroundings, will enable a more honest, common-sensical viewing of the articles.
Wikipedia will then be searched, and links of increasing inanity will be followed. Ideal page topics are those that, in previous ages, were or would have been left out of encyclopaedias as being too pointless and “fuddy-duddy” to be worth including. Furthermore, those showing signs of great effort and activity are preferred. Articles meeting these criteria will suffice as touchstones of societal decay.
Finally, upon selecting several appropriate articles, their social detriment will be calculated. Three figures will be combined: the rounded number of thousands of words in the article, the rounded number of thousands of words in the discussion page (multiplied by the number of tens of contributors), and the Relative Uselessness Quotient (see below). This measure combines the amount of knowledge and mental energy expended on the topic, the popularity of the pursuit, and the relative uselessness of the knowledge itself. Together, they indicate the democratically weighted sum of misguided thought and time (the “Fuckedtorial” – get it?), which in turn indicates how fucked we are – a fuckedtorial greater than 1 indicates a cultural whirlpool of masturbatory indulgence that may already be beyond critical mass.
Relative Uselessness Quotient
A trait common to Wikipedia articles is the worthlessness of their knowledge. Granted, no one is forced to read it, but it still boggles the scientific mind as to how someone could put so much work and time into something so fruitless – e.g.: pop culture references by Japanese animated series. To quantify this supreme lack of relevance, I have created a measurement called the Relative Uselessness Quotient (RUQ): the number of seconds I spend laughing at the absurdity of the article, plus by the duration (in seconds) of the exasperated sigh and feeling of depressed irritation that inevitably follow, all divided by the number of seconds I spend actually reading the article upon my initial discovery of it.
This measure will be high for those articles that fail to keep genuine, substantial interest, as well as those articles supremely futile to any aspect of a satisfying life experience. It is possible that an article may be so anomalously insipid as to stimulate immediate interest; however, past studies have shown that insipid articles are not read immediately – they are laughed at in concept, then closed, before being reopened during bouts of boredom or lack of faith in humanity. Genuinely interesting articles, contrarily, are read immediately, as it is the substance and not the concept that one finds enlightening. For our purposes, an RUQ greater than 0.5 will qualify an article as worthless.
Take, for example, the 1681-word article on “Social effects of Hurricane Katrina”, not itself entirely worthless. I read this for roughly two hundred seconds, and since it was not a very absurd article I expected not to laugh at all, which would have given it an RUQ of 0. However, at the end, the section on Hurricane Katrina’s impact on the naming of babies caused a slight chuckle lasting one second, followed by a two-second sigh at the inappropriateness and pointlessness of this comment (and the commenter). This generates an RUQ of 0.015, still a very low level of uselessness. Compare this to the article on “Flatulence” (redirected from “Fart”), where my initial reading of this 4230-word monstrosity lasted 4 seconds before it was interrupted by 5 seconds of disbelieving laughter and a 4 second sigh as I scrolled through the multitudinous sections. The bloated “Fart” article obtained a similarly bloated RUQ of 2.25.
SUBJECT 1: WATER
Description: Selected as a neutral sample, water was the most bland, uninteresting-yet-important subject that came up. …Yup.
Main Page: Word Count = 7,923. That’s a lot, but bear in mind, there’s a lot of water on Earth. Why, like, 70% of every Wikipedia article is water, I think.
Discussion: Word Count = 7,714, between, oh, say 40 people. Incidentally, it looks like there’s a growing body of so-called “vandals” who believe water is actually homosexual.
RUQ: 0. I only read it for a few seconds, but I neither laughed nor sighed. It may not make for a fun read (or movie adaptation starring Keanu Reeves on a motorcycle), but compared to what’s yet to come, it’s as refreshing as a glass of… uhh…
Fuckedtorial: 0, and it feels so good.
SUBJECT 2: HEAVY METAL UMLAUT
Description: Okay, now we’re into the wasteland. Somehow, for some reason, someone (or someones) felt that the random umlauts (“rock dots”) that adorn the album covers of the gnarlier bands required, nay, deserved to be analyzed. Hold your breath – in we go to places men fear to give a damn.
Main Page: Word Count = 3,148. Given that every informed quote about the heavy metal umlaut explicitly states that it exists for no reason other than looking cool, and given that that explanation was 20 words, there are 3,128 words in this article that can only be attributed to some wasteful fascination and inappropriate damn-giving.
