One of the effects of the www is the dissolution of the authority based on bogus. We see this happening everywhere these days, with politicians, bankers and corporations. More recently, there are efforts towards cleansing the scientific publishing scene.
The mechanism of this phenomenon is really simple. Imagine a Star Wars universe with www: Palpatine would be quickly exposed. His plans are based on the scarcity of the availability of information, like the real economy is (was?) based on the idea that economic goods are those which are scarce. In the real world with www, the scarcity of access to information has to be made artificial. In the Star Wars universe with www the plans of Palpatine would either fail or Palpatine would make similar attempts to make information scarce. In this Star Wars universe he would fail, eventually.
Because it is harder to pretend to be good when you are doing bad when everybody knows what you are doing.
This post has been inspired by “Adventures in Peer Review” by Peter Woit and by the article “The New Publishing Scene and the Tenure Case: An Administrator’s View” by Daniele C. Struppa in the Notices of AMS, May 2012, the Scripta Manent publication column which was mentioned in this blog before. The Palpatine example has been inspired by the second paragraph of this article.
Please read them both and follow the links from Woit’s post, especially these: Retraction Watch and “A computer application in mathematics“, then think about the soundness of the advices from the AMS article.
Finally, meditate seriously about the broom (from Abstruse Goose).
UPDATE 18.06.2012: In the Notices of the AMS, June-July 2012 issue, appeared two interesting articles:
The Boycott: Mathematicians Take a Stand by Douglas N. Arnold and Henry Cohn
Elsevier’s Response to the Mathematics Community by Laura Hassink and David Clark