Thoughts in time of Corona (or Please feed me facts)
Self-isolation enables us to read and be exposed to information that is out there more than before. Actually, can we call it information? The official meaning of the word ‘information’ is “facts provided or learned about something or someone”, hence things that can be confined to empirical claims, but in this case, the world out there is just a mess…
When opening different newspapers from various countries every morning, it is hard to find any consistency between articles written about like matters. Sometimes they simply contradict each other; and between fake news and conspiracy theories, the world seems to have gone mad and it is taking me down with it (do you share this feeling?)
Let’s play a fast Corona bingo game -
Mark if you heard/read any of the sayings below
Get a full row?
I am not accusing people of spreading disinformation intentionally or in bad faith, however, spreading incorrect misinformation innocently is almost as bad.
How can we trust the information we are fed in an era where everyone can put their thoughts out there (see this short humble essay making its way to the great world wide web...), when context is dropped just to try and make a point? As Peter Ellerton (https://theconversation.com) stated succinctly: “Knowledge is being seen less as a means of understanding the world and more as an encumbrance that can be pushed aside if it stands in the way of wishful thinking.”
“History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.” Winston Churchill
In our professional lives, we feel it is important to make data-driven decisions to make sure we steer the company (or our family or just life in general) in the right direction. To do that, we collect as much data as possible. In this process we try to avoid other people's interpretations as the answer one wants to find can affect one’s analysis. Furthermore, when analysing data, one needs to apply logic, and logic is influenced by emotions and opinions, it is not purely fact driven. When relying on raw data we try to avoid a subjective filter applied by others (though we cannot avoid our own…).
“If you torture the data long enough it will confess to anything.” Ronald H. Coase
So when we look for new information, we should try and strive for the following in order to reach our own truth:
Have a source you can count on; stick to sources that provide balanced information; present different point of views
Practice vigilance - Challenge ourselves to read between the lines
Try to separate information from opinions. Exchanging ideas and exposing ourselves to other people's views is important to our own thinking process (and it is extremely interesting) but shouldn't we form an opinion based upon objective information before we expose ourselves to other people's interpretations?
Cross check. Two sources are more reliable than one
Ask ourselves, why is this person writing about these things - is there a hidden motive?
And you know what? On a personal note, sometimes I just want to read the comics, see which celebrity was caught without a mask or just in general, avoid my natural skepticism and let my guard down - take it all with a grain of salt and a tentative smile. After all, I just read that the Corona virus will kill us all before 2021…