Arthur B. Robinson, PhD
The amount of information that each person will soon have personally available through an investment of less than $500 in equipment will be essentially unlimited. Not all "information" is true, however. Falsehoods abound in our environment. Are we soon to be inundated with misinformation? What filters will be available?
Traditionally, our information has been filtered through those with monopolies on its gathering and storage. News media spend large amounts of money gathering information and then disseminate filtered and condensed segments to the public. Unfortunately, the media have changed from reporting the truth to manipulating the public mind with falsehoods that enhance media power and the political efforts of those whom they favor. Newsletters and other micromedia sources partially --- but only partially --- correct media bias.
Schools and universities have thrived because they have vast storehouses of information in their libraries and in the minds of their faculties --- knowledge that students and their families pay very large amounts of money and time to obtain. During the past two generations, however, American schools and universities have largely abandoned objectivity in the filtering and condensing of information presented to their students. Except in the sciences (and not even there in fields heavily financed by politically derived tax money), most educational institutions have become propaganda machines with little remaining regard for truth and objectivity.
Money, prestige, and power flow to those who control the minds of human beings. Our traditional information gathering, storage, and dissemination institutions have gradually become occupied by people who are primarily interested in mind control and have little regard for the truth. These institutions are, themselves, the primary sources of misinformation in our society. They have prospered and have become powerful and fat because they have held monopolies on the supplies of primary information --- and can, therefore, bend and hide the truth to serve their own self-interests.
The Telecosm* is now in the process of breaking the monopolies of our principal sources of misinformation. Recognizing this threat and also the power of the new electronic means of communication, the propagandists are engaged in extensive efforts to flood the Internet with their offerings. So, as bandwidth increases, so does the amount of misinformation.
There is, however, an important difference --- the truth is also available. Whereas before the Telecosm, propagandists with information monopolies could stand between the people and the primary information, now they can only place their propaganda in the bandwidth --- beside the primary information itself. In effect, with transmission costs dropping toward zero, truth and falsehood now stand in direct competition with one another --- everyone will have very low cost access to an essentially unlimited quantity of both.
Hundreds of millions of people will have the means to carry out their own interpretations and differentiations --- and to inexpensively disseminate their conclusions and source information to each other.
I am convinced that, in this new circumstance, truth will be the winner and misinformation the loser.
About 2,000 years ago Paul wrote: "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.'' [Philippians 4-8] This was more than just good advice. Paul was certain to win with this exhortation, because the things which he was advocating are naturally ascendant in the human spirit. That which is true, honest, just, pure, and virtuous is naturally valued by human beings, while that which is the opposite is not. In almost all circumstances, even those who promote falsehood, dishonesty, and injustice must pretend that they advocate truth, honesty, and justice --- because the opposites are fundamentally alien and repulsive to human nature.
Where true information and misinformation stand in direct competition with one another in the presence of hundreds of millions of human beings with equal and easy access to both, true information will triumph most of the time. In view of the great volume of information, there will be an expanding demand for those who distill and interpret information --- but the free market will weed out those who provide misinformation. They will no longer be able to hide behind monopolies on the primary information sources and repositories.
For the first time in human history, most human beings will have unlimited access to the truth --- to information that is true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and worthy of praise. We may depend upon the natural proclivities for these things in the human spirit to filter truths from their opposites.
There are those who will say that this optimistic view is unwarranted --- that human beings are too easy to fool --- that those with power and money will remain in control of the public mind. These pessimists underestimate, however, the fact that propagandists depend upon their versions of the facts having a free ride. They depend upon the truth being unavailable. They also depend upon those who do see the truth being unable to communicate their analyses widely with others. The Internet destroys these shields of misinformation.
We are now in the midst of a transition to truth. Already the effects can be felt. The misinformationists won the battles over nuclear power, DDT, and CFCs. They won with lies. Now, however, they are in danger of losing the battle over "global warming'' and even in danger of having some of their earlier victories reversed. Why? The Telecosm --- which is still in its infancy.
Computer technology can never replace the human mind and spirit. It can, however, free human civilization from the chains of false information. There are reasons to be optimistic about the future. The death of the information monopolies is one of those reasons.
* At the Telecosm Conference September 15-17, 1998, George Gilder presented one session in which Rich Karlgaard, Timothy C. Forbes, Michael Medved, Thomas Sowell, and Arthur B. Robinson discussed the subject "Misinformation in an Information Age." In another session, Internet technologists spoke about emerging technologies that are expected to soon expand communication bandwidth so much that the entire Library of Congress will (after it is scanned) be transmittable in about 5 seconds.
Dr. Robinson is editor of Access to Energy and president of the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, 2251 Dick George Road, Cave Junction OR 97523, (541) 592-4142, web site http://www.accesstoenergy.com.
The original version of this article appeared in Access to Energy, September 1998. It is reprinted here because the information is so momentous that in the view of the editor, it warrants the attention of the readers of the Medical Sentinel. It is reprinted with the permission of Dr. Robinson.---Ed.
Originally published in the Medical Sentinel 1999;4(3):109-110 Copyright
©1999 Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS).