November 21, 2021

Examining nonsense 4 – The pace principle.

What have we learned so far from examining nonsense? A presentation of the pace principle.

Examining nonsense 4 – The pace principle.

This essay is the fourth in a series called "Examining nonsense". It analyses a speech given by David Icke. You may find the other essays here.

Instead of continuing with the further examination of the speech, here I would like to recap the findings from previous essays. This is with the interest of seeing whether or not some patterns can be unveiled.

In the first essay the stage was set. The few sentences that opened the speech spoke directly to the listener and used vague referential terms not to inform, but to prepare the listener. That brief opening both pleaded and commanded the listener to interpret the speech very kindly, implying that the consequences would otherwise be dire.

In the second essay we saw the utility of knowing some basic philosophical concepts, namely epistemology, ontology, and qualia. These well-developed concepts allowed us to see through the nonsense presented in the speech, despite that nonsense being shrouded in complexity. That part was dubbed to be a muddle of categories.

In the third essay we uncovered some information with actual merit. However, that information acted as a trojan horse that subtly conveyed nonsense along with it. This nonsense was branded as noise, as it only served to disturb the proper information.

Now, this leads us to the deeper question: Is there a pattern to unveil here? Yes, I believe so. But it is not found in the speech. It is found in the examination. The pattern is in the pace which enabled the examination.

The examination of the speech is necessarily slow. A speech, on the other hand, is a rather fast-paced medium. This is no coincidence. It is much easier to get away with nonsense in the fast-paced spoken language. Not just because it is more difficult to see through nonsense in a quick format, but also because we very often heavily interpret what we hear.

This might have some explanatory power regarding conspiracy theories in general. Specifically, regarding the question of the increase in believers of conspiracy theories today.

To reveal this further, let us think about the pace of the different channels of information in 2021. Do they vary?

Consider the newspaper. The information in the newspaper is usually most relevant on the day of publishing. Yesterday’s news is not considered news any longer. The newspaper, then, is a rather fast-paced channel of information.

This becomes even clearer when we compare the newspaper to a novel. Reading a novel takes more time than reading the newspaper. However, unlike the newspaper, we read novels that are hundreds of years old, and yet they still manage to speak to us today. A novel is thus a much more timeless channel of information. It tries to convey something timeless. (I have written more about utility in time here.)

However, compare the newspaper to a social medium like Facebook. Suddenly, the newspaper does not seem so fast-paced. Compare it to an even faster medium like Snapchat, and the newspaper starts to seem like the more carefully considered channel of information. So, the question becomes: Does the increased pace of information make us smarter, or dumber?

It was thought that if the pace of conveying information increased then people would become more knowledgeable. However, that hypothesis seems to be disproven. While the faster pace enables more information to be conveyed, it also enables conveying more misinformation. Fast-paced channels of information enable more nonsense to be conveyed, because they do not allow for the necessarily slow analysis of the information. The faster the channel, the harder it is to analyse the information conveyed by that channel.

In the very first post on this website, I claimed that philosophy is best done at walking pace. And now I suggest the same for the consumption of information in general. By slowing down one allows oneself to consider information with greater care. And this has a lot to say regarding being smart.

Yes, being smart does mean to hold a certain amount of information. However, a hard-drive can hold a lot of information, but they are not thought of as smart. That is because being smart is not just about holding information, but also about thinking of that information. Because in the end, the amount of information that we consume is not the most important thing. What is more important is the quality of information: that it be true.

This deeper principle of examining information, even if that information seems to obviously be nonsensical, is what this series tries to exemplify.

Demagogues like Icke can be useful. Not because they are a good source of information, but because they are good candidates for scrutiny. Examining nonsense has lead us to what I call the pace principle: The principle that when consuming information, one should realise that scrutinising that information can only be done at a slow pace.

The act of examining nonsense is not a sprint to the errors. It is a walk amongst ideas.


Sign in or become a Philosophy Cubed member to join the conversation.
Just enter your email below to get a log in link.