Why the "information age" is now the "reputation age"

You can't check every fact. But you can check reputation.
To verify the truth of information today, we must know it's "repuational path," says Italian philosopher Gloria Origgi. (Pixabay)

Concerns about how to separate good information from bad are nothing new.

The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche lamented more than a hundred years ago that, if information was an orchard, it was so full of questionable apples that it wasn't possible to tell the edible from the inedible.

But these days, between misinformed tweets, fake-news Facebook posts and a never-ending data river flowing all around us, even the most fastidious of fact-checkers can feel overwhelmed.

And so a philosopher has once again weighed in.

Gloria Origgi is a philosopher at the École normale supérieure in Paris, and is the author of Reputation: What It Is and Why It Matters.
Gloria Origgi, philosopher at the École normale supérieure in Paris (Gloria Origgi)

"We are in the society of big data, everything can be known with two clicks, and yet, we have the feeling that we lose control."

Because of that, she argues, we have now passed through the Information Age and have entered what she calls the "Reputation Age."

It's no longer for individuals to independently verify the truth of a given piece of information, she said. Instead, we have to trace its "reputational path."

"What are the steps that this chunk of information has made, who has contributed to its success, and by which means, " she explained. "This is just giving different knowledge and epistemic competencies to people."

Origgi argues that because we are surrounded by so much information, the key skills we can possess are not fact-checking, but the ability to discern what sources of information we can trust, and what we can't.

I'm an optimist, and I don't think we are drowning in total stupidity- Gloria Origgi

Unlike the past, much of today's information "takes a social journey," she said, where "it passes through the minds and mouths of many people." Modern skills require us to validate the reputations of those people as a way of determining the information's reliability.

While she acknowledges this is difficult, it's not impossible, even in a world dominated by fake news spread by trolls on social media.

"I'm an optimist, and I don't think we are drowning in total stupidity," she said, laughing. "But I think that it needs work."


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