Being at risk of relapsing into my former condition of not writing as often as I would like, here go some thoughts. Let me also clarify that the “as often as I would like” part of my sentence above in no way implies a need to write simply because I have to write something, in order to fulfil some egotistical need to speak. It is just an exercise, which I at least believe, will help keep my mind agile.
So, as I said, here goes the first of those thoughts.
We live in a society where knowledge is wealth and power. We spend the first quarter or so of our lives (assuming an average life span just north of the age of 80) learning – pre-school, elementary school, high school, college, perhaps a Masters degree, or even a PhD. Sometimes even more. And learning should not (and in fact, despite our wishes) does not stop there. The above is just the formal education that we receive. You learn something new every day that goes by. Something about the world, about ourselves, about society – you name it.
We also live in an era of technology and easy access to information. In the old days you would need to visit a library or a friend with an extensive collection of references in order to look something up. Today, all you need to do is turn on the screen of your smartphone and access the web. And with mobile data you aren’t even tethered to your home or a wifi network. Or perhaps turn on a computer and do the same thing, for those of us that either consciously choose or for any other reason do not to have a mobile device with access to the internet. And you can share knowledge just as easily! With just about everyone in the world – that has access to the internet at least. (hey, have a look at this very blog site)
This ease of access to information and technology, however, gives rise to two huge problems: information overload and reliability of sources. It is the second one that I want to address here.
While misinformation – fake news as they are more widely known, or alternative facts as some political spin doctor (no names here) labelled it, is nothing new. It’s always existed and always will exist. There’s just no way to root it out of society – each side will have its own take on the facts. There will always be the people that do not believe the truth, the conspiracy theorists. And I use the term facts as an absolute. As the one true course of events, what really happened, what follows logic.
In this society dominated by knowledge, or perhaps education instead, everyone thinks they are experts. In everything. A tragedy happens in a hospital, suddenly everyone becomes an expert on healthcare and the policy dictating the provision of healthcare. A plane crashes, and everyone is now an aviation expert. A murder comes to knowledge, and everyone is a CSI. A car crash happens, and everyone is a transport expert and road engineer. And they can propagate their thoughts and “expertise” at such great ease, those theories soon go viral.
I’m not saying. Access to information is good. What needs to happen though is to have, as individuals and as a society, the capacity to evaluate the information that we are receptors. To distinguish between what is credible – although not always correct – and what is not. Between what is logical – not just what fits our personal logic – and what is not. To be prepared to accept that what we thought may be mistaken, and accept the opposing view as the truth.
I always follow a golden rule. I am not saying you should too, but at least consider it. I always say that I know nothing, until the true experts in the topic present me with the evidence to demonstrate what really happened. And even then, I am open to their theories possibly – though I trust not likely – being wrong or needing revision. The only think that I know, is that I know nothing. If that.