We live in odd times. Information was never so accessible, neither it traveled across the world with such a velocity as it does today. Yet, the truth becomes more and more subjective and ... relative. Being loud and popular is these days far more important than having hard evidence on your side. So-called "experts" do not present facts but promote judgments and standpoints, turning themselves into "influencers" and dogmatists. The global society, unable to tell the truth from falsehood, trusts only what makes us feel comfortable (because it's cohesive with our beliefs) and confirms our bias.
I have a huge problem with that.
To clarify why (I find it so disturbing), I need to start with the term described neatly by no one else than the famous Nicholas Nassim Taleb - "Intellectual, Yet Idiot" (IYI). Who are IYIs?
According to NNT, there's a certain class of individuals who:
- are "products" of top universities, prestigious "thought-leading" organizations, elite think-tanks, or the most opinion-forming media
- but have only dry, theoretical, academic "experience" - never had any real chance to verify their beliefs with reality
- and (what's maybe even more important) have no "skin in the game" - they take no factual accountability for what they say/advise/claim
- are nevertheless bold and cheeky enough to present their opinions with full confidence, without blinking an eye
Paper-thin, fake authorities, made of horseshit, feeding on the stupidity of the gullible masses. IMHO the nickname IYIs fits them perfectly.
Exclusive right to be right
As you can see, the expertise foundations of IYIs are very shaky, but when peppered with few buzzwords, some unfounded claims, and a headline-worthy oneliner, they are enough to get some traction (and likes, and re-tweets ...) — thereby confirming the correctness of Sturgeon's Law.
It's all possible because paradoxically, in the modern world devoid of respected authorities, the bar to become an "expert" (on anything) has plummeted. We've all turned into experts on everything (according to ourselves only, ofc). It's unthinkable not to have an opinion on a popular topic (like a pandemic, global warming, diversity, macroeconomics, microservices, law, etc.). Everyone knows best (despite having zero practical, meaningful experience on the subject ...), while everyone who disagrees is (obviously) wrong.
Well, it's one thing if a self-declared "expert" follows her/his ideas. But apparently, it's not enough for many - they have an urge to tell others what to do and how to do (so those dumb-asses do not err anymore ...). Obviously, without accepting even virtual liability for the consequences of their guidance.
What's probably even worse: some of those self-declared authorities started denying others the right to think otherwise. We live in times when thinking differently is immediately escalated into extremity ("nazi! communist! fundamentalist! chauvinist!"), and the peaceful co-existence (with someone with different views) is apparently not possible anymore.
I have a huge problem with that.
I think, therefore I am
There's just one proper answer to oppose the negative phenomenon I've described above. To wake up from torpor, switch off the mental "auto-pilot" and START THINKING for yourself and stop "following" the flock(s).
- Stop consuming media that process facts and present you digested standpoints, ready to get adopted straight-away. Form your own opinions!
- When assessing information, double-check the facts. Obviously only for what's really essential (due to time constraints). Ignore all information without sources/references.
- What is NOT important (for you) should be filtered out completely. Simple as that. Be very honest (spend some time on that) on what is REALLY important to you. De-clutter your brain.
- Learn to distinguish facts from opinions (in practice, during conversations, when reading, etc.).
- For information absorption, use manually curated publish-subscribe channels. Avoid full automation; use recommendations only to tune the funnel. Unplug yourself from factoid firehoses like popular news portals.
- Don't be afraid to be candid (in communication with others) regarding what wastes your time. The passive conformance (because of FOMO or social pressure) is a disaster.
- Question what you see/hear. An eloquent and good-looking "expert" may be just an empty shell or a "celebrity".
- Don't waste time on convincing anyone (to anything) if it's an emotion game already.
And the most important suggestion of these all:
Your deadliest weapon in this quest for truth and sanity isn't just your brain, but your ... focus. Crap spreads because people consume it and pass it over to others. Because even if they disagree, they discuss it, ridicule, or criticize it, hence increasing its reach and popularity. That's why you should ignore it.
Cut it off.
Silence it down to meaningless buzz.
Give it zero attention.