Rules about Trust

One thing that always drove me crazy in school was when teachers stressed that we had to take what we read on the Internet with a grain of salt. This was, of course, excellent advice: the Internet is filled with blatantly misleading information, and those are just the nice parts of the Internet.

But what always got under my skin was the unspoken implication: if it’s printed on paper and in a library, it must be true. Sure, there are higher barriers to entry in publishing, and most books go through lots of proofreading, so it’s not like some unhinged lunatic can turn out books of misinformation and hoaxes. Except that this happens all the time.

In the context of a research paper about Alfred Nobel or something, it probably doesn’t matter. Information you find on books in the library is probably accurate, but who knows about the Internet? I’m sure you could find some information. But this is really the wrong message. Shouldn’t the message just be “Always verify your sources because people get stuff wrong all the time”?

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