You Can Google Yourself Into Staying Current. You Cannot Google Yourself Into Expertise.
The Internet is such a fucked up thing, a true paradox. It is the largest repository of information on the planet. You would think this a good thing…yet the people who use it seem to be getting dumber.
Let’s talk a little bit about people who think that when they look for information on the Internet, they are performing “research”.
You know these people. They are legion. They are all around you, believing some of the most insane shit you can dream up. Not knowing much about how the real world works, they construct fantasy worlds based on ignorant, paranoid biases they have. They have consumed so much information confirming them, that they actually see themselves as authorities on a matter. And they’re not, because they aren’t trained to be one. Yet every fucking person these days always has something to say about everything. It’s tiring. I’m sorry, but rare is the true polymath.
Let’s be clear: Experts are the only people who should be conducting any sort of “research”. And many of them constrain their expertise to one subject, as any knowledge base can be ridiculously complicated and is in constant evolution.
Most of us drones can read a book and maybe really digest a fourth of it. Even less will be able to spit out the contents of what they read to a fellow human. Shit, sometimes I can’t say anything about a TV show I just watched. Hardly any of us commoners are doing any structured “learning”. The best of us can merely familiarize ourselves with a subject. So it is with the Internet. We can read all we like and still not know a whole lot. But then we get super offended when all of our “research” gets questioned.
That’s not the way to wisdom. Having your beliefs challenged is really the only way to actually “learn”. In other words, looking for what might be wrong about what you think you know is the key to possibly knowing anything at all. That requires a bit of humility most people do not possess, though, especially if you are dealing with someone who thinks that just because they have access to the biggest journal/encyclopedia in existence it makes them somehow learned.
I have a bachelor’s degree in sociology. The theory is painful to comb through, and that is a lot of what you have to get through to make it past your sophomore year. A favorite professor of mine gave up the goods on why we needed to dig up fossils like Emile Durkheim. “It’s really just to torture you the way we were tortured.” I believed her. You also get introduced to the world of statistics, which I actually found fun. Some of my fellow classmates were fucking insufferable, though; like I had this one class in stats where the textbook was filled end to end with studies. Now, this book’s purpose, from what I could tell was to help us learn how studies are structured, to immerse us in the world of what we can learn from surveys and data. Yet for some reason, the class devolved into “how can we pick apart this study and declare it invalid?” Students got hung up on dumb shit like sample size. If it was deemed not high enough (it was always an arbitrary number that varied from student to student), it was a bad study. That’s not how this works, though. You can sample or plot 20 points and get a mean that suggests a correlation in one direction or another. Yes, you can sample 40 and be more accurate, but it’s really the difference between say, 90% certainty and 95%. There’s tests you can perform that give you confidence values. What I’m getting at is that the picture is the same, it’s just slightly blurrier when you work with less data.
Anyway, four years is what I survived. Did that mean I was well-educated? Was I a sociologist, or one in training? Looking back, I’d have to say no. Nowadays, bachelor degrees are not held in high esteem by employers. Everyone wants the grinders who stick with shit for eight to twelve years. I wasn’t able to do that for several reasons, but one was that I don’t think I could have bullshitted my way through graduate level work. I didn’t want to anyway. Sociology could be fun and fascinating, but I was never destined to be an expert in it.
I’m getting a little sidetracked, but the point was is that real education takes place in educational institutions, and real expertise gets conducted by experts. Reading the Internet for the average schmo should be like reading the morning paper-oh, here’s some interesting news, hey that’s a cool subject, hm, I didn’t know that, let me find out more, wow, they did what? Basically, keep the fuck up. Be active when it is necessary. That is your civic responsibility, nothing more. Now it’s a little rough out there, because major media gatekeeps for or is outright owned or manipulated by the moneyed and the powerful. But there’s a lot of people doing journalism for journalism’s sake. Good stories and portals are out there, and real journalists have been telling inconvenient truths. Did what you read make you mad? Excellent. Did it change your mind? Awesome. Did it add perspective to something you are interested in? I’m all for it.
This “research” epidemic, however, is for fools. It’s just ducky to Google or Wikipedia a subject you just encountered, I encourage that behavior. What is not sensible is consuming a lot of information/bullshit on a topic you aren’t an expert in. You can easily be misinformed, for one thing, if you don’t know how to check your sources. That is something that typically an expert would know how to do. And confirmation bias, as far as I can tell, is habitual in this fucking species. Starting with a conclusion is absurdly common. I think X is happening, and since I have a giant library at my fingertips, there’s a good chance I can definitely find evidence for X being true. Even science itself is guilty of this.
I dunno. Maybe some people are just raised berserk, and it’s best to leave them be if we are creatures of mercy. But I grow weary of it. For me, everything I “know” is in a state of flux. Does that bother me? Honestly, no, it doesn’t. There are things about this objective reality we will never figure out. (Then again, I haven’t tried DMT). It’s cool, that’s what it means to live, especially as a human. Uncertainty is part of the package of survival. “Research” and “figuring things out” isn’t going to make me feel existentially better.
They say everyone needs something to believe in. Maybe. And I suppose in our virtual world of connectivity, that’s easier than ever to find. In that sense, the Internet peddles millions of faiths. We want so badly to be special, we want to know we are part of the Correct, that we are In. Maybe in our atomized society this is all we can do anymore to remain cohesive, share our ridiculous faiths through an invisible ether. I’m out of answers.
Perhaps know yourself first before you go knowing anything else. I think some wise weirdo advised this a long, long time ago. I think he was killed for giving it to people.