Discussion: Word Count = 5,906, between at least 30 “eggheadbangers” – a term not used for comedic purposes (obviously), but to convey that these guys (definitely guys) don’t skimp on the academic defences when charged that this article is completely fucking pointless. For instance, apparently this article helps linguists “do serious research about [their] country’s attitudes towards language and spelling”, or is “clearly not trivial” – even though every heavy metal umlaut is itself entirely trivial.
RUQ: 2.5. I read for 10 seconds before I burst out laughing for 10 seconds, then sighed (and ranted angrily to no one in particular) for damn near 15 seconds. I mean, come on – this was once a featured article, fer chrissakes.
Fuckedtorial: 135. No wonder this article triggered this whole experiment. Alright, next crappy article.
SUBJECT 3: CIRCLESTRAFING
Description: The act of moving side to side around something in a video game. Ever play DOOM? Ever press Alt? Yeah. You got it. Ever feel the need to write a whole article about this? Ever try to explain it to someone, yet fail because you didn’t have an educational animation to clarify it? Yeah.
Main Page: Word Count = 1,273. 1,273 of the most formal, military-tactician-esque words ever written on an effective way of shooting animated Nazi skeletons. This article was almost certainly the work of that overweight, semi-bearded 30-year-old wrestling fan who spends all his time at Laser Quest, and screams “Bullshit!” in front of the entire grade 4 birthday party when he finds he’s lost to “Charizard1996”.
Discussion: Word Count = 683, between 6 different “MachoMan73” LQers. I’m thankful for the small number of hardcore circlestrafers, but not thankful enough to forgive them for debating how useful the tactic of running circles around your armed opponent is in real life. Didn’t Charizard1996 already teach them that painful lesson?
RUQ: 3.2. This was a weird one – I read for 5 seconds, then sighed for 4 seconds before I laughed for 12 seconds after scrolling down and seeing that snazzy animation. Silly red guy – why don’t you circlestrafe back?
Fuckedtorial: 1.92. It may be the most pointless article examined, but it’s encouraging to see that society realizes this too.
SUBJECT 4: MAGICIAN (FANTASY)
Description: Wizard’s Page of +1 Awkward Party Conversation Material.
Main Page: Word Count = 4,216. Bear in mind that this does not include the more specific articles on wizards in Middle Earth, Earthsea, Dungeons & Dragons, Sword of Truth, Discworld, Oz, Menlo Park, or Harry Potter. And just keep on clickin’ if you’re looking for some dorky movie with a Power Glove. This is the real deal, people – the summary of all fictional-fantastic representations of wizards and their craft. What magic they use, what they look like, how they’re named, how they function literarily – if you can be laughed at it for dressing up like it for Halloween, this page has got it. While a definite cultural artefact, the wholly fictional nature of the wizard (plus the fact that he’s magic and can do anything, whenever) makes such a lengthy article somewhat redundant.
Discussion: Word Count = 5,940, between 5 big-time wizard fans. Note that 5,684 of the words are between two people: in one corner, it’s Goldfritha, who feels that Merlin is the original source of the wizard motif; opposite him, it’s Nicolai Daedalus (spelled in Cyrillic), claiming Odin as the real McCoy. Goldfritha may be a professional writer-cum-“WikiFairy”, but Nicci-boy can speak English, German, Japanese, Klingon, and even “1337”! With this cross-cultural awareness, as well as a thorough knowledge of spellcasters in the Final Fantasy video game universe, it’s no wonder that he sends Goldfritha packing, easily turning his Geoffrey of Monmouth citation against him. I’ve spent hours overresearching some pretty frivolous shit in my university days, but even thinking about copiously citing an online argument about what people thought wizards looked like before Gandalf makes me want to campaign against literacy.
RUQ: 2.7, for the discussion page (the real meat of this bad boy). 10 seconds skimming, 25 seconds laughter, 2 seconds angry sighing. I kept scrolling down and down, laughing more and more. I get the feeling that if I keep looking at this stuff, I’m going to be terrified of having any sort of hobby that doesn’t involve motorcycles or getting blowjobs for months to come.
Fuckedtorial: 32.4 – would’ve been higher but for Sir Ian McKellan’s flawless wizard-portrayal skills.
SUBJECT 5: GOTHIC LOLITA
Main Page: Word Count = 1,934. Looks like Gothic Lolita is distinct from old-fashioned, all-American goth. Well, except for the obsession with antiquated fashion. And the elitism. And the word “goth”. And the insistence of their members that they’re totally different sub-subcultures. Well, hey, you know, like, Gothic Lolita is, uh, way better represented in manga and anime.
