Monday, April 20, 2015

Information Overload

I think I figured out a way to make understandable what we've been seeing in recent years, going all the way back perhaps to the 1990s.

Informational overload. Overload of information we are unable to assimilate and so many of us, simply get annoyed instead of understanding and appropriately reacting. It's the only answer I can think of to why people are believing nonsense and support those who are actively working against them.
graphic from Dafna Shahaf
Look at it like this.

It's like people with a high school education have been immersed into a collegiate environment, where many of them if not most are not in the least collegiate.That being said, you might reply, well some of the people you're referring to do have degrees, some even from Ivy League schools like Harvard. So there!

Yes, but you also have to consider what their actual mental capabilities were in college and just how much did they learn, or learn outside of their specialty or major. Obviously, there are a lot of people who just do not get it.

I've known people with college educations where although they could handle an academic environment, once you take them out of that protected environment, they became pretty dysfunctional.

In fact a girlfriend of mine when we were at our universality together was a prime example of that. She was very smart, straight A's, better at getting good grades than I was and yet, to be honest, she didn't have a certain capacity for complex synthesis at times. She lacked street smarts. In recent years

I've met a lot more people like that as the years pass. People with book knowledge, but too stupid about somethings to not walk into a wall. Like they watch YouTube videos but don't consider the source, or the accuracy. Many people have become emotional over intellectual and so vote with their heart and not their gut, or their minds.

My concerns in college were much less with grades and much more with learning, absorbing all I could educationally and intellectually. I came to understand that to get the best education it really wasn't about grades, it was about learning.

My grades were still good but my concern wasn't in getting that "A", but in how much I could actually learn, could cram into my brain while I had the opportunity and the resources of an amazing library and highly educated professors.

There were times that I spent in the library, hours upon hours researching to acquire the information for some class paper, when I'd get side tracked.

I would search for information and note it for future reference, or would continue following it to the end (time allowing which it seldom did), depending on what seemed the most prudent course to follow. My papers were always in on time or turned in ahead of time.

Where many of my friends finished the night before because they were out partying and delaying getting the work done as soon as possible, allowing time for mistakes and unforeseen situations. Frequently they  would be stressing out the last few days before an assignment was due, when I had gotten onto it as soon as I got the assignment.

There are many political pundits out there now who were like that too, partying, but getting that degree. But are now treated as if their college education was the end all be all of their learning, when frequently it wasn't. Though their grades may or may not have reflected the reality of it. My point being, college education doesn't make you a genius, how you handled it, does. That's not always reflected in the grades you received, however.

People never look at your grades after college anyway and even if they do, it takes really talking to someone to find out just how smart college made them. From what I'm seeing in politics, our colleges must have done a really poor job of educating people, or people were just partying too much toward their degree.

In college you have to do the course work, but you have to go beyond, you have to do work, on your own. Otherwise you just may likely walk out of there with a degree, and simply book smarts. You need to learn critical thinking and you need to absorb good materiel, useful and accurate information.


This is another thing that some people who get straight As may not get. I see this especially on the conservative end of the spectrum. Though to be sure, we see this on the left but it appears to be far more spread out across the right wing. Surely we see much of it in the media; so called "intelligent" or "educated" people spewing nonsense or disagreeing with the science on things time and again.


Because their brains can't handle all this information. As Fareed Zakaria put it the other day, some of what we have to face now a days was never in our lives, it's hard to digest, difficult to grasp, perhaps, even counter-intuitive.

Between informational overload on over to connective dissonance and various types of biases, people are lost awash a sea of information, much of which may disagree with their previous beliefs, typically those based in religion. A dangerous situation as they then lead others astray who believe they are following someone who should know what they are talking about.

And yet, they aren't. Even though they may have their bone fides as they say, those are just not the appropriate intellectual capabilities, not the correct bone fides to accurately analyze and explain news and information to others. Even when that is their professional job to do so.

Now look at the American public.

