|Currently Listening to Information Age
Our age is sometimes characterized by the sheer amount of information available to us. This is the Information Age, an age in which an increasing number of people in the world have nearly instantaneous access to what I can only describe as a metric fuckton of information. Need to know what literary reference someone is making? Check the internet. Need to know how to make the best foods? Check the internet. Want to find out what kind of weird sexual fetishes people are into? Stay away from the internet or you just might succeed in finding out. Wow. I’m an unusual person, and a lot of that stuff makes me look very normal.
The fact is that there are a lot of facts in the universe, and those of us who are fortunate enough to have internet access are well within reach of an increasing and surprising number of those facts. Of course, this also puts us well within reach of a truly stunning amount of nonsensical bullshit. This stinking pile of manure has always existed, of course. Rumors and lies spread as great truths are not a new or particularly interesting thing. My parents are both scientists and trained me in some great ways to smell the difference between facts and cow patties. My philosophy courses helped expand my fecal matter detection abilities to new horizons. Sadly, not everyone has that background.
That may be why I have had people tell me all sorts of completely and thoroughly false things as if they were facts. I was recently told by a young man that the Enûma Eliš was the first book of the Bible but was removed from it later for apparently some nefarious end that he wasn’t quite clear on. What bothers me about this claim is that it’s obviously false. After all, the Enuma Elish was written many centuries before the canon of the Bible was established, and it wasn’t even one of the texts on the table for potential inclusion when the canon was decided upon. You can’t nefariously remove something that wasn’t there in the first place.
I was also told that Sumerian mythology describes a true story about aliens, and I was told all sorts of details about these aliens. I was rather suspicious because I had read a great deal of mythology in college, including Sumerian mythology, and not much of what he was saying was making any kind of sense in light of what I had read previously. I found later that all of what I was being told was from the fantastic fabrications of a guy who translates ancient languages as if they’re modern languages and then gleefully points out that there are all sorts of modern concepts embedded in them while neglecting to notice that he was the one who put them there in the first place. Also, he shamelessly makes things up that are wildly inconsistent with actual Sumerian mythology and makes money from it with his books.
What bothers me about all this is not simply that people believe the nonsense, because that’s always been the case. What bothers me is that people believe so much nonsense despite the fact that they can easily check their facts while on the internet and yet very few people I’ve encountered on the internet employ this astounding ability. Misinformation is peddled just as quickly online as anywhere else and often impacts even larger numbers of people.
While we might be living in the grand Information Age, I contend that we are also living in the grand Misinformation Age, constantly beset by truths and falsehoods marketing themselves as objective facts. While people know much more than they used to because of widely available information, it is also probable that people are wrong about much more than they used to be and for the same reason.
The real tragedy here is that I could spend my entire life dedicated to eradicating misinformation, and it still wouldn’t even make a dent in a world in which misinformation grows at such an incredible pace. Part of me wishes that before engaging in self-expression we could all seriously consider how little we know. Recently, one of my employees told me that I know everything. I replied that I actually know only a very small portion of the data available in the universe, which is true of human beings in general. We know so little, and we’re so proud of knowing that very little bit of the universe we’ve been exposed to.