One of the unexpected consequences of the information age is that we have less reliable information, despite have vastly more data. We have facts about the world now that were unimaginable a generation ago. The facts of our society are stashed in massive searchable databases that are accessible to most everyone. You may need some skill to access them, but the data is there. Even data that should be private is available if you are willing to pay for it.
In contrast, the information about our world that we can trust has collapsed into the set of things we can verify on our own. Information is not the same as data, which is a collection of facts. How many miles you drive to work every day is a fact. Information is what we can derive from those facts. If your commute takes an hour and it is 50 miles, we can conclude that you mostly use the highway to get to work, based on some simple math using those two data points.
In theory, information should be value free, as it is facts plus testable logic, with the result being subject to comparisons with the reality. If the information you derive from someone’s driving data indicates he is breaking the speed of sound on his way to work, we know your facts or logic are wrong. The trouble here is that information is not readily testable against reality. We tend to rely on the reputation of the person providing the information and how it fits within our own observations.
That’s the other important distinction between data and information, at least regarding the way in which these words are used in popular discourse. While they are often used interchangeably, data is an objectively true fact, while information is true according to a set of logical rules. Since those rules can be conditional, information can be valid and invalid, depending upon those conditions. “All bachelors are unmarried” is true as long as the word “bachelor” is defined to mean “a man who has not married.”
This may seem a bit esoteric, but it gets to the heart of the crisis in the West. For most of human history and all of Western history, the relationship between data and information was different than we see today. For medieval man, there was never a lot of data about the world, but he could trust the information about it. This was not just the natural world. He could trust the truths about his society, his gods, the people in charge of his society and the sources of his information.
In the modern age, and really just in the last generation, this relationship has flipped around the other way. We have all the data we need for any question. We know more about world than we really want or need to know. What we lack is information and more important, trustworthy sources of information. Medieval man could rely on the Church or the local lord to maintain the rules of society. The only thing modern man can know about his sources of information is they are wrong.
Modern man is now awash in both misinformation and disinformation, in addition to false information. Misinformation is deliberately inaccurate information, which is intended to deceive. Disinformation is deliberately inaccurate information, but from an institution like the state or the media. Of course, false information is information that is inaccurate due to bad data or logic. Compounding this is the current campaign against misinformation and disinformation.
The first thing you should notice is the people most responsible for the tsunami of disinformation are claiming to be at war with disinformation. Unless this results in mass suicide by media and entertainment, it means they are lying. Note also the use of the term “expert” in that piece. There is no such thing as a disinformation expert, outside of the institutions promulgating disinformation. One cannot be an expert at doing something unless you are actually doing that thing.
Note also how the primary sources of both misinformation and disinformation talk about this phenomenon as if they are the victims of it. The managerial class is the single source for the flood of false information. Pranksters may post gags on line to fool people, but the practical joke has been a part of life since the stone age. The online version is just an extension of the flaming bag of dog poo. What the managerial class is doing is a firehose of falsehoods with the stamp of authority.
Put another way, the new phase of the misinformation/disinformation tsunami is the managerial state crying out in pain as it strikes the society over which it rules. The next front in the crisis will be agents of the state arresting people on trumped up charges, for imaginary crimes against the state. This is the Douglas Mackey case. An entirely powerless person is arrested for a crime that does not exist, because the disinformation system says he was passing misinformation on-line.
Since the first humans began to settle into large communities, human organization has relied upon social trust, enforced by a code. Social trust worked in two directions, vertically and horizontally. People could trust their neighbors because they were like them and accepted the same codes of conduct. People trusted their rulers because those rulers enforced the code and attained their positions based on the logic in that code of society. Trust was side-to-side and up-and-down.
Modern economics is turning the horizontal trust of American society into cash equivalents and hauling it away to the pirate coves of finance capital. Americans are living in a world of strangers. The disinformation campaigns intended to distract from this realty are eating away at the vertical trust. Americans no longer trust the people in charge of their society. That distrust is quickly morphing into a distrust of and contempt for the system itself.
Smart people look at the economic model of America and wonder how it can keep going on as it is. The fact that it does go on suggests it can keep going on, but it seems to be violating the rules of the universe. The same can be said for the collapse of social trust and the growing contempt for the system. How long can the people in charge expect to remain in charge when the people over whom they rule are increasingly convinced the rulers and their system are evil and corrupt?
Perhaps that is the final trick of financialization. The first trick was to subvert the basic rules of exchange between people. All of those rules we learned from economics no longer make any sense. The final trick is to subvert the rules of logic themselves, making it so no one can believe or trust anything or anyone. The disinformation age is the final part of the modern prison. Everyone is alone, no one can trust anything, even the laws of the universe. You just have to do what you are told.
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