I hear a lot of people lament the enormous quantity of questionably researched, grossly speculative and patently false information posted on the internet, as though “quality of information” were the primary obstacle to making “smart decisions.” If you ask me, people don’t make bad decisions because they lack information. People make bad decisions because they lack courage and imagination. The blather they see on the internet distracts them from this fundamental truth, and that’s why they spend so much time looking at useless information on line.
I’m not saying that the internet is a terrible thing. The internet is a terrible thing, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about information, now. Long before we had the internet, we had information. The problem with information, is that it is always, “in formation.” The truth never appears “in formation.” There’s always more to the truth than can fit “in formation.” Besides that, information only appears “in formation” because it has an agenda. Reality doesn’t become information without the intentional efforts of someone with at least a point of view, if not a scheme, and information always conceals at least as much as it reveals.
The problems of information becomes compounded on the internet, because, with the internet, we increasingly replace reality with information, and increasingly, information becomes our most familiar environment. None of what you see on the internet is real or true. At best, what you see on the internet reflects reality, but not without distortion, and the distortion generally reflects the dominant misconceptions of our times. In other words, the internet reflects a view of the world, not as it is, but as the least imaginative among us, imagine it to be.
Personally, I don’t think we have a problem with good information vs bad information, I think we have entirely too much information, and we make dumber and dumber decisions all the time. In this avalanche of information, collectively, we are losing our grip on reality. Nothing makes sense anymore. You can’t trust anything you read, and everything is more complicated, and way weirder, than you can imagine. That’s the truth, but here are a couple of examples.
I bought a pair of shoes online. I had lots of “good” information” about the shoes. I knew how much they sold for in six other stores. I knew who made them, where they were made, and what they were made from. All of this information came from reliable sources. Most of it was verified by multiple sites. When I placed my order, I knew I had found the right shoe at the right price. Of course, when they arrived, they fit poorly and hurt my feet.
I had plenty of information about the shoes, good reliable information, convincing information, in fact. That is one big problem with information on the internet. Most of the solid, reliable, truthful information that you find on the internet, has no other purpose than to convince you to do something stupid, like buy a pair of shoes without trying them on first. Sometimes the devil is in the details, but sometimes the details just serve to distract you from the stupidity of the whole idea.
We should never forget that the “whole idea” behind the internet was to insure that the people in control of the US strategic nuclear weapons arsenal, and the rest of the US military, can send and receive coded commands from anywhere in the world, via a ridiculously redundant, high-speed computer network, mostly paid-for by the private sector. If that’s why we have the internet in the first place, how good can any of the information on it really be?
On the other hand, before you knock the wacko, tinfoil hat wearing, conspiracy theorists you find online, consider this:
At the moment, I’m building a modular analog synthesizer, from scratch, at home, in my spare time. If you’ve never heard of such a thing, a modular analog synthesizer is a kind of electronic musical instrument. The original Moog synthesizer was a modular analog synthesizer.
In essence, a modular analog synthesizer is a collection of electronic circuits that either produce an audio signal, or change an audio signal in some way, all mounted in a box so that you can easily configure them any way you like.
There are thousands of different circuits that produce or change an audio signal. The process of building a modular analog synthesizer involves building a collection of these circuits that will work together to create the palette of sounds that you want to hear. To build the circuit, it helps to have a schematic.
This is exactly the kind of project where the internet can be enormously helpful. I found thousands of schematics online. However, one of the circuits I want in my synthesizer is a white noise generator. White noise sounds like the wind when it’s filtered properly. It also adds breathiness to flute-like sounds and can even replace a snare drum hit when it’s gated right. I found about a dozen schematics for white noise generators online.
Several of these schematics came from very reliable sources, including colleges and universities. Apparently a lot of students have been assigned the task of building a white noise generator, which they use later in the semester as a piece of test equipment. Unfortunately, none of the white noise schematics I downloaded from these prestigious sources, worked, when I built them on a breadboard.
These were not complicated circuits. I know I had them wired exactly as shown on the schematic. I tried five different noise circuits, five different ways, and I could not get one of them to make a speaker go “Hisssssss.” like it was supposed to. Frustrated, I went back to the internet to look for some more schematics, and I found this one.
This is the only white noise circuit I’ve seen that uses an LM386 audio amplifier chip. That caught my attention because I’m familiar with the LM386, and just happened to have one lying around. I used one as the on-board amplifier on my “record-breaking guitar,” and lots of electronic toys use them because they are loud little amplifiers for their size.
The LM386 is a little noisy for a lot of musical applications, but for this particular one, noise is what we’re after, so I built it on the breadboard, and it worked. I was thrilled! I tweaked the design a bit to suit my application (mine will be the only white noise generator I’ve seen with “overdrive”). Once I had the noise circuit working the way I like it, I soldered it together on a piece of circuit-board.
I found that schematic by doing a Google “image” search. Google presented me with a page full of schematics, completely removed from the context into which they had been placed. Ecstatic to have finally completed a working noise generator, I became idly curious about why the designer of this circuit showed it connecting to a radio antenna rather than a speaker or an amplifier, so I visited the page where the image originated.
As I read the text on the page I discovered the reason why the designer of this circuit chose to attach a radio antenna to a circuit built for the audio frequency range. He observed that when he attached a loop antenna, instead of a speaker to this device, the white noise generator caused interference on his radio, throughout the AM band. He then reasoned, rightly, I think, that if this audio circuit caused interference to an AM radio signal, it must produce white noise that extends well beyond the audio frequency range, and that the LM386 must be capable of amplifying signals at frequencies far above those of normal human hearing, and well into the radio frequency range, something I did not know.
He installed this device in his home, attached to a large radio antenna, to scramble the Very Low Frequency and Low Frequency radio waves that he believes are being used, against his will, to reprogram his mind.
Apparently, a lot of people believe that radio waves can be used in this way, and that someone, or something, is using radio waves in ways that cause some people a lot of psychic distress. Some of these people line their walls and ceiling with foil, or wear tinfoil hats to block these unwanted signals. This syndrome is so common that it has become a stereotype, even an archetype. Who hasn’t heard of the tinfoil-hat-wearing crackpot?
This man chose a more rational, science-based approach to the problem of unwanted radio-waves than Reynolds Wrap, and instead, designed and built a very clever, original, device from common, easy to find parts. Myself, I’ve never met a radio-wave I didn’t like, and have never experienced the problems these unfortunate people describe, but I can attest to the fact that his machine really works.
If I had read his web page first, I probably would not have built the machine, but because I built his machine first, and it worked, I think he’s a pretty bright guy, and consider him a reliable source for technical information. After all, he solved my problem and taught me a thing or two about electronics in the process. If you, or anyone you know experiences distress caused by Low Frequency or Very Low Frequency radio waves, I recommend you try his device.
So, the next time you find yourself deriding the veracity of information you find on the internet, remember that the truth is stranger than you think, crazy people aren’t necessarily stupid. Then ask yourself what the hell you are doing online.