Does how you gather and consume information matter to anyone beyond yourself?
According to You-Tuber and author John Green, the answer is a resounding YES! He remarks, “The quality of our information directly shapes the quality of our decisions and the quality of our decisions, of course, shapes the quality of our shared experience as humans.”
What strikes me most about this insight is the responsibility that accompanies it. I’ve traditionally thought of being adequately informed and up-to-date on issues of importance as primarily a personal responsibility. John’s remarks reframes this as an interdependent responsibility, one that relies on individuals acting in concert with others in service of a greater good.
This exercise in testing information, insisting on evidence, and checking the reasonableness of the assertions others make with it can only make a difference if a critical mass of stakeholders are willing to engage in the exercise honestly. Without a shared set of established facts and data to ground an issue, meaningful and constructive dialogue is an impossibility. In this scenario, absurdity and ignorance reign as all opinions are equally valid with devastating real-life consequences for others.
Consider the following:
Critical masses of unvaccinated children have sparked outbreaks of disease in multiple states, even a State of Emergency in Washington. This despite the fact that no reputable researcher, physician, or scientist believes there is any evidence to support the claim that vaccines cause autism.
Spurious claims are being made regarding the exact nature of the extremely challenging situation at the US Southern Border. These roundly debunked claims (to include Fox News) were used to justify the longest government shutdown in US history, affecting an estimated 800K civil servants and even more contractors.
Climate change and sea-level rise created climate refugees in multiple areas across the globe. In fact, the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Tribe in Louisiana Gulf has already been forced to relocate from their small coastal island.
It is the job of all people to relentlessly seek to understand the world rather than choosing to see the world as we wish. It can be disorienting to abandon the comfortable confines of our own respective worldviews, but it is absolutely necessary. Living a life of truth that is responsive to the needs of those around us absolutely depends on it.
Looking for tools to sharpen your information-assessing skills? Check out John Green’s new CrashCourse playlist that equips users with great new tools to better navigate our information landscape. Let us know what other resources and tools you’ve found to be useful in the comments!