Fake news has become such a scourge in recent years that the term no longer needs to be contained in quotation marks. The world is currently experiencing a huge rise in mistrust for the media – especially, the dreaded “mainstream media”. As a result, we frequently wonder about the trustworthiness of sources of information. There was so much information disseminated about the COVID 19 outbreak that the World Heath organisation noted the volume and rapid scale-up of facts, but also misinformation and disinformation, and stated that it was an unprecedented “infodemic” that threatened to have a negative impact on the management of the spread of the virus.
How then do we go about practicing information and knowledge hygiene that we need in to combat infodemics like this one? How do we equip ourselves for the rolling waves of infodemics that flood social media as so many “experts” pollute and carelessly litter our knowledge ecology?
Sceptics and disbelievers have been vital throughout the course of human history in challenging the dogmas that societies often find themselves subjected to. The original Greek meaning of skeptikos was “an inquirer,” someone who was unsatisfied and still looking for truth. Scepticism is in fact a tool, a powerful torch, which illuminates the dark spots left by blanket approaches and misguided notions. The Age of Enlightenment, that crucial period from which human consciousness transcended the intellectual bondage that preceded it, was born from positive scepticism. Immanuel Kant, a German philosopher and one of the central Enlightenment thinkers, provides the best maxim to summarise the purpose of scepticism during the Enlightenment: sapere aude – “dare to know”.
From this widespread questioning arose some of the most important ideas in human history: reason, progress, and the scientific method. Questions are needed before there can be answers, and the correct application of scepticism in our everyday lives can enhance our perception of reality. Whether you believe that the moon affects people’s behaviour, believe in UFOs, see the value of astrology or of acupuncture, or subscribe to conspiracy theories about the COVID vaccine and 5G, is up to you, and will depend on the amount of evidence and hard facts you personally decide is required before you adopt an opinion and make it part of your knowledge ecology. Its up to you whether you gather litter or gold.
What scepticism or just plain doubt should do, is inspire a determined personal quest for the gaining of clean, unpolluted fact-based knowledge. Since knowledge intensely impacts our ability to succeed in the world and accomplish our ambitions, let us gather knowledge that is not part of an infodemic, that comes from hygienic sources and credible institutions and that we can rely on to help us build an effective reality strategy. This will profoundly support us in achieving our goals.
Many of these sources are academic and educational institutions offering accredited and transformative learning journeys. What do academics have to do with the real world? The primary reason academics are taken seriously is because they develop their thoughts and they review the ways they seek knowledge and the knowledge they hold as reliable. They have conversations with other thinkers and critically examine their ideas. In fact, they hold the keys for the rest of us as to how we vaccinate the infodemic with rational clean thinking.
Vaccinate yourself, sign up for a learning journey that makes you think before you just believe.