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More information leads to less knowledge

 
 
Reply Tue 17 Jul, 2012 07:08 pm
The Article wrote:
Is global warming caused by humans? Is Barack Obama a Christian? Is evolution a well-supported theory?

You might think these questions have been incontrovertibly answered in the affirmative, proven by settled facts. But for a lot of Americans, they haven't. Among Republicans, belief in anthropogenic global warming declined from 52 percent to 42 percent between 2003 and 2008. Just days before the election, nearly a quarter of respondents in one Texas poll were convinced that Obama is a Muslim. And the proportion of Americans who believe God did not guide evolution? It's 14 percent today, a two-point decline since the '90s, according to Gallup.

What's going on? Normally, we expect society to progress, amassing deeper scientific understanding and basic facts every year. Knowledge only increases, right?

Robert Proctor doesn't think so. A historian of science at Stanford, Proctor points out that when it comes to many contentious subjects, our usual relationship to information is reversed: Ignorance increases.


The source article is here: http://www.wired.com/techbiz/people/magazine/17-02/st_thompson

I have often thought that in many ways, the Internet is more of an Information Super-Cesspool than an Information Super-Highway. One of the main challenges associated with the Internet has become extracting valid information from the invalid.

As the Internet grows and as our access to raw information increases, I believe that "veracity" is a criteria that must be associated with all pieces of information in order for that information to be of any use. But veracity itself needs to be qualified based on its reference points. For example, a particular piece of information might be qualified as highly accurate within a modern scientific medical definition and low on a holistic medicine definition. And visa versa, another piece of information might be qualified as high in a holistic basis and low in a scientific medical basis.

I think there is a valuable industry buried in this requirement somewhere. I'm just not sure how to implement it or how to cash in on it.
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Type: Discussion • Score: 7 • Views: 2,069 • Replies: 17
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sozobe
 
  2  
Reply Tue 17 Jul, 2012 07:18 pm
@rosborne979,
I've done some critical thinking training with my kid. It's been pretty off-the-cuff, I'm not sure I remember that many details about it. But basically it's a sort of "Ripley's Believe it Or Not" thing, from back when they'd put more fake stuff in there to throw you off.

I'll show her a news item and ask her whether she thinks it's true or not. Then we'll discuss why.

I think something like this should probably be more codified and included in school curricula. It wasn't that long ago that you pretty much knew that the New York Times was going to be reliable and the National Enquirer was not.

Now, with Google news being a prime information source (as in, not a single source, just keywords), it's especially important to be able to figure out what is and isn't true.

Although this is important just in general. I had a really eye-opening science class ("Biology of Women," maybe) in college, pointing out varieties of bias that had completely passed me by before.
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Tue 17 Jul, 2012 07:26 pm
@sozobe,
Of course, a lot of us cannot access the New York Times or the LA Times, past a few clicks.

I see how this has happened, but I think the closure of access is shortsighted.

I don't have the money so I have no value as a reader.
That's not true, I am just shut out. I don't get to participate.
I'm one of many.
hawkeye10
 
  1  
Reply Tue 17 Jul, 2012 07:37 pm
Losing the gate keepers has made learning the ropes of the information database more difficult. However the far more serious problem is that people are stupid, they have no idea how to judge the value of alleged information, they have great difficulty separating reality from fantasy and lies.

The internet is not the problem, the lack of gate keepers is not the problem, poor education is the problem.
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Tue 17 Jul, 2012 07:38 pm
@ossobuco,
Right.

The news items I mean actually are just miscellaneous things -- often from the front page of Yahoo.

I don't quite know how to solve the conundrum of what the New York Times (and similar papers) should do about remaining solvent while also being maximally accessible.
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Tue 17 Jul, 2012 07:42 pm
@hawkeye10,
I don't think it's necessarily that either/or. I think people who didn't have significant critical thinking skills used to have gatekeepers, and then the crazier stuff had less room to take hold.

But of course there are people can figure things out without gatekeepers too of course.

And further, the gatekeepers are often wrong.

I mentioned the NYT, for example -- during the 2008 presidential campaign, when I had a job that included reading vast amounts of information about the campaign, I frequently was spitting tacks at NYT bias/ misrepresentation/ etc.

