[citation needed] for the Mind

Posted on 19th March 2008 by Ryan Somma in Enlightenment Warrior - Tags:

“What is truth?” – Pontius Pilate

Wikipedian Protester

Wikipedian Protester
Courtesy of xkcd.com

Al Gore never said he invented the Internet. You can’t see the Great Wall of China from space. There is no ghost of a little boy in the background of Three Men and a Baby. Goldfish do not have memory-spans only 10-second’s long. Nobody’s drugging college kids and stealing their kidneys, and many of the Darwin Awards are made up.

Mass media has the power to spread memes like wildfire, even false ones. But it’s not just the MSM promoting inaccuracies, our own memories are highly fallible, we experience creeping normalcy and false memories. Human memory is a reconstruction, not a record.

Nothing has illustrated the inaccuracies in my own head more than blogging. It all started when I began linking to my sources so readers could see for themselves. Then I became more selective of my sources, going for primary sources whenever possible, academic institutions, and respectable news sources. The collective-consciousness wikipedia maintains data integrity by placing “[citation needed]” notes beside anything not backed-up with a reference in its articles.

But I still have to begin writing my posts from what’s inside my head. I come up with a topic, support it with the relevant facts I “know” from previous studies, and then go out to find credible sources that verify those facts. No matter what I do, I have to start from the data in my head.

You know what I’ve learned? I’m really wrong on a whole lot of “facts” I take for granted. Let me tell you, there is nothing more frustrating than wasting two hours of your life struggling to write a blog post, before finally admitting to yourself that you have NO $%&#ING IDEA WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT.

Suddenly there are all these [citation needed] signs popping up all over inside my head. Aaaaaagh my brain!!!

That’s why the Internet is such an incredible fact-checking device for the modern age, one massive peer-review journal for the human race, and everyone has a responsibility to contribute to it and reference the truths they take for granted against it. The result isn’t 100% truth, but it’s a much closer approximation of it.


Note: Another legend I discovered just last week is that Winston Churchill once said, “If you’re not a liberal when you’re 25, you have no heart. If you’re not a conservative by the time you’re 35, you have no brain.” According to The Churchill Centre he never said this.

3 Comments

  1. You also blogged something recently about the Churchill quote – the story about how people actually get more liberal as they get older.

    Comment by Clint — March 19, 2008 @ 5:53 pm

  2. “Nothing has illustrated the inaccuracies in my own head more than blogging.” [Citation Needed]

    “No matter what I do, I have to start from the data in my head.” [Citation Needed]

    “Let me tell you, there is nothing more frustrating than wasting two hours of your life struggling to write a blog post, before finally admitting to yourself that you have NO $%&#ING IDEA WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT.” [Common Knowledge]

    :)

    Comment by Sour Swinger — March 20, 2008 @ 11:45 am

  3. [...] As part of Generation X, I grew up in a world without an Internet. Then for the first decade of the mainstream World Wide Web, it was considered a cesspool of disinformation. It wasn’t until I was in my 30′s that the Internet became a resource for reference material, and I remember discovering the habit of checking every bit of knowledge I took for granted online at that time and being shocked at all the disinformation in my head. [...]

    Pingback by It's Okay to Be Wrong | ideonexus.com — June 7, 2013 @ 12:13 am

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