In this so-called golden age of information – which we often define as the ability to obtain information at a rate and volume never before possible – I find that I have an increasingly difficult time accepting or trusting that information, in nearly perfect inverse proportion to the rate at which I am exposed to information.
Maybe I just don’t do a good job of curating the information or content that I’m exposed to (which, all things considered, I would say I go to a relatively great length to do), or maybe given my background in science and engineering, I’ve just been trained to be more skeptical than most, but I find I wear a heavy burden of distrust in a large majority of information that’s out there.
This comes up in nearly all contexts of my personal life, but in particular my current situation. I’m going to be a dad soon, and part of the preparation for parenthood is the educational aspect; I want to be informed, prepared, and I want my wife and my family members to be informed and prepared to some degree, but a lot of the sources of information that people use to prepare themselves for parenthood just really don’t seem trustworthy to me at all.
Aside from reading scientifically-driven books on parenting (which, in my head, often seem like a strong gearing towards an optimization problem with an impossible number of variables), there seems to be an over-abundance of guidance based on tribal knowledge mixed with the infinite supply of marketing materials. I honestly cannot bring myself to trust anything that’s remotely advertising-like; in fact, anything that APPEARS ad-like, I’m immediately averse to it, maybe even more so than I should be: marketing is often a positive spin (how much spin? who knows.) on something that is at least a little bit true, somewhere down there, right?
The industries that exist around major life-events tend to have quite inflated costs directly tied to the gravity of the situation: weddings, funerals, births. It also feels like they have an opportunity to upsell based on pseudoscience/nonsense for the sake of increasing their margins. We’ve been grappling with: is it better to buy organic cotton clothing for our baby? It comes at a significant markup, but of course it’s better for the baby, and how could you consider not buying the best for your baby? Wouldn’t that make you a shitty parent? Maybe I’m projecting, but is there really any evidence that this is better for your baby warranting the excess cost? If there is, I’m certainly not getting it.
Somehow this leads me to even bigger existential questions about the direction our society is going. Giving people the power to disseminate information the way we have (and continue to progress towards) seems like the negatives can be as large, if not larger, than some of the positives. On average, are people good or bad? We’ll always have the major outliers one way or another, but will people’s ability to share information ultimately cause positive change or negative change? Is it just net-neutral overall? Is it someone’s job to moderate it in a positive direction? Who defines what’s positive? So many questions, so few answers.