It began in 1996 when mathematician Alan Sokal trolled postmodern scholars by submitting a paper full of utter nonsense to a top academic journal, which was immediately published. Then, in 2005 three MIT graduate students developed a simple computer program that could crank out intelligent-sounding but utter nonsense sentences, posing as intelligible work. They used it to write a scientific paper that was soon accepted to a prominent conference before they revealed that it was all a hoax. The point: to prove that conferences accept meaningless papers.
Even better, the program the students used to create the nonsense paper is called SCIgen and it is now free to download. And scientists are using it. Recently a German academic publisher had used 16 nonsense papers submitted by people using SCIgen. Of course, there is now software available to detect papers created by SCIgen.
The reason paper-generating software has become so popular is that scientists and academics rely so much on publication and conferences to make their living. It’s very hard to make a living in academia and the pressure is intense to submit the next big idea before anyone else, so of course some people are willing to sacrifice accuracy and integrity. This whole scam raises questions of whether this is a structural problem in the academic world or the fault of a few bad apples. This whole ploy was brought to my attention by a silly social media site and I really didn’t think much of it until my Professor assigned us a paper wherein we were asked to literally copy and paste words, not complete sentences, but randomly picked out phrases from four critical essays which we had been reading in class. This type of writing is called a cento and according to Wikipedia this means “a poetical work wholly composed of verses or passages taken from other authors; only disposed in a new form or order.” This of course was no way in the vein of creating computer software to produce conference papers, but I would be getting a grade for basically plagiarizing, a word that holds the utmost taboo for us college students.
This is the result, my conference ready work:
The Cento: A Roman Age of Excess in the World of the Author
Its social significance, particularly in its most positive form, is inconceivable with out speaking of God. No doubt it has always been that way. Current practice; however, is not determined by those elementary difficulties, difficulties that must be understood in order to comprehend historical processes. Such a concept suits criticism very well, that is truly revolutionary since to refuse to fix meaning is to refuse God.
In opposition to the artificial notion, this destruction was repaid at a given date, in order to efface humiliations, and not because it regrets the absence of real suffering but because it condemns artifice. More or less in spite of these attenuations, ostentatious loss remains. It is incapable; however, of a face with which one is already acquainted. Conscious humanity has remained an aura tied to his presence; there can be no replica of it; exiled not only from the stage but also from himself.
We have already seen to what extent Christianity replaced pagan custom. It would therefore be wrong to underestimate the value of a hidden political significance. Even more explicit and more imperative is the function that is fairtylike, marvelous, supernatural. They are, on the other hand, it seems, able to subsist only at the limits of horror. Mankind is now one for itself.
These concepts which are introduced in such a way so as to give them prognostic value, are almost always obtained by an ensuing fight. The result was that one could expect agitation on the scale of irreducible needs. It is closely tied to terrestrial despair, with the words attributed to Christ, in other words in mud. The right to speak and these ironic words reveal the hidden roots of a spectacle which, as soon as a fact is narrated, the disconnection occurs, and the voice loses its origin. The immense travail of recklessness, discharge, and upheaval translate absolutely modern ideas into dead language.
Conversely, foul play exists only therefore to understand why the narrowness of judgment that puts the father in opposition to the satisfaction of his son’s own needs exists. To the small extent he is inclined to see the rules broken, this is a purely moral concept: that of justice, but only in moderate form since violent pleasure is seen as pathological. Which is why it is derisory to condemn in the name of fundamental obligation.
As dreadful as it is, in order to maintain this preeminence the pursuit of innocent shadows, that provide nothing but vertigo or rage, must be called anti-theological activity. An activity whose profound ridiculousness indicated precisely the truth which differs from the more familiar terms such as creativity, genius, eternal value and mystery. We must expect great innovations to transform trends that seem destructive to man himself. A certain human homogeneity, does not accept with out protest. One is not ashamed of ones suffering, one knows how to cry. If the latter is obvious, he immediaely disappears with the intolerable spectacle of his powerlessness.