Just Saying . . .: Information Billionaires
Wednesday, March 15, 2017 5:42 PM
For years now it has been suggested that we’ve entered the post-industrial “Age of Information.” Why is this called the Age of Information? It’s because you can Google the answer if you don’t know why. When you do, you’ll see that aside from the economic, commercial and social reasons, it’s because we have more information at the tips of our fingers than anyone has ever had in the history of the world. And coincidentally, the tips of our fingers is exactly how we get this information, for those of us still using a keyboard.
To verify the authenticity and accuracy of this column, contact the author by sending e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. © 2017, Tom Sadowski
So what do we do with this amazing super-power to obtain a wealth of information about anything that might be important to us? We look at cat pictures. Shouldn’t we be doing something more like gathering and analyzing reports on cancer research or looking up the information already available for us to finally build those flying cars and personal jet packs? The least we can do is check what people tell us to see if it’s true.
I suppose you have to define truth before you can go looking for it. My aunt Sophie defined it as anything she believed in, as in, “It’s true, I just know it is.” But truth is usually accepted to mean a statement that is aligned with reality. Now, you can drive yourself silly defining truth and reality, but that’s been done by philosophers through the ages and it’s quite dangerous, inasmuch as you may end up drinking a lot. For everyday use, we just might have to stick with truth meaning a statement that doesn’t contradict reality.
When we hear something interesting or sordid it’s naturally more fun to repeat it and appear knowledgeable than it is to spend time fact-checking. Yes, the internet is fraught with peril, but once you learn your way around it’s easy to avoid questionable sources and do your homework, so as ultimately not to look like a fool. Sadly, there is no real penalty today for being a fool. When you play against truth and spread falsehoods, you don’t usually do jail time.
You can go around saying that the world is flat and, upon exposure of your falsehood, just utter “my bad” three times and all is forgiven by the rest of us. This is only because we too are guilty of not being diligent in promoting the truth as we instantly impress others with our engaging but wrong knowledge.
Fact-checking today is not so difficult. It’s not as hard as it used to be when you had to trudge to your local library or some other house of records and crack a book or thumb through a card file looking for a morsel of verifiable truth. Today we are information wealthy. All of us are information billionaires. We have an unbelievably fat account of facts and information at our disposal. But do we use it enough? It is just like having a bank account with a billion dollars that we are either not aware of or we don’t value so we never bother to fill out a withdrawal slip.
Quite amazing is that we did not have to work for these information searches that are available to us. They’re available for free! Probably by accident; if someone had been better controlling and more aware of what they were giving us, you can bet they would have put a hefty price on it indeed. But whenever people get something for free as opposed to acquiring it through their own sweat, they tend to consider the gift valueless and they end up, in this case, searching for cute cat pictures.
So will truth prevail if almost everything is against this ever happening? It’s really a function of persistence. Just as the law will eventually catch up with the criminal, truth will emerge because it’s always there, quietly hanging around waiting to be uncovered. It would be nice if this process would hurry itself along. Like you, I only have one lifetime to see truth emerge in all its radiant glory.
It’s ironic that this diatribe against falsehood would be coming from a guy who often as not just makes things up for this column. I admit it. Don’t bother checking — but I’m not generating fake news, I’m doing it for entertainment and, by God, today we need entertainment — alright, and maybe a cute cat or two, but let’s all try to keep it in perspective.