How to ensure truth wins in the battle of Internet versus Books

How to ensure truth wins in the battle of Internet versus Books


Many of us may not have considered this topic; however in plain sight, there is a battle of truth in play between the Internet and books. The written word of books and literature has a degree of permanence and stability, whereas the words within the world wide web, or Internet, have transience and issues of access. 

We must firstly go back in time to understand how we have arrived at this vital stage in our history, in order to appreciate the reality lurking in our midst, but perhaps not being given the airplay it truly deserves.


Information source truth Elle Smith


Where do we obtain information?


There is no doubt that technology has a great influence on our lives in the modern world. The last few decades have seen tremendous shifts in the way we obtain information. Even in terms of research, we are tending the take easier options to investigate and assimilate our data. Earlier in the nineteenth century, information was collected via written and printed sources, like books, journals, magazines and newspapers. Equally, we utilised word of mouth, for recollection of events and experiences to shape our views. Of course, electronic devices did not exist and only became prevalent in the Twentieth Century.


What happened in the Twentieth Century?

Briefly speaking we had an explosion of technology with television, radio and computers. Information could be transmitted around the globe with ease to an unimaginable audience. Later in the twenty-first century, the Internet explosion occurred where even portable devices like phones and smaller intelligent devices, like iPads and tablets could access megabytes of information on the go, with access to a wide spectrum of topics.


Research for truth Elle Smith


Is the Internet reliable?


 Unlike the written word where there is a system of checks and balances in place, through media standards and access to defamation and other legal torts, the Internet is a relatively 'free' medium. That is, in the sense that anyone can access and write on topics without much, if any research, and without great consequence for what they disseminate to the public.


Clearly, there are some writers and researchers who do provide accurate and current information on the world wide web. However, there are many who produce material for popularity and monetary reasons. 


There are 'other elephants in the room with us', each time we click on our search buttons and these present themselves in differing ways. An example would be that Google may give weighting to one website over another on search. Furthermore, there may be geographic or governmental restrictions on information that we can access. We can equally be the subjects of complex targeting or marketing algorithms, of which we may have no awareness. 


Advertising can be a very powerful and subtle tool. Sometimes just the repeated nature of digital advertising can impact the human brain unwittingly. We often accept that which becomes normal to us, and this is indeed why we observe many traditions and customs. It is with this in mind that the use of targeted advertising can affect our views and opinions, in particular what we perceive as being truth.


Reliability is not just about the source and author, but also concerns relevance and accuracy. Arguably, the Internet can be updated in real-time to reflect the current data. The internet offers information on the latest discoveries and inventions, the latest cars or other products, and contemporary incidents and events around the world; however the converse applies too. Information can be altered perhaps too easily, without visible footprints to the naked eye. Indeed, this action is encouraged by Google in order the receive a boost in terms of search engine optimisation. Whilst Google may encourage this, to ensure frequent updating with the latest information; it may also mean that information is never stagnant. The system with books provides a data and time stamp, which is easily visible with a reprinted version, so accuracy can be assessed.


Use Libraries or lose them!


Historically, libraries were the golden child of information in book format. However, and maybe libraries have been slow to respond to the use of the Internet, and to a degree have contributed to their own decline. The response of libraries was to introduce access to the Internet within libraries; however this was perhaps not a progressive move. 


Libraries must be innovative in their approach as they do indeed have a major part to play in the protection of truth. Books and literature are written words, and are signed off as to their authenticity. Even to Copyright laws requiring the deposit of copies of registered books at major universities, like Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh and Dublin. This provides a physical proof of authenticity.


Truth is a singular concept


This may be a strange assertion to make, however it does carry great relevance when considering  the Internet as opposed to books. We have seen in recent months a new concept of "truth creation", where the media or powerful influencers are able to influence the population with a viewpoint of the truth.


Given the way into which information can quickly trend across social media, a particular viewpoint can instantaneously become accepted as truth. However, when considering truth in the real world, without powerful media to spread information, the truth is clear and it is not opinion, nor is it purely afforded to those with the deepest pockets. It is when we hear many viewpoints of truth, that we must appreciate that "the mice are at play", and we must start our own verification processes.


By coincidence, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the worldwide web, recently wrote an open letter calling for regulation of unethical use of online political advertising. This was in light of the 2016 presidential elections in the United States, and perhaps even before that BREXIT, where we saw incorrect information circulated to promote political gain or bias. We are currently seeing a spread of censorship across the Internet and social media platforms, however can humanity ever police the thoughts of individuals, without influencing the essence of free-thought. Only time will tell as to where this goes, however any suppression of thought is unhealthy to growth and is especially disappointing in times where technology is advancing rapidly.


Books as source of truth by Elle Smith

Is History in Danger?


Well, where do we get our history from?


