Misinformation Age

Currently Listening to Information Age
Distort Yourself
By Institute

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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.

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10 Responses to Misinformation Age

  1. QuantumStorm says:

    This is all the more reason why instilling critical thinking skills into our children is so important. It’s not enough to pour money into schools for better labs and shinier computers; we have to take a long, hard look at how we teach our children to think for themselves. It’s not enough to have access to all the latest equipment and databases; we have to teach them HOW to use it properly. In the land of information fatties, the healthy dieter rules them all. 

  2. TheSutraDude says:

    i like your thinking on this and i agree with @QuantumStorm –  critical thinking skills are invaluable but all too lacking. from my experience i would blame the lack more on parents than teachers. for example while many parents where i grew up taught their children racism teachers were held to a higher standard.  

  3. QuantumStorm says:

    @TheSutraDude – Agreed about the parents. A lot of them view school as a glorified daycare center, which is most unfortunate. 

  4. TheSutraDude says:

    @QuantumStorm – that is unfortunate and there is an enormous amount of teacher bashing today. i see people defending the incomes of people like Dick Fuld who while receiving $15-$22 million in year end bonuses alone played a major role in bringing down the economy yet the living wages of teachers is a waste of money? to tie this back into the OP’s blog i’m quite sure i could google “why teachers are paid too much” and get hundreds if not thousands of hits which would offer all kinds of blogger arguments as to why teachers are overpaid.  

  5. I’m not so sure that a background in science and philosophy would necessarily make one less vulnerable to “fecal matter” since science and philosophy have contributed so much of the fecal matter themselves.@TheSutraDude – I think that teachers do receive a unfair share of “bashing” over education issues.  However, I’d say they have a to accept a fair amount of the blame.  How is it kids graduate from school knowing more about the Beatles than the history of this country.  Education officials set the policy, and teachers implement it.  Parents have to accept a fair amount of the blame because they choose to remain ignorant of what is going on and surrender authority over their children’s education to the supposed “professionals.”  But I also know a couple of teachers and if their views on education reflect how teachers think in general, I’d never subject any kid I’d have to them.@QuantumStorm – You’ve hit the big nail on the head.  When I was in school, we were taught how to think.  Kids in school  today are told what to think.  Talking to the youth of today scares the hell out of me.  If they are the future of the country, it doesn’t have much of one.

  6. Nous_Apeiron says:

    @QuantumStorm – So true.  I provide job training for a lot of folks, and the skills largely missing in the 18-24 demographic are critical thinking and problem-solving.  I actually created a lesson on problem-solving because many of my students did not know what kinds of things problem-solving is comprised of.  And I built many lessons to aid in developing critical thinking for the same reason.@TheSutraDude – Yeah, that mentality is all over the internet.  When I taught in public schools, I was struck by how little most good teachers make as compared with their levels of education and dedication to the work.  I may have had some personal bias there.@SimianMusings – Since science and philosophy have contributed so much fecal matter, how better to familiarize myself with the sweet smell and its many varieties than exposing myself to it and sifting through it?

  7. an_OM_aly says:

    Question everything! The more one knows, the more there is to know.

  8. Nous_Apeiron says:

    @an_OM_aly – Hopefully you understand if I question the idea that everything should be questioned. By the way, great username!

  9. an_OM_aly says:

    @Nous_Apeiron – Ah hope, one of the things i most admire about people. And, no question. Your username sent me rube-goldberging on goog. Tabs set for lunchtime reading, thx.

  10. Nous_Apeiron says:

    @an_OM_aly – No problem.  Enjoy your reading about Anaximander and Anaxagoras.

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