Can you trust anyone?
I have wanted to write about trust for a little while.
We've just been through a federal election here in Canada. Voting for a candidate comes down to trust. Each candidate seems focused on destroying our faith in the opposition and/or promising initiatives and asking us to trust that they will follow through with them. The reality is no one ever delivers what they promise, and we end up in a cycle of distrust! And then there is the topic of 'getting the jab.'
I’ve had a lot of conversations with friends who are for or against getting vaccinated. It’s a polarizing conversation and one that often comes down to a decision based on trust or distrust. (I specifically didn’t use the term anti-vaxxer because some of the people I’ve talked to are not against vaccines. They are concerned about government control and coercion and the slippery slope they feel we are on the edge of right now.) I'm not going to give you my opinion on whether you should or shouldn’t get vaccinated. I do want you to consider how you decide what sources you can trust. In the next couple of weeks, I want to talk about trust because we are all struggling with it these days. Whether it is political, corporate, religious organizations, or news sources, we all feel that we don’t know who to believe anymore. I’ve reading New Dark Age: Technology and the End of the Future by James Bridle. The author talks about how technology has contributed to polarization and the breakdown of trust in our society. He writes,
“What is common to the Brexit campaign, the US election, and the disturbing depths of YouTube is that, despite multiple suspicions, it is ultimately impossible to tell who is doing what or what their motives and intentions are. Watching endlessly streaming videos, scrolling through walls of status updates and tweets, it’s futile to attempt to discern between what’s algorithmically generated nonsense or carefully crafted fake news for generating ad dollars; what’s paranoid fiction, state action, propaganda, or spam; what’s deliberate misinformation or well-meaning fact check. This confusion certainly serves the manipulations of Kremlin spooks and child abusers alike, but it’s also broader and deeper than the concerns of any one group: it is how the world actually is. Nobody decided that this is how the world should evolve - nobody wanted the new dark age - but we built it anyway, and now we are going to have to live with it.”
This book is clearly not a walk in the park. It’s depressing, and it is an important part of understanding our world. Information is not the answer. It is impossible to know with 100% certainty whether or not you are being duped. Bridle discusses the crisis in scientific quality control linked to the exponential growth in data and research. We have reached a saturation point. We are no longer able to absorb and act meaningfully on the amount of information available to us. The term used is ‘overflow.’ We are in a constant state of overflow. So what does this have to do with trust? Everything!
The reason it is so hard for us to feel like we can trust isn’t skepticism. It is a rational response to the overflow of information. It doesn’t mean we can’t trust people or institutions. It means we need to get better at discernment. It means we need to acknowledge the limitations that result from having limitless information available to us. It isn't easy to know that the information we base our decisions on is true, accurate, reliable and validated. Even science can no longer guarantee that for us.
If you feel like you don’t know what to believe anymore, you aren’t alone. The truth is we are all in the same boat. We are being sold certainty every time we turn around for a reason. We are hungry for it. Guarantees sell, but not everything can be guaranteed.
As I launch into this series on trust, I think it is important for us to acknowledge the extent of the problem. Next week, we will pull back in with the place to start when you want to establish trust. For this week, I invited you to sit with this question: "How do you know who to trust?" Thanks for being here and trusting me. I work hard at speaking truthfully.
Feel free to leave a comment. I've decided to leave comments on for a little while and see how much work it is for me to manage them!