Making truth an important quality

Published 8:00 pm Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Can you believe this decade is coming to an end already? This has really been a decade of technology. 

Apps, memes, hashtags, pod casts and the ubiquitous smart phone. Electric cars, streaming entertainment, Uber, online shopping and virtual reality. When Apple opened the App store in 2008 (back when all serious smart phone users had a Blackberry) it offered 500 programs for sale; today you can choose from 2.2 million apps. 

Each year ,we adjust easily to our electronic devices replacing cameras, travel agents, stores, books, desk top computers, weather forecasters, board games, calculators, stereos, letters, and, slowly but surely, newspapers. 

Multiple studies claim that as the decade progressed, the number of people who received news from social media surpassed those that obtained it mostly from  print. 

It feels to me that one of the casualties of technology advancement is a diminished under standing of the truth. This isn’t to say that all electronic information is false, but rather, that there is no clear methodology to differentiate truth from fiction. In the old paradigm, a fundamental requirement of any reputable newspaper or magazine was that what it reported was factually correct, as far as humanly possible. 

And if one publication did get something wrong, a competitor would quickly point it out, because the truth was considered valuable to the public. Today any truth can be contradicted on the internet without negative repercussion, and phrases like “alternative facts” are spoken with a straight face. There are simply no controls in place to encourage factual integrity in a world where information – true or false – routinely goes “viral”. On the eve of 2020, I can create a blog on the internet, detailing my successes in breeding pink colored cows that dispense straw berry milk. 

That information would be just as available and just as apparently legitimate as anything posted on line by the New York Times or the Washington Post. 

I will not be penalized legally or socially for my enthusiastic, but fictitious account of rosy bovines that are milkshake ready. 

In fact, if enough people read my silliness, I can actually get wealthy from advertising on the site. Before long, Wall Street would probably add strawberry milk futures to the commodities market. I don’t blame this on technology; I blame it on a constantly increasing tolerance for lying. 

It is hard for us to instill in our children an abhorrence of lying when they have grown up with everyone from the leaders of our nation to common criminals telling bald face lies on television. (“I knew nothing about the Water gate break in.” “Read my lips. No new taxes.” “I did not have sex with that woman.”) 

Without honesty there cannot be trust, and without trust there cannot be cooperation. 

Global warming, gun violence, racial inequality, income disparity – this country has issues and we can’t even discuss them intelligently  because we won’t agree to make truth an important priority.

 I hope when I am writing about the eve of  2030, I describe it as the decade when we figured out how to take back the truth.