I remember writing research papers in early high school and just coming up with things I had observed, giving my out-of-thin-air claims no citations, finishing the paper and then going back and googling any claim I felt the need to cite. Many of those claims were bullshit other than being my own opinion, as was the nature of the research papers I was being asked to write (they were likely just busy work for my class and me). Yet there was something I noticed there: thanks to Google there were few claims I couldn’t back up.
Thanks to the sheer mass of data that is the internet, there are claims upon claims that can be backed up, supported, confirmed and structured into any debate that one wants to make. There is, in short, an information inflation.
There plenty of good things to be gained from the inflation, of course. For instance, there are now many, many more individuals who can report the news from their smartphones, and speak actively on any given crisis within the moment, rather than waiting on stories to be filtered and checked by towering new organizations. Thousands of more points of view can now be factored into social criticism, rather than just the few who could reach mass media. Everyone can contribute their perspectives to our understandings of society. However, anyone and everyone can now falsify that perspective, too.
Take the Flat Earth movement. For many of us it’s a meme, and even for some members, it’s a joke. However, there are some people who both take the movement seriously, assuming that the group takes itself seriously, and there are some who believe the movement, likely as a result of it’s falsified and satirical perspectives. As the amount of collective information grows, so does the amount of counter-information, and furthermore, the amount of misinformation.
Some people believe then that measures should be taken to ensure that there is no misinformation on the internet. While there are groups, such as Snopes or others, so long as there is one central body to define who is right and namely, who is wrong there will be supreme incentives to label certain people as “misinformed” imagine for a moment if your worst enemy was in charge of saying who is correctly-informed, and who is incorrectly. Any zealot that gets their hands on that power, will immediately seek to disenfranchise any who opposes his views or his goals.
We live in an era where, for the first time, there is an abundance of data rather than a shortage. Any person with any view, no matter how frustrating, is free to share it with you from any place in the world. This is a radically different setting than 99% percent of human history, as we were limited to what those above told us either via institutions of religion, science or governance. While this is a great wonder for the world, it comes with the price of remaining teeming with views that are conflicting or outright false.
This is one of the most interesting problems our era has to face, yet is also one of the most fortunate. As we have reached a point of history where we may now have access to extreme amounts of data, we can now begin to choose what pieces of data we wish to live our lives by. We may have much testing to do, but we are much more blessed to has such a freedom that any of those giants who came before us did not have.
For the experiment of it,