It's a whole lot of work to get enough info to be your own gatekeeper, though. The good news is that I did find some shortcuts during that massive data slog. (Especially, that Andrew Sullivan frequently found the same things I found, and if they were interesting, posted them.)
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Tue 17 Jul, 2012 07:42 pm
@sozobe,
Me either, but it is very class distinct, which is naturally problematic.
0 Replies
 
engineer
 
  2  
Reply Tue 17 Jul, 2012 07:47 pm
@rosborne979,
I think it is more that there are interests out there who actively support ignorance for various reasons and use advances in communication technology to actively spread disinformation. Without these efforts, I think overall knowledge of facts would increase as communication becomes cheaper.
hawkeye10
 
  1  
Reply Tue 17 Jul, 2012 07:51 pm
@sozobe,
Quote:
It's a whole lot of work to get enough info to be your own gatekeeper, though.
Yes, and more choice often leads to decreased quality of life...Costco's business model revolves around this truth.

People need to reach a level of education were they develop some instincts on what is real/not real and important/not important.

We are not there yet.
0 Replies
 
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Tue 17 Jul, 2012 08:50 pm
@engineer,
That's definitely an element, too.

But I don't think it's all nefarious -- the "actively spreading disinformation" part. I think there are a lot of people who just kind of get overwhelmed by the information out there and go by what "feels" right, without the info being actively peddled to them in any way. My mother-in-law falls in this category. She's a sweet, wonderful person, but I'm regularly amazed at the kinds of things she forwards as truth.
cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Tue 17 Jul, 2012 09:46 pm
@sozobe,
I'm not sure how local newspapers stay in business when most of what they print is already one day old. The reason I subscribe to the San Jose Mercury News is to keep up with the local happenings. Besides that the San Jose Merc always seem to win awards for their investigative reporting, and I enjoy reading the Business section of the paper.

What I really disrespect about the media are their parroting the latest news to death - especially on tv news.

With all the disinformation floating around, it's no wonder the American public are confused. When one has a bias, they probably accept the misinformation to support their preconceived belief.

hawkeye10
 
  1  
Reply Tue 17 Jul, 2012 10:20 pm
@cicerone imposter,
My dad sold advertising in the Rockford Register Star during the 60's and 70's...Once Gannett bought it the only thing they cared about was revenue, and by mid 70's over half of the total revenue came from the classifieds. It was Craiglist which pitched the stake into the business model, the revenue held up for a long time even as circulation went down because when a person needed a job or some such the paper was the only place to go to find what you wanted, so spending money to advertise made sense. Once Craigslist took that away papers were doomed.
cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Tue 17 Jul, 2012 10:27 pm
@hawkeye10,
I think it's the whole world of the internet that essentially destroyed the newspaper circulation. How any of them stay afloat is anyone's guess.

I have received some great deals from Fortune and the WSJ in today's mail.
Fortune is offering me 20 issues for $10 ($91.82), and the WSJ is offering a subscription for $9.99 ($41.82) per month.

So goes the way of the print media.
hawkeye10
 
  1  
Reply Tue 17 Jul, 2012 10:56 pm
@cicerone imposter,
Quote:
So goes the way of the print media.

Good point....the mag business is in horrible shape.

But then I used to spend 3 hours every Sunday going through the NYT's, and I used to read 3 or so mags a month, and now I only pick up Vanity Fair or Esquire once in awhile, having given up my NYT's habit over 15 years ago. Last year my wife brought one home thinking I might like to lounge my day way..... I could not get into it, the paper looked thin and shabby and I could not imagine investing lots o time to see if something worthwhile was hidden inside. I spent about 10 minutes trying to care, then tossed it.
0 Replies
 
wandeljw
 
  1  
Reply Wed 18 Jul, 2012 08:07 am
Using a variety of sources is important when evaluating any piece of information. People who rely on a single source are more vulnerable to disinformation.
engineer
 
  1  
Reply Wed 18 Jul, 2012 08:27 am
@wandeljw,
I think the communication revolution has also allowed crackpots a forum they would never have had before. When it costs money and time to get the word out, the nutcases out there stayed in the closet. Now you can essentially get your word out for free and if you get some traction you can get some media attention to spread it further.
hawkeye10
 
  1  
Reply Wed 18 Jul, 2012 10:10 am
@engineer,
You assume that nut jobs and money never connect. This is far from reality.
0 Replies
 
cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Wed 18 Jul, 2012 10:44 am
@wandeljw,
Good point; that's the reason why those who totally rely on FOX News are already brain-washed with misinformation.
0 Replies
 
 

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