(But What If) We're Wrong.

CC0 Evan Dennis (via Unsplash)

I finished reading Chuck Klosterman’s But What If We’re Wrong? yesterday. It’s fantastic. You should read it.

What I particularly like about it is that he lets you the thought processes behind the points he’s trying to make, ‘open sourcing’ his belief system for you to deconstruct. In other words, you don’t just get the big reveal. It’s a personal book, and not (as he says in the introduction) a collection of essays.

There’s many quotable parts of Klosterman’s book, but this paragraph, which comes towards the end, really stuck out for me. Remember, he’s writing just before Brexit and the 2016 Presidential election:

We spend our lies learning many things, only to discover (again and again) that most of what we’ve learned is either wrong or irrelevant. A big part of our mind can handle this; a smaller, deeper part cannot. And it’s that smaller part that matters more, because that part of our mind is who we really are (whether we like it or not).

This seems particularly prescient. It comes a few thousand words after this nugget:

If we think about the trajectory of anything – art, science, sports, politics – not as a river but as an endless shallow ocean, there is no place for collective wrongness. All feasible ideas and every possible narrative exist together, and each new societal generation can scoop out a bucket of whatever antecedent is necessary to support their contemporary conclusions.

The point Klosterman is making is that the internet brings everything into a ‘long now’ where the time difference between, say, the 1970s and today is eradicated. Although he doesn’t mention it explicitly, he’s referencing what danah boyd calls context collapse.

We now have immediate access to all possible facts. Which is almost the same as having none at all.

It’s a crazy world we live in when Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia that’s (theoretically) editable by anyone bans a well-known newspaper as an ‘unreliable source’.