Information technology, in the sense of the collection and transmission of knowledge, has a long history. For centuries it was based on human labor. A man – or, rarely, a woman – would move from place to place to study, make and compare notes, spread news, rumors and discoveries. The process was slow, but effective; and before the days of the printing press and postal services, there was no alternative. In Europe the traveling information carriers were generally clergymen, since few others were literate. In Asia, itinerant scholars were found, and their name in Sanskrit was ‘pandita’.
The rule of the British in India required a constant stream of information; untrustworthy local rulers could be surveilled directly, but what might be brewing just across the borders was harder to gauge. Spies were needed, and those spies were recruited from the pandita. Anglicised, they became known as pundits. The movie ‘Kim’ illustrates the process, and lets Errol Flynn buckle his swash endearingly.
Now the intelligence brought back by those pundits was valuable, but not necessarily reliable. Misinformation and disinformation are modern words for ancient concepts. In the case of the pundits, however, there was scant hope of getting confirmatory reports. Their word just had to be accepted [or rejected] based on their track records or credibility. Lacking facts, that was the way of things.
Today we have our modern pundits. They do not risk their lives scouring the globe for news and data. Rather, they pick and choose in armchair comfort from the internet. Some choose wisely, some choose foolishly, some choose maliciously. They are rarely challenged. Even more rarely do they provide any balanced factual basis for their expressed opinions. They are pundits, and we can choose to believe them or not.
I choose ‘not’.
There are objective data sources. Sometimes they are hard to dig up, usually they are boring. But the rewards for doing your own thinking based on real facts – those rewards are significant, while the penalties for passively following pundit opinions can be severe. When ‘everyone knows that twaddle must follow twiddle’, beware. Twiddle may actually be absent, or twoodle may intervene. Afterwards the pundits will explain away their false predictions. If you choose to pay attention to those pundits, then at least average them out. You will come to less harm that way.
Copyright 2017 Flight of Eagles