In these “modern” times, discerning the truth seems more challenging than ever.
I analyzed why this appears to be the case and list the main facts that I believe contribute to this perception:
1. The narrative is constantly changing. The convergence of ideas, technology, communication and capital is accelerating change and giving us less time to understand the world.
2. The Internet has created an information explosion that has led to a more informed society. But for “truth,” it has created new challenges; it has become more difficult to differentiate what matters and what is noise.
3. We have become less patient to find answers. A willingness to compare multiple sources and question the motivation of the author is not practiced regularly by those who are not scientists or journalists. On a more technical level, search engines’ business model make it possible to push messages to the top, and frequently the “good stuff” gets buried deep down in search results. Does anybody ever scroll through 900 pages of results? Of course not, given that we live in a time of constant swipes and 140-character messages.
4. We are inundated with messages everywhere. Unless we seek solitude in the wilderness or manage to be completely off the grid, we are constantly exposed to information overload. As a result, we tend to be “over-newsed but underinformed;” we allocate more time to a variety of information but less time to think it through, analyze it and put in perspective.
5. Paid messages are hiding in plain sight, making it more difficult to distinguish genuine content from content that should be labelled as propaganda or advertising. Disinformation has now become a business model, which on a commercial level is not terrible — but in politics it is tragic.
6. The manipulation of a singular recipient will become more prevalent. A combination of data collection combined with artificial intelligence allows messages to be customized and targeted on a personal level. This is problematic because what we are being “fed” as individuals is starting to isolate us from reality.
7. We hear what we like to hear. This has always been the case, but with like-minded social media bubbles hanging over us and biased news channels on both sides of the political spectrum, it has become clearer than ever. If we believe a particular narrative strongly enough, we take comfort in thinking that we have found the truth and simply hold on to it — regardless of the facts.
Does anybody ever scroll through 900 pages of results?
Maybe the truth has always been elusive.
Maybe the truth has always been with us and sometimes we simply fail to recognize it.
Maybe there has never been an absolute truth and we have to get used to a “matrix” kind of world in which several realities compete with each other.
Of course, the truth has not gone anywhere. However, in this fast-moving world, with its changing narratives and technology that both connects and divides, it’s simply become more of a task to keep up with it.
A list of my trustworthy websites:
Aspen Institute Ideas, BBC.com, Brooking Institute.com, C-Span, The Economist, Foreign Policy.com, Real, Clear Politics.com, Reuters.com, PBS The News Hour, Ted Talks, Wall Street Journal, Wikipedia