Let's skip those who are home school and the percentages of them who are poorly home schooled, entrenched in archaic concepts or beliefs that their family adheres to and which may go against at times, common sense or the science of the situation and where homeschooling is a way to avoid reality and seek a continuance of selective ignorance due to a preconceived belief system.

According to the New York Times, about a third of all Americans are now college educated.

That is up from about 25% in 1995. That, is good. But that also means that two thirds of America are not college educated. If you are not college educated, that's not a bad thing. And there are non higher education types who are quite smart or even brilliant. But let's face it, they are the outliers.

Of those college educate people, some were the ones hanging out by the keg at the college parties every weekend and their desire was only to get a degree, a better high paying job. Not so much, about actual learning.

Of those who wanted to attain "actual learning" there are concerns about how they went about it, their teachers, and so many other factors. So a college degree only means so much in the overall scope of things.

Still, a college education is better than not one, and once again, overall.

We are now being deluged with a morass of information about local, state, national and world problems. These are tainted with special interest groups, mostly big money, then religious concerns, us versus them mentalities and other issues. So much of what we now hear is tainted with special interests that we cannot even accurately see  anymore what is just news and what is political diatribe or economic agenda.

Climate change, petroleum verses renewable energies, jobs, "bubbles" in markets, and so on.

Life, has become very complicated and typically there are no easy solutions or ways to understand it all.

Basically the situation we find ourselves in is a college environment with people in various stages of pre-college education down around the grade school, junior high or high school levels. Some of our college graduates, graduate college merely at advanced high school levels and some of our high school graduates are really only at the junior high levels; that being education-wise and intellectually speaking.

Shen you consider all this, how can we NOT see the confusion we see now a days in people who do not understand or refuse to believe in what is right there before them? Twisting things to their own ends to fit their beliefs, rather than believe the science? All because it's easier for them to believe in and to support.

Life's not easy and yet we've been trying to remove all the risk factor from it, while purposely trying not to educate people to have well honed critical thought capabilities or an ability to correctly assess risk. When the only "safe" way TO make it through life is with good critical thinking skills and an accurate ability to risk assess. Calculated Risk. Critical Thinking.

Yes you could cite types when the science was wrong. But you'd be setting yourself up for failure overall when you do that. Sure, take it into consideration, but don't throw out the baby with the bathwater as so many are doing.

That is part of the issue....

People do not seem to know when to apply certain elements into certain situations. These are some of the things life teaches you if you are old enough, paid attention enough and have the capacity to allow for the assimilation of information well enough, and the forming therefore of correct opinions. Which is to say, forming the most accurate opinions.

Where people fall down lately, sadly, is typically in the area of defining what an accurate opinion is. What is accurate for a conservative may not sound accurate to a liberal or a progressive. Then you have to delve into why they are a conservative or otherwise.

Is it any wonder the world is such a mess anymore?

You cannot simply hear things on Fox News and think you know what's going on.

You need to understand how to know what to believe, and what to not. How to know when you've learned a fact or absorbed a "factoid", a piece of information that sounds like a fact but is really just a nice sounding popular belief or desire for something to be true.

Merriam-Webster defines a factoid as:

1) an invented fact believed to be true because it appears in print;
2) a briefly stated and usually trivial fact.

Factoids are not facts.

You cannot believe everything you hear or read on the Internet. The Internet is a wonderful, even marvelous invention and a useful tool, but you need to use it for things to research, not simply believe.

There is an old journalistic belief seldom used now a days sadly, that states that you need to triangulate all information before presenting it to the public. I've talked on this many times before.

When you hear a "fact" consider it a "factoid" until you've vetted, proven it a fact. Find three locations or sources that speak to it, considering the facts and if they support it or not. But choose sources who are vastly different (and accurate, sane, or reasonable).

Look at the opposing side(s) and even who disagrees with the information and see what they think. Then triangulate on that. As you can see, believing isn't just believing. It's complicated. Especially now a days with so many sites on the Internet who are "satire" sites, or who have an agenda to push and ingeniously project their lies as facts in order to push their desires over that of others. Because who really matters now a days, everyone? Or, just you?

