Let me start out with the theme for this post. The Internet is a double-edged sword. It allows the free flow of massive amounts of information but it also allow the free flow of massive amounts of mis-information. The crux of the interview that the PBS Newshour quote below comes from is about how people pick and choose which science to believe. Lets face it much the info you can find on the Internet is without any type of documented foundation. Anyone, including me, can put out their opinions on any topic they choose. Now let’s go to the quote:
I think one of the differences today is just the Internet. It has changed the whole information universe. It’s democratized, small-D, information out there. There are fewer sort of gatekeepers of knowledge.
Instead, people go out and seek information, and they often find what they’re looking for that reinforces their belief. The Internet, you know, it doesn’t facilitate consensus, as anyone has noticed who’s gone on the Internet. Instead, it creates these sort of filter bubbles, these rabbit holes, these echo chambers. And these communities of sort of alternative knowledge develop that are often in opposition to the scientific mainstream….
So that’s part of what we’re seeing, is that there are lots of attitudes that are influenced by longstanding values, religious beliefs, political beliefs, other personal experiences. And that’s actually a longstanding pattern we have seen many years, but we have new issues….
Well, I think that there are people who are demagogues in the media world that benefit from, you know, dividing and conquering. They want to have people who — they want to say, trust only me on this issue think the stakes are large for all of us in this more technological, engineered world, where we need to get this stuff right
If we don’t take the time to parse through what we find on the Internet it can lead us to live our life in filter bubbles, rabbit holes, and echo chambers (I love that analogy). The Internet is kind of like the Bible, if we look hard enough and are willing to ignore everything else we can find a phrase or two to back up our current worldview no matter what it is. The biggest example of this tunnel-vision mentality is Fox News with MSNBC not far behind. Fox News claims to be “fair and balanced” but most everyone, I’m sure even Fox’s regular viewers, know in their heart there is no truth to that statement. Sadly I do recognize that many get all their news from that source. Will Rogers, my hero, said that if you only have one source of news then you quickly become a fool. I think those words apply maybe even more so today than they did almost one-hundred years ago when he said them.