Information Processing

Thanks to Joshua for pointing to this quote from Douglas Adams (author of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy).

Of course you can’t ‘trust’ what people tell you on the web anymore than you can ‘trust’ what people tell you on megaphones, postcards or in restaurants. Working out the social politics of who you can trust and why is, quite literally, what a very large part of our brain has evolved to do. For some batty reason we turn off this natural skepticism when we see things in any medium which require a lot of work or resources to work in, or in which we can’t easily answer back – like newspapers, television or granite. Hence ‘carved in stone.’ What should concern us is not that we can’t take what we read on the internet on trust – of course you can’t, it’s just people talking – but that we ever got into the dangerous habit of believing what we read in the newspapers or saw on the TV – a mistake that no one who has met an actual journalist would ever make.

This goes hand in hand with an argument that some people have heard me make about our “information society” as we call it. In a society so full of information sources the great challenge and skill is to be able to identify which sources are accurate or trustworthy. That is the skill that we need to have and that we need to pass on to our children. If Adams was right about humans being naturally hard-wired for this then we should do just fine.

The whole piece was published in 1999 which has given us 8 years to prove that he was right on target. Go read it.

About David

David is the father of 8 extremely organized children (4 girls / 4 boys) who is constantly seeking answers to tough questions related to parenting, education and politics while moonlighting for 40 hours each week as a technology professional. He also enjoys cooking, gardening, and sports.

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