A Commonplace

What is a commonplace?



The CSI Fallacy

I've watched a lot of CSI.The Vegas one -- I could never get on with the Miami one -- who one earth wants to watch some ginger twat who thinks he has all the answers? I thought it jumped the shark when Grissom left, but there were definitely some good years.

Gil Grissom

The central premise of CSI, especially the Vegas one is very, very seductive. A crime happens in the most sinful city in the world. A messy crime: drugs, blood and hookers blasted all across a hotel room; desiccated bodies in the middle of the desert; even scuba divers in trees, whatever it is. And then along comes Gil and his magic bag of SCIENCE and LOGIC. Gil doesn't deal in emotion, he deals in EVIDENCE and FACTS. And how does he get FACTS from the EVIDENCE? With the help of enormous amounts of technology.Gil had all the toys, mass spectrometers, DNA analysis totally compendious databases of clothing fibres and cycle tyre treads.

Why do we watch this? Because this is seductive, because this is comforting. Because the reality -- that the police arrest the first person from an ethnic minority, or the first person with an abnormally low IQ, or preferably both that they can find and pin the crime on, is just too miserable and unpleasant to countenance. And who helps them engineer this injustice? "Scientists" that's who. Main plank of "evidence" that sent away the Birmingham six - forensic science.

If you don't believe me, read Injustice by Clive Stafford-Smith and then tell me you don't believe me. And while you're at it, give Clive's charity "Reprieve" fifty quid.

It's alright to watch CSI and pretend that the "The Truth will Set Us Free" (part of the pretence of course is that science can somehow be equated with truth - but that's an entirely different rant/argument ). But it's also important to understand that this idea that just being smarter than everybody else and having more kit will guarantee truth, justice and your personal success is what the author Venkatesh Rao might call a "Loser fantasy".And it's downright dangerous to take this attitude out into the real world (I should know, and I do). If you want to know more about why - you might want to sign up to the webinar version of the seminar I ran on Wednesday night.

Clive Stafford Smith

I talked about this on Wednesday night at my monthly "Late and Over-Budget" seminar at the Half-Moon Theatre in Limehouse. There'll be another seminar in April on a subject of similarly vital importance to your working life. In April we're going to talk about TEMPO and TIMING. ( Initial details to be updated and booking here - more info to follow).