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How Do I know That This Is True?

Sina Odugbemi's picture

For those who are in despair over the future of journalism and other forms of information intermediation in the new digital age, it is worth reading what Eric Schmidt,  the Chairman and CEO of Google , said to Fareed Zakaria  of CNN  on November 29, 2009:

"ZAKARIA: When you look forward, do you think -- when you look forward, what are the great moral issues that you think we will face with all this information, all this access? What should we be thinking about in terms of the conflicts, the tradeoffs?

SCHMIDT: We're in a situation where we're going from a model where everything you saw was true and was highly metered -- that is, highly controlled -- to an explosion of information where not everything you see is true. And it's very difficult for humans to sort out what's true and what's false.

This will be the bane of politicians. It will be the bane of people like yourself, people everywhere. How do I know that this is true?

And the problem gets worse with real-time information and the fact that people are willing to say things that aren't true, and so forth and so on.

So, moving to a world where everyone has a voice also means that we've lost the people in the middle, the people who were judging it for us. They were saying, well, that guy's a crank, and that guy's legitimate.

And it's going to be important for people to recognize that, just because you see it on television doesn't make it true. Just because you don't see it on television doesn't make it false. And people will learn to be a little bit more suspicious, which is a good thing.

I also believe that one of the things that happens when you get all of this information is you have faster bubbles, faster booms. It's not flat. In fact, it's more up and down. You're famous more quickly, and you're less -- and you also lose your fame more quickly.

And I also believe that, as a result of all of this volatility, it gives people headaches. Literally, it changes so fast, it's very difficult to really know everything anymore. And that's a loss of comfort.

On the other hand, it means that you can truly be a global citizen, which I know you aspire to. You really can get a sense of what's going on, everyone in the world, which is very exciting."

I think information intermediaries will be needed, even more so. And I suspect that the big winners will be the on-line versions of older media. In a world of information superabundance most of which you cannot trust, why not go to the on-line pages of the BBC or the New York Times  or such other respected sources in your own context? And so-called traditional media organizations are adapting fast to the new world. So long as they keep adapting I believe they will win more and more trust in the new era.

Photo Credit: Flickr user MyEyeSees