PRB Articles


Information Junkies

The constant availability of seemingly accurate information on the Internet is starting to change the world in more ways than we can readily understand.

We know exactly how far away something is, exactly who was where and when, how that person got there, and when he or she left. We know the occurrence of events to the second, calories in each bite, and weights to the milligram.

We are nearly perfect now.

But a dilemma emerges. The human animal that uses all these precise data is not made to be so perfect. In fact, we are known to be individually and collectively flawed.

More than that, we are known to lie, stretch the truth, and bend the circumstances of a story to soften the impact of a poor decision or improper conduct.

However, every time someone tries to manipulate one of these stories, someone comes up with a Jack Bauer video of the event and proves the disclaiming perpetrator dead wrong.

Get The Cameras Rolling

To combat this dilemma, people are claiming “total transparency” lest we decide they are hiding something (see also Penn State, Herman Cain, et al.). But I’ve seen this backfire as well.

The person doing the filming winds up saying, “OK, if this film I shot is not so incriminating, why are you worried about it being ‘out there?’”

At the first sign of resistance from the accused, the photographer gets paid, and we have a story with varying degrees of accuracy and, moreover, interpretation. See, even facts need context.

Whether the news is college football scandals, celebrity divorces, or governmental secrets, it seems everything that happens anymore is inexplicably revealed electronically.

How are people supposed to be known for their confidentiality when they Tweet every little move they make and then seek permission from the rest of the world as to whether they are doing the right thing?

For God’s sake, Ashton Kutcher was practically begging for amnesty when he and Demi Moore decided to divorce. He Tweeted his head off and then asked for “a little privacy.” Geez, Demi, how will you live without this cool, so-together wizard? Maybe get a dog.

Facts Or Fallacies

These instant data have also brought about a type of “arrogance” among today’s youth. Since they can navigate the system with such dexterity while you and I are trying to get the rules straight for a quick game of “Pong,” they believe they have the right to mock their elders.

When I tell stories from the past to my son, he smiles with a tolerant grin. Seconds later, I hear his fingers flying over the keyboard, and then he typically walks back into the room quizzing parts of my story.

“I thought you said your team played in the biggest storm of the century?"

I glance up, pausing slightly, “That’s right."

“Well,” he says with the same tone Alex Trebek uses when “Jeopardy!” contestants state the wrong answer, “it says here the biggest storms that year were nowhere near that date. In fact, the biggest was actually three months earlier.”

“Go to bed, Sam.”

When this new technology is storming my formerly safe-walled world, I remember the Rodney King incident. The technology was cutting-edge back then, but it seems archaic now. A piece of film showing a man being beaten illustrated an unimaginable amount of cruelty.

Then sound was added, and it was clear that despite constant warnings from the police, the man would not stay down as instructed, and the emotional tidal wave rocked the boat of public opinion. By the time of the trial and the victim begging, “Can’t we all just get along?” riots had broken out with rampant looting and violence.

As I recall, the incident was described as a racial issue, but perhaps the data provided by the grainy film and muffled audio had confused what was accurate and inaccurate. We were left to decide for ourselves what we were seeing--“over-the-top” cops or an alleged drug-induced perpetrator refusing to cooperate. Opinions were hostilely diverse, and the result was chaos.

In those days there were no next-day websites to hash out the details, no grand dictator of truth galloping in on a horse, no Yahoo! “minute summation,” and, left to our own resources, we floundered like fish out of water.

See, we all claim to want all this accurate data, but we have no idea what to do with the information.

Quantity Overpowers Quality

So, if the new world order is based on so much accurate data, why does it feel like the chaos is just building in an awesome powder keg and will one day become another riotous explosion?

Do you want to know why? Because we’re not asking for the bar of quality to be set higher; instead, we’re just absorbing it all as we stare at the magazine covers while waiting in the grocery line.

That’s why celebrities like the easy-to-figure Kardashians are so fascinating. These spoiled brats live like inconsiderate princesses, but the public can’t get enough.

Do you remember when it was discovered Paris Hilton had made a pornographic tape? She was all the rage for a few months but then just disappeared into irrelevance. In the history of celebrity, that tape proves only that money and power do nothing to make a quality person.

Instead of learning that lesson, many people will just try to determine if the tape was shot before or after her breast implants.

Putting It All Out There

The power to discern the good from the bad is in our own hands--it always has been. We decide whether to supply the World Wide Web with all of our bio information we can muster accompanied with pictures for social networks like Facebook. We can decide to exchange personal data and secrets online, trusting that only friends will see this information.

In my mind, the tekkies have only begun to understand what they can do with all of the accurate information people supply. The more info provided, the more accurate their profile is; however, we are powerless to control how it is used by others.

Let the Internet provide all the accuracy people may seek. Its dissemination should be an individual’s call.

Ron Ciancutti is the Purchasing Manager for Cleveland Metroparks. He is not on Facebook, but he can be reached at rdc@clevelandmetroparks.com.

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