I’m a little behind in reading this month’s edition of Wired Magazine. But now I’m wide awake at 2 AM EST (Midnight in Denver) and restless and reading. And I find an article entitled Manufacturing Confusion (subtitle: How more information leads to less knowledge).
As the article says, the historian Robert Proctor has come up with a new word for our language:
“He has developed a word inspired by this trend: agnotology. Derived from the Greek root agnosis, it is “the study of culturally constructed ignorance.”
The idea is that in this world in which we are awash with information, special interest groups (for example) are easily able to stir up the proverbial sand and make the factual water very murky. We are becoming an increasingly ignorant society according to Proctor because we don’t seek out truths – we wait for them to fed to us via that information pipeline called the web. What’s that quote…We’re drowning in information but starving for knowledge. Oh yes, we are.
The author of the article wraps up by saying this:
“Can we fight off these attempts to foster ignorance? Despite his fears about the Internet’s combative culture, Proctor is optimistic. During last year’s election, campaign-trail lies were quickly exposed via YouTube and transcripts. The Web makes secrets harder to keep.
We need to fashion information tools that are designed to combat agnotological rot. Like Wikipedia: It encourages users to build real knowledge through consensus, and the result manages to (mostly) satisfy even people who hate each other’s guts. Because the most important thing these days might just be knowing what we know.”
Huh, we need to fashion information tools huh? Gee, where, oh where, would we get these tools? Who will guide us through this information? Hmmm. I dunno, maybe a potential remedy to this situation is…a world wide network of damn good librarians. Let’s step up to the plate, before Wikipedia becomes the answer for everything. And if it must be the answer for many things, if it is the place that people go to for answers, then let’s make sure that we’re the ones editing it. Because information is our business and we can’t be bit players.
Just something to think about.
I’m going to try to go to bed. Again.