Discussion: Word Count = 2,375, between about 10 people seeking non-conformity in the most freewheeling, anarchistic realm of all history: Victorian fashion sense. This discussion is notable for its excessive number of exclamation marks and lack of any expressed philosophy behind the fashion (other than “most older ladies think you are very cute!!”). Ah well, Nabokov hated symbols and allegories anyways.
RUQ: 0.67. I didn’t really laugh, but I sighed for about 20 seconds. Admittedly, I read for about 30 seconds – I gotta say, it’s strangely fascinating.
Fuckedtorial: 2.7. Maybe it’s not so bad… doesn’t look that bad…
SUBJECT 6: TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: TURTLES IN TIME
Description: The Super Nintendo game featuring everyone’s favourite crime-fighting crustaceans, or whatever. A fixture of every sleepover at my friend Andrew’s house, the game was several hours of walking up to multi-coloured monsters and tapping the Y button quickly.
Main Page: Word Count = 4,195. Maybe there were some subtleties to that Y button. …nope, just some very notable differences between the SNES version and the arcade version. For instance, the final boss in the arcade version was Shredder, but in the SNES version, it was Super-Shredder! And the arcade had waaay more voiceovers than the SNES! And 4000 words of other facts, with over 30 references! And now I feel embarrassed for having had a childhood!
Discussion: Word Count = 5,415, yowza, between 13 very determined fans. It seems like this article just barely missed being classified as a “good article”, and now there’s rampant debate about how to get there. Should the Sega Genesis version, “The Hyperstone Heist”, get its own article? Some say no, because it’s the same game; others say yes, because it “has a different title”. The green Foot Soldiers with bows and arrows: were they “inspired by Robin Hood”, “a tribute to Robin Hood”, or do they just “appear similar to Robin Hood”? These are the questions that need answers, people.
RUQ: 2.2. More sigh than chuckle on this one too – 1 second of laughter to 10 seconds of distress over the number of references. Only 5 seconds of reading, most of which helped sustain the sigh. Why’d they have to do this to Turtles in Time?
Fuckedtorial: 57.2. Sorry, Turtles – after 16 years, you just shouldn’t need this much said about you. Enjoy your retirement.
SUBJECT 7: TRIBBLES
Description: Balls of fur from an episode of Star Trek famous for its combination of light humour, raised eyebrows, and clarinet-heavy music indicating that a joke had just been told.
Main Page: Word Count = 1,993, most of which just summarize the damn episodes in which the damn things damn appear. Also featured is an analysis of the history of human-tribble interaction, including one of this experiment’s more flagrant examples of frivolous miscellanea being seriously addressed: “The date of first contact with tribbles has never been established in canon.”
Discussion: Word Count = 723 hard-hitting words, from 9 hard-hitting human beings. The allegation of tribbles being racist has not yet been satisfactorily refuted – while they may not have eyes, they do hate Klingons (old Star Trek’s take on central Asia’s more barbaric races). What’s more, since some essential tribble facts are revealed in episodes of the Star Trek: The Animated Series (which is of contested canonical status), heated debate has erupted over the exact, official nature of these pieces of shag. No doubt the apparently small number of words is due to vast deletion of obscenity-laden vitriol spawned by this sensitive issue.
RUQ: 0.25. This exposes a flaw in the RUQ measurement – observer bias. The experimenter cannot help but enjoy Star Trek, even though he or she fully realizes the absurdity of its more advanced fans. Objectivity doesn’t penetrate the subconscious, but Star Trek does, and I read far more (20 seconds) than I laughed or sighed (5 seconds), and even then I might have forced it a bit. A second measurement was made with another experimenter, yielding an RUQ of 1.2, which will be used until later notice.
Fuckedtorial: 2.16. Really?
SUBJECT 8: PICCOLO (DRAGON BALL)
Description: A green demon-guy from the endlessly wacky Dragon Ball anime series. His article and discussion are intimidatingly long – I fear it may have been culled from an unadvised Master’s thesis on his life and deeds. Most disturbing, though, is the notice that the article “needs to be cleaned up so that it is clearly explained as fiction”. That someone could be so wrapped up in something that they fail to indicate that a green, magical, dubbed-over animated demon isn’t real makes me want to believe Santa Claus didn’t molest me as a child.
Main Page: Word Count = 8,189. What’s wrong with people? This show was ten minutes of recapping, ten minutes of screaming at fast-approaching fireballs, and one minute of plot development. What do these jerks know that I don’t?
Discussion: Word Count = 2,737, between 12 ridiculous individuals.
