If you look back a mere decade or so it is shocking how much information someone has if they have access to the Internet. Back in the late 90s the Internet was booming however it lacked real authoritative resources that people could draw on to do at least basic research. Today much of that is has changed with the advent of real resources like Google Scholar, arXiv and PubMed Central who bring real research with verifiable results to the wider world. Additionally non-authoritative sources like Wikipedia which make use of these journals provide a good baseline from which to pursue further knowledge from.
It is then interesting to note how people’s behaviour changes slightly when you add that amount of easy information into their lives via constant access to the Internet, usually via their phone. No longer are those slightly boozy conversations down at the pub which inevitably turn to debate left to stew until someone finds a book to prove their point it is now extremely common for someone to look up the fact on the Internet and have it be done with. I must admit I’m usually the one doing this as I always want to know the facts rather than the hearsay from my friends. Not to say that I don’t trust them, it’s just that sceptic in me that needs to know.
It’s also a right of passage for many people on the Internet to be able to judge what’s probably truthful and what’s not. Anyone who has used email in a corporate environment will have more then likely encountered 2 types of people who are born out of this information overload that the Internet provides. The first is what I call the Forward Junkie, someone who blindly forwards those joke/picture/movie/story emails to everyone in the office. Try as you might to stop them they’ll continue to do it until usually they hit on the second type of person, who I call the Casual Sceptic. Whilst they’re not the kind of person to spout reams of scientific knowledge should you dare claim something you can’t back up they will casually link you to either Wikipedia or Snopes to prove their point. It’s at that point that neither of them say anything about the matter again, and office life continues as it was.
To think that the Internet has brought about this kind of mindset in a few people is an amazing thing to behold. When the barrier to entry on information is so low many people take it upon themselves to not only educate themselves but also verify information given to them. As it is one of my ultimate goals to inspire people to think about a topic and do their own research about it (since of course I’m just a loon posting on his blog) every casual sceptic that I meet always brings me a little joy. I love it when technology is used in this way.
Maybe I’m just a ravenous sceptic in disguise….. 😉