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Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.
-- William James
 

 

The MONTHLY Motivator - January 2019

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Seeking truth

There is so much information, so quickly available to you. How do you know what is true, and what is not? It’s easy to find the facts on just about any subject imaginable. How do you know which facts to believe, and which ones to ignore?

Imagine that you and your friends want to go out to dinner, and want to try a restaurant where none of you have ever eaten before. How do you choose a place that will be good? You could read reviews on Yelp or some other online review site. But can you really trust those reviews? Most likely, for any restaurant you choose, you’ll find both positive and negative reviews. Which ones do you go by? There’s plenty of information, yet much of it is conflicting. So how do you resolve the conflict?

In just about every direction you turn, you run into a similar dilemma. Whether you’re looking for a reliable mechanic to work on your car, or a good, healthy diet to follow, or the facts about someone who is seeking election to public office, the truth can be elusive. You’re likely to find plenty of information, but the more information you uncover, the more you doubt the veracity of that information.

The problem of what information to believe has always existed. However, as technology has made much more information much more quickly and easily available, that problem has taken on a new dynamic. What’s happened is that the cost to disseminate and to acquire information has been whittled away to almost nothing. At the same time, the amount of available information has exploded to be near infinite in size. As a result, there’s an astounding amount of great information to be had, yet it is buried in a whole lot of noise and outright falsehoods.

To make some sense of it all, let’s think a little bit about the history of knowledge. Before written language had been developed, knowledge was passed from one person to another, and from one generation to another, by word of mouth. It was not particularly efficient or accurate, and because of that, knowledge was a rare and valuable thing, to the point of being considered sacred. As such, people took into account who they were listening to just as much as they took into account what was being said. The communication of information was based on relationships. It was not merely a discreet transaction, not just a transmission of content. On the contrary, information was embedded within ongoing relationships. Over time, the quality and dependability of those relationships made it possible for the participants to know who was being truthful and who was not. Those who told the stories people listened to were those who had earned credibility.


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--Ralph Marston

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