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Clive Thompson on How More Info leads to Less Knowledge

A more apt title would be “How more Info leads to more Disinformation”, but the article taught me about agnotology. It’s a term coined by Robert Proctor, a historian of science at Stanford, to describe the theory that the more information there is about a subject, the more ignorance there is about it. This problem, which is really a misinformation problem, is happening right now with subjects like global warming, evolution, and Obama’s faith. From the Wired article:

As Proctor argues, when society doesn’t know something, it’s often because special interests work hard to create confusion. Anti-Obama groups likely spent millions insisting he’s a Muslim; church groups have shelled out even more pushing creationism. The oil and auto industries carefully seed doubt about the causes of global warming. And when the dust settles, society knows less than it did before.

“People always assume that if someone doesn’t know something, it’s because they haven’t paid attention or haven’t yet figured it out,” Proctor says. “But ignorance also comes from people literally suppressing truth—or drowning it out—or trying to make it so confusing that people stop caring about what’s true and what’s not.”

There will probably always be disinformation, but we have more tools than ever to combat it. With the exception to “third world countries”, being ignorant is completely your fault.

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