RUQ: 2. I read for one second, I sighed for two seconds, and I don’t think I can laugh anymore. Honestly, I can’t take any more of this crap. I’ve realized the essential role that bullies play in maintaining a functioning society – in an environment where dweebs are immune to purple-nerples and swirlies, their once-harmlessly repressed hobbies become all-consuming obsessions. I’m starting to think that universities should give out bullying scholarships to keep this shit from happening.
Fuckedtorial: 57.6. This shit’s no Star Trek.
SUBJECT 9: ZAKK WYLDE
Description: Some dude who plays guitar, sometimes for Ozzy Osbourne. There used to be a copy of Guitar World magazine in my bathroom, and they had more pictures of this guy than Portuguese neighbourhoods have of the Virgin Mary and roosters combined. Something tells me the kids getting those lucrative bullying scholarships would chug this guy’s crystal spittoon if he played a riff at their prom. Maybe the dweebs are better, after all.
Main Page: Word Count = 3,213. “Wylde and his wife, Barbaranne, have 3 children; a 14-year-old daughter, Hayley-Rae, a 13-year-old son, Jesse John Michael (named after Ozzy Osbourne), and a 4-year-old son, Hendrix Halen Michael Rhoads (named after Jimi Hendrix, Eddie Van Halen, Mike Piazza, and Randy Rhoads).)” The fact that I will never be as successful or procreative as Zakk Wylde will poison every one of my remaining days, now that I have read this. Thank you, Wikipedia, and thank you, Wikipedia submitters who also have those unlicensed Calvin-peeing-on-a-Ford-logo car stickers.
Discussion: Word Count = 2,509, between at least 14 people, some fond of the phrase “your a fuckin shit head”, others grown weary of such “excessive faggotry” displayed by amateur Wyldologists. While the article as a whole seems to be a display of Neanderthal totem-worship of Andrew-Dice-Clay-ian proportions, the argument about his guitar equipment contains the plea to “behave and discuss this like gentlemen” – as Zakk himself would no doubt implore. Maybe there’s hope after all.
RUQ: 2. I skimmed for a solid 30 seconds before I was informed of the existence of Hendrix Halen Michael Rhoads Wylde and laughed for a whole minute. I didn’t sigh, probably because by this point, I feel we probably deserve our fate.
Fuckedtorial: 25.2. I think I need to administer more whiskey.
AVERAGE FUCKEDTORIAL (Subjects 2-9): 39.3
The results of this first experiment point in the direction of fucked, or possibly fucked-west. Granted, it doesn’t look at non-useless Wikipedia pages, of which there are probably thousands. And it doesn’t look at the number of hits any page has, leaving open the possibility that this lunacy is isolated among the fringe of überdorks not accidentally murdered by their pituitarily-advantaged high school colleagues. Furthermore, during the pre-trial administration of whiskey, it occurred to the experimenter that treating the articles with as much seriousness as their creators is counterproductive to marginalizing them from public consciousness. However, upon completion of whiskey administration, and after a reminder from a fellow blog contributor about the genital-kick penalty for non-submission, these concerns were discarded in favour of exploring the original hypothesis.
It is worth saying that not every action of a civilization need be noble for it to sustain itself. Ancient Roman orgies, ancient Greek orgies, traditional Cherokee orgies, and even Manchu dynasty finger-blasting were all the favoured recreation of mighty societies. But the problem with those societies is that, somewhere in between all the fucking and sucking, it was they themselves who got fucked. It is to our advantage that orgiastic pastimery has not yet fully flourished, as it indicates we have some time yet before complete social collapse – however, given the ever-heating debate over the canonical status of animated Star Trek episodes (which are clearly gospel, as they’ve got the ORIGINAL FUCKING WRITERS AND CAST, asshole), it still seems likely that by the time we finally click that little red X for good, there won’t be a world left to feel awkward in.
By comparing the average fuckedtorial generated by this experiment with a similar measure for artefacts of other societies that totally collapsed, we can determine if we are indeed fucked. The chart below lists the results of a historical survey of the pointlessness of various fallen or can’t-get-up civilizations.
Judging by this, the Atlantic empire could well fall, hard. It may survive in one form or another, as did the Roman, Ottoman and Olmec empires, but this is jeopardized by the rapid growth of Wikipedia popularity, as well as its ongoing translation. If more cultures fall under its hypnotic spell, productive human activity may be squelched worldwide. Only the future, or possibly better-funded research, can tell if and when our society will crumble like the sun-baked dog turd it may slowly become.
References (accessed June 27, 2007)