A Wonderland of Disposable Facts

Studies in Ethics, Law, and Technology 3 (1) (2009)
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Abstract

Living in an economically developed country means being blessed and burdened with unprecedented access to information. We struggle to absorb and evaluate a cacophonic flow of information and are largely overwhelmed. Because that flow is unlikely to ebb, we are challenged to devise strategies to differentiate and manage the information. Yet we do not have the reliably stable world views that guided our ancestors and have not forged successor views that provide reliable criteria by which to evaluate the information thrust upon us.This paper's statement of the difficulties of evaluating information in the modern world is not an argument against facts. Nor is it a derivative argument against technology that is implicated in a casual explanation for the rapid turnover of facts. It is instead a caution about the difficulties of securing a firm grasp on the relevant facts when new facts, reduced to bloodless data points, steadily press upon us and facts, new and old, are routinely spun to promote an agenda.A noteworthy consideration in the devising of strategies to cope with this unsteady wonderland of facts is the recognition that the rapid evolution of technologies may predispose us to discard information before it is appropriately evaluated. Immersion in a technology-rich culture may inculcate habits that dull our evaluative capacities and mechanically displace information that has not been recently applied without regard to the quality of the information. We need to structure our mental filters and cultural dispositions to accommodate the volume and manipulation of facts in order to assure that the timeless facts are not expunged by neglect or disuse

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