For so many anymore the answer is simply, Me. If the answer is Us, then there are groups who will jump into your face and call you a communist. It's sad really. Because the only thing that works in society is a mixture of things such as capitalism, communism, socialism, and so on. A pure aspect of any one thing, is doomed to fail.

And so we end up with a lot of factoids people believe as facts.

We end up with states passing laws where you cannot use the term "climate change" because it would cost them money, while their current shorelines are disappearing, their water levels are getting higher and higher and they need not to ignore it all, but to immediately become proactive, to take measures, to expend funds upon these issues and situations. To DO SOMEthing!

We are becoming progressively more stupid. And many of us don't even see it, or understand what is happening and so, cannot see it.

But it's quite obvious what is going on.

We need to accept at times those things we really don't want to hear, rather than metaphorically putting out hands over our ears, closing our eyes and loudly yelling, "Nah nah nah nah, I can't hear you!"

We need to face the facts, real facts and act on them. We need to become progressive when needed and also do nothing when needed. But we can't just always do nothing. Because it's the cheapest, the easiest, the most pleasing to us or our group.

It is true that one of the biggest tools in the management toolbox is simply to do nothing.

So many things fix themselves if left alone. However, people have turned that into an art form, thinking if a little is good, more is better. And it's not. Or people think you just have to work hard, put your head down and work, work, work, and all will be right in the world. But that is not true, either.

For one thing, corporations will eat you alive if you don't pay attention.

It's how we got into this situation in the first place. People didn't pay attention, didn't understand what was going on all around them. Then they started to think they did know what was going on (having cleverly been secretly told by the corporations and big money) and so they felt better about things. They voted for those people who big money bought and who  do not have their (our) best interests at heart.

Big money became smart big money. We can thank industries like big tobacco, and big oil for that.

For years of their killing off their customers and spinning it another way, any other way. Look at old ads in the 40s of doctors saying tobacco smoke is healthy. Look at oil companies and add up all the people around the world they have killed to get oil including wars, ground waters they have permanently poisoned leading all the way up to our current issues with insufficiently regulated hydro fraking.

There is a backlash against all this from out of our country now and we see it in wars and groups like ISIS\ISIL, Al-Qaeda, and so on. They aren't just murderous bastards. They came into being for a reason. Yes in some cases we started or helped them to fight our common enemies but then they turned on us. Why? We need to look at not just that but our own prioritizes and how they got so messed up.

Also, why can't we see what is going on all around us, thinking many times, it is something entirely different?

Are we stupid?

Please understand, I'm not saying all of America is stupid. I'm not saying the conman man or woman cannot ever understand today's complicated issues. I am saying that many of us do not understand that what we are trying to understand is actually more complicated than is being considered. That sometimes, many times today, you cannot think that you understand a topic well enough to act on it without effort in first appropriately learning that issue before hand.

Many will attempt to make you believe you can, however. Fox News is one of those, the premiere element in that area. Not just to pound on them however, because they are only the best in a paradigm that news has been forced into now for decades.

Just as with politics, we need a need to show a profit taken out of our news media. I'm not saying they should never make a profit, just that they are a special case who needs to be protected from NEEDING to turn a profit as it can pollute their information and how they deliver it. They should be considering how to deliver the most accurate information in ways we can most easily assimilate it and form opinions. Now in the best way to turn a profit.

Politicians are great at that, pushing their party's agenda and platform before any real concern for citizens in thinking that is good enough for them to consider as having done due diligence. And it's not. Many times I hear people around me saying they understand a situation, they know what happened, in the white house, in the military industrial complex, or in another country. And they don't.

Not only do they not understand it, they can't possibly. They couldn't have received enough or correct enough information to have an opinion. But we are an opinionated people as a race adn we want our opinion, to feel special, smart, in the know, part of the group and screw the other guy because he's stupid and doesn't have our knowledge.

Sure. Right. Okay....