We usually look to word of mouth, or records of times in books, in the past to appreciate the events that have occurred historically. Even today vast amounts of historical information has already been lost, when our ancestors have passed on. Often true accounts of historical events, like the World Wars are only known due to first hand accounts from people on the ground. 


Books create a physical record of those accounts and often events in a non-transient format. However, just imagine when those individuals pass on, or their accounts are not documented. A vast amount of information would be lost forever.


There is currently a battle of data wars between big, technology giants and equally intelligence agencies around the globe. Each seek to control the Internet to some degree, making what was once a free to all platform, a medium which is becoming ever more controlled and censored. Whilst appreciating that our society does face dangers, it should also be bourn in mind the importance of the freedom of information, expression and more aptly validity of truth.


Humanity learns from past experiences, and indeed develops from this use of past experience and knowledge. Let me expand on this point, as it may not be easy to appreciate at a first glance, as to the importance of this.


Just imagine, if tomorrow by some fluke the sole research and knowledge base regarding antibiotics was wiped out by a cyber attack. Let's assume it was centrally held in one place, even if in several databases. Humanity would have to re-learn all the experimentation from scratch, covering many years of research and different individuals. The data recovery could take some time, and if whist facing an epidemic, then this could potentially be a disaster.


Nelson Mandela Oil Painting Free at Last by Elle Smith


What is the Mandela Effect?


This is essentially a false memory, however the person affected has a vivid memory of an event which did not actually happen. Sometimes, this can effect a group of individuals where the same false memory is held with absolute belief. It is called "the Mandela Effect" as it is often applied to Nelson Mandela's death which was reported as happening sometime in the 1980s, rather than 2013. Many thousands of people shared the view the earlier date, was the actual date of Mandela's death. 


This theory pays a great deal of weight to language, in that research has shown that language can significantly affect memory of events, even when witnessed directly. This can be use of suggestive language in the reporting of an event, or even making propositions within the information, like say questioning a witness and giving a key characteristic away in that conversation. An example would be:


"What files did the British cyber criminals access?"


(The red herring is the inclusion of the word "British" quite clearly, as their nationality is not known, and neither should you lead a witness in this way!)


Of course, stating a nationality like this, without any evidence of nationality, could quickly gather pace in the mindset of most. Later questioning might lead to a true belief that the cyber criminals were British, without any evidence of truth in this statement.


Just imagine if this information were multiplied in terms of being reported constantly, across the Internet or other media. The person to whom the statement were made, would eventually lose track of the description being offered to him or her in this way. They would genuinely believe this fact were true.


We are perhaps now starting to see the dangers of the Internet in the world, as information and statistics can be used to reflect the point of view of the highest bidders, or those who control the large corporations. Added to this, control of media and these huge platforms rests in the hands of a few, with relatively no checks on their behaviour or practices. It is never advisable to have valuable assets under single ownership, as monopolies always succumb to a growing need for power.


Evidence of the erosion of history


It was recently publicized that there was ambivalence about the holocaust history in relation to Oskar Schindler, where it was preferred to not remember his actions in relation to saving multiple Jewish families from the death camps. Those in opposition did not succeed ultimately, as there was support for the factory at Brnēnec in the Czech Republic, and it is now being converted into a museum. However, it is notable that despite many living witnesses, the various acts of heroism by Schindler were in danger of being forgotten due to fear of reprisals.


Checklist for Truth


  1. Source - Is the informant a reliable source based on previous data?
  2. Trust - Simply put 'do you trust the source ?'
  3. Authenticate - Conduct all reasonable steps to verify the information from other sources.
  4. Language - Do the words used suggest verification checks have been conducted?
  5. Facts - If it sounds 'wrong' or 'incorrect', then it probably is.





    We are in times where technology gives us data and information at incredible ease and speed. Therefore, and with this in mind, we must always have our "eyes wide open" as to what is truth, from fiction, or the new term of "spin".


    There is already a move towards a totally paper-free world, whether achievable or not, it does highlight certain dangers of maintaining the information in technology-based sources. 


    Truth is sadly at risk, and moreover history and knowledge; where adequate checks and balances do not exist within our technology, to act as a gatekeeper of information. The damage can be profound and long-lasting from maladministration of such data.


    Even though the Internet has literally changed access to history, this is not to say that the Internet is greater than it is. The Internet continues to grow, and  is undoubtedly one of the most important technological developments in the history of mankind. The ability to connect with everyone is what makes it so extraordinary.


    I suggest that each one of us has a responsibility to ensure the proper use and regulation of the Internet. This may be by our own behaviour, or by ensuring those who control access and its development, are proper in their conduct in relation to truths. Books do have a place as they offer more permanence of information, and even a more accurate, tangible representation of the truth.




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