I Can’t Make Up My Mind

Knowing More And Understanding Less In The Age Of Big Data                                           Michael Lynch

The quote above is the subtitle of Michael Lynch’s 2016 book, The Internet Of Us. I am beginning to read this book and immediately wanted to write a blog about our new way of knowing. Lynch: Most knowing now is Google-knowing — knowledge acquired on line. The trouble with so much data on line is we don’t have acceptable standards to measure reliable sources of information and therefore, aren’t able to agree on the facts. We continue to be inundated with data, but somehow are not drowning in it. Big Data has become so much a part of us that we can no longer get outside of it. This doesn’t mean we can understand it.

Once upon a time truth seemed knowable; people knew what they knew from faith or from fact. Today we are in danger of being confused with data, which seems to be overtaking faith and fact. But now we not only know more, but more people know. Knowing, like faith, fact and data is not understanding. How do we make up our minds if we don’t understand what we know?

I believe this lack of understanding what we know and the absence of acceptable standards of reliability, explains the differences and debates between religion and science and between opposing political parties. And it helps us interpret the conflicting remedies for economic, cultural and environmental problems. We need agreement on what are the facts. If you are following the presidential campaigning lately you are aware that there is no agreement on what are the facts. “Goggle-knowing” isn’t bad or always wrong, but we tend to lose motivation to seek knowing elsewhere. We let online data speak for itself. Lynch says: Our culture is facing an intellectual crisis about knowing.

Where do we go from here? The bookstores today are full of predictions about the future influence of Big Data, the Internet and modern technology. Lynch hints at the real possibility of “neuromedia”, when smartphones are minimized and hooked directly into a person’s brain. I am not smart enough to make predictions. However, I can’t help but believe that self-reflection, careful thought about our own beliefs and behavior will become even more important. Of course this is my bias about beliefs. Do you know how you know what you know?  Are you aware of what you believe?

When we Goggle-know, we no longer take responsibility for our own beliefs.               Michael Lynch


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  1. Marianne says:

    Now you are confusing me with too much data.
    Kidding aside, this is really interesting. I had not thought about what we do with the information we get on Google. I know I don’t go on any further nor had I recognized the need to search further. Oh, my more work..

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