Friday, March 18, 2011

Instant Research

I wrote my first term paper in ninth grade--on acupuncture. We spent several class periods in the school library researching our topic. Acupuncture wasn't in any of the available encyclopedias. I spent weeks tracking down magazines from listings in the most recent Current Periodicals Directory to find enough articles to hit the required minimum.

Fast forward four decades. No matter the number, finding the required number of sources today would be a piece of cake. Google produces a list of more than 78 million links for the word "acupuncture" in 0.14 seconds. Welcome to the Information Age!

Of course the first three links are paid ads for acupuncture services available in the surrounding area. The Wikipedia entry for acupuncture is next--we'll save my true feelings about using Wikipedia as a resource for a future post. For now I'll just say, don't.

Finding information is easy. The greater challenge is determining the quality of the information you find. There's a lot of crap out there--and industries devoted to producing more of it(a major issue with Wikipedia). As a result, a fair number of people believe crap that simply isn't true.

The stakes are particularly high when the facts aren't on your side. If you happen to have a lot of resources and easy access to a major media outlet or two, the facts don't matter. Public opinion can be bought and will eventually trump the facts every time.

People quickly reject ideas different from what they already believe to be true. Skepticism is a good thing, but it needs to be applied equally to everything you see and hear. Believing something is true with all your heart or simply repeating it over and over doesn't make it true.

I know. Believing myself to be a much younger man to the point I look 25 years younger in the mirror doesn't change anything. I'm still...

The Crotchety Old Man

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