The Internet: We have become so familiar with and dependent upon it that sometimes we forget what it is. It is an endless library of information that is right at our finger tips. Information is no longer sequestered and stored in brick buildings, hidden among shelves, or accessible to only a privileged few. Yes, the internet brought forth freedom of information and companies like Google have made it even easier to navigate its endless halls. While it has become an impeccable resource in our daily lives, I have an issue with some of this fantastic library’s contributors. Information isn’t checked for accuracy anymore. Anyone can contribute their thoughts and findings without check and without any responsibility for the truth. Misinformation and misinterpretations are capable of spreading like a virus infecting the minds of many. The result of this is an ignorant population making decisions based on fabrications. Incorrect thoughts lead to incorrect actions wherein lays our problem. A tool that was meant to educate has been corrupted and the implications of that could be terrifying. Modern Media, oozing with opinions, is the rife with lowest form of knowledge as opinions require neither understanding nor accountability as Bill Bullard once wisely noted.
I witness this phenomenon daily regarding the field of environmental science and resource management. It is an incredibly popular topic for the population and there are many fallacies all stemming from the inability to distinguish good data from bad data and, being unable to correctly interpret and apply good data when they do find it. Knowing how to understand information presented to you is a very special skill that must be developed though continuous effort. It is vital to consider your data’s meta data – the data about the data. Where did it come from? What are it’s weaknesses? Is it reliable? Am I familiar with the context of what it is describing? Attaining a higher education usually results (hopefully) in the development of that skill however, it should be applied to the fields of study to which a person has some background or experience in. I don’t believe anyone would consult a math teacher about a tumor or foot fungus (no offense to math teachers, you guys are awesome!), so why should we consult anyone but subject matter expert on any other subject matter? The internet provides an incredible means of communicating and contacting these individuals yet we prefer to find the quick answer from the guy on his computer down the street. The internet has provided a massive audience for the vocal non-subject matter experts incapable of providing quality information. I find this quite disheartening. I have so much love for all libraries housing information, stories and, lessons. I believe the written word, in all languages, is the most amazing development humans have ever made. The passing of information from one person to another and all over the world, across generations is something no other species has accomplished. The internet is just one big worldwide library and it is being polluted with destructive thoughts and ideas. A polluted library is like a polluted river – the poison just travels and spreads infecting far more that it ever could have without a vessel to transport it. So please think critically about the information you come across. If everyone started doing this we could stop the spread of this poison.