I had a guy at work the other day tell me that the Middle East is not that hard to understand because someone on Fox News told him about it on TV. Because hat news person had predicted things that would happen and then those things did and so, that person must understand the Middle East and it mustn't be that complicated.

That is foolish. I've seen many times news people predict things, and years later we came to find out they couldn't have been more wrong. Yes you see, you can predict something, and be wrong. You can choose a horse in a horse race for one reason, it wins, and yet, you were completely wrong in that it din't win because of it being fast but because another horse was off it's best run that day and so you won a race by accident. Happens all the time and it's what leads to, superstitions.

The Middle East is one of the most complicated areas in the entire world and yet, a few minutes listening to someone on a news network and know YOU understand that region, when nation states don't and even the Middle Eastern states themselves have trouble following their own nation's and regions interests and situations?

Please. At least TRY to be reasonable.

People talking on TV and the Internet who profess to know what is happening, generally find a paradigm that fits a situation and then claim, exhibiting it as they are trained to, their self-assurance in order to sell the fact(oid?) and that is what they are good at. Selling information, regardless of if it is correct or not.

For the first half of my life I spent a lot of time reading and studying world problems and espionage. I became adept at finding the truth in situations from the past by reading what people said who were there when it happened. Without boring you too much on my process, you come to learn to read between the lines, to triangulate and to play one side against the other. Eventually things become more clear and you get an idea of what really happened. At times it's like trying to see a black hole in space. you can't. it's a black hole. But you can see it, by not seeing it. In seeing what is around it, or not. And you can very accurately, find exactly where it's at.

Time and again I found that what was said in the news, what people who should know, who claimed to know, who gave reasons and explanation for things that had happened, in some cases even saying they were there, or claimed they were, though as it turned out in the end, things were seldom what they seemed, or claimed to be.

And so it is now. What things look like, are seldom what they seem to be.

It goes this way with conspiracy theories, another issue of frustration and near insanity where people claim they "know" what is going on when in reality they are utterly clueless. But dammit, they will figure it our or at very least, have an opinion. Because it's better to have a wrong opinion, than no opinion at all. Or so they seem to think.

Any time you take known information and apply it to past situations in hindsight, things look dramatically different than what reality actually was going on at that time. This has been shown to be true time and again (granted not always, but mostly always).

When I first learned of conspiracies in the early 1970s, instead of simply believing, I started to study conspiracy theory itself and how it worked. Then I was better informed to read about conspiracies and judge for myself the veracity of the theory and it's proponents. And that was before I even started college, around the time I had graduated high school then on into my late twenties when I was in college and after I had been in the military (Air Force).

One cannot know what one doesn't know, even when one thinks one knows. One has to be very careful about that. Some people can be very good at that. Most, aren't and just want to believe they are.

We are creatures heavily based in pattern recognition.

When we don't have enough information or even incorrect information we will sometimes think we have enough and form a pattern from it. Even if it's wrong and sometimes, even if we know it's wrong, we will proclaim we know. Because being wrong with a pattern can seem better than right when lacking a pattern. We can feel relief at the incorrect belief that we know something when really we do not know.

And so we have news networks who claim a market share for monetary gain, like Fox News. And others, though Fox News is the best example of the worst of catering for market share rather than properly informing their viewers, which does a disservice overall to the public in general. There is no end to the types, people and groups who cater to this disability or loop hole, in human nature.

So, be aware!

See the world as it really is and as best you can.

Don't blindly believe.

Don't think you understand when you probably don't.

Do try to understand it as an informed but incorrect opinion is always better than an uninformed and incorrect one.

And if you can't understand it, do try to find those in the world who actually do and who are trying to do something to fix things for real, without personal, platform or news network agendas and then, support THEM.

Otherwise, we will soon not have much of a world to argue over.

NOTE. Come back on Wednesday, it's International Earth Day and I have a special blog ready from my past:

"Earth Day, April 22, 2015 - My First Earth Day & Bert Thomas, Swimmer and Diver Extraordinaire"

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