An interesting result was discovered recently by wikipedia researchers comparing the quality of contributions of anonymous cowards to registered users that accumulate 'rep'.

http://www.cs.dartmouth.edu/reports/abstracts/TR2007-606/

To borrow the tagline, infrequent AC are as reliable as registered users . This alone is interesting but they dissected further by bringing in another variable - the number of edits each contributor makes. It turns out that the more edits an AC makes, the lower the quality. The more edits a registered user makes, the higher the quality.

People in meatspace often desire invisibility. I used to live above an adult bookstore for example. When we blew fuses from making coffee and using the microwave at the same time, I would have to restore civilization and reset the breaker. Which was in the basement of the bookstore. The first time was a little odd as you might expect, but it never occured to me to futz around in the dark for my trenchcoat, which is the official uniform of those doing 'business' as adults in a bookstore. Without hesitation I marched down there and walked in. The clerk behind the medieval 5 ft high counter informed me that it is 1 dollar to look around and 3 dollars to watch the movies. In a voice slightly louder than casual conversation I said oh I'm from upstairs and the electricity has gone out and I understand the breaker is somewhere in here? The fuses are in the basement he said, pointing to a door around the corner behind a large display of movie boxes. I opened the door and looked down the dark hole. I flipped the switch, but nothing happened. Is there a light over here I asked? Bulb must be out he offered. I had to go back to my own dark place and retrieve a flashlight, sometimes called a torch, and return. Hi its me again with a flashlight. I went down the steps, bravely, into the basement of the Adult Bookstore hoping to find the object of my motivation, the fuse box. It was not obvious at first as I stood on a dirt floor and scanned the basement contents. I was dismayed to see the forgotten detritus of old cardboard movie displays, semi deflated yet strangely attractive blow up dolls and boxes of things that reminded me of artificial equine insemination. To enhance this atmosphere a few of darwins pigeons had found their way in somehow and cooed softly sometimes flapping their wings in the dark. I'm just looking for the fusebox I said to no one. The box was in the most expected place of course, but for some reason my powers of observation were befuddled. I opened the grey cover and located the second floor breakers one of which was conspicuously out of place. Being forewarned by the clerk to absolutely not flip the wrong breaker, that might remove civilization on his level, causing all the customers to exit their stalls at once, I triple checked all my assumptions and pushed it gently until it flipped back with a jump. I said farewell to the birds vowing never ever to warm eggs and brew coffee at the same time.

I offer this true story as an example of different motivations happening at the same time. Conditions that favor anonymity eventually create opportunity for the opposite strategy; identity. Too much identity, and there develops an isthmus, then an island of opportunity for the anonymous. Similiar to the value of democracy in an institutional world whose economics are controlled by royalty or clergy.

Does this reduce to the cliche that we want what we cannot have? I don't think so. Instead I offer that our actions are as much influenced by the pursuits and motivations of other agents in a system, as they are our own primitive impulses. Which is a fancy way of stating a biological cliche that there is some material difference between nature and its invented pinnochio - nurture. Which ultimately is derived from the notion that we are special, different and better than our surroundings.

While not usually highlighted as essential, the right to anonymous communication is as important as free speech, if they are different things at all. The right to engage in individual expression is often portrayed as a libertarian or artistic imperative necessary to supporting identity and eventually culture. But the right or unimpeded ability to communicate anonymously is more significant and hints at another emergent phenomena - the ability to make good decisions with limited information, commonly referred to as intelligence.

Can we conduct science anonymously? I don't think so. To remove individual ambition and vanity from the equation entirely might be as draconian as insisting that everyone possess a phd. Better, is to leave the switch in the sweaty palms of the agents.

So if a particular agent desires anonymity, which I would never suggest is deception, it is a result of an internal motivation to protect the integrity of the existing identity, but also to not disturb ones surroundings. As a scientist or agent of information you may represent the competition between a desire to make observations silently, and the desire to associate yourself with them later.

150,000 or so years from now during the next interglacial period, agents of information produced by conditions of surplus will spend their idle time sifting through the garbage of another age that attempted collecting information but produced mostly detritus. They will study our waste to get some insight into our metabolism and marvel at how primitive and inferior our lives were. They will argue over fermented plant cytoplasm in structures of symmetric geometry when the age of artifical intelligence began - some will insist it began during the industrial evolution when machines stopped being art and began adjusting their own language. These will be diametrically opposed to those who claim it began when the last human radiation into space occurred. Being informed as they are by a series of radiations into space consequent with the shifting tides of glaciers and land sea dominance. But as unable to speak with them as we are with our own nearest branch that claims the northern hemisphere forests as their habitat. Whose powers of anonymity far surpass what we would expect from any member of OUR animal kingdom.

I'll bet James Watson now wishes he had communicated the results of his 'research' on intelligence anonymously. Does Al Gore regret being recognized for his 'peaceful' pursuits? I think more than any, that Watson getting kicked out Cold Spring Harbor and Gore getting a nobel are the best current examples of how entertainment dominates our culture over science.

I think now more than in the past there are clear advantages to conducting and communicating research anonymously when the bastions of our own fabled towers are the first to crucify and punish our smallest controversy. It is perfectly acceptable to discuss cranial volume and FOXp as it may relate to the evolution of language in extinct populations. To discuss this as it relates to modern populations is impossible and verboten. Even when you are blatantly slandered by a British tabloid, your credentials and club membership are 'yanked' for fear of association. It is no wonder intelligent design and fundamentalism are making such progress when scientists and publishers salivate at the first ring of a bell.

Anonymous research is defensible, necessary and unavoidable. The highest consilient products of science stand alone.

Contact contact@jonathanleonard.com
Revised
07/10/19