ISSUE-061

Claim: Any piece of information referred to as a fact should be mistrusted, since it may well be proven false in the future.

Reason: Much of the information that people assume is factual actually turns out to be inaccurate.


Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the claim and the reason on which that claim is based.


Some argue that any piece of information considered as a fact should be mistrusted because it may be proven false in the future. To strengthen their argument, it is cited that much of the information that people assume to be factual ends up being inaccurate. From my point of view, while it is true that inaccurate information can exist either because of a lack of understanding or due to malicious intent, we should not put uncategorical doubt on any piece of information we receive. My position is based on the negative long-term consequences of adopting this policy, even though there are admittedly some short-term benefits from this proposal.


To begin with, it is undeniably true that a considerable amount of information that people used to consider factual turns out to be inaccurate for a number of reasons. The first reason is that the accuracy of the information depends on how well we understand the questions behind it. Chances are that the questions are not well understood and, as a result, the information coming out of such questions are, by nature, not fully accurate. Throughout the history of sciences, examples in which old theories are proven wrong by new measurements and discoveries abound. The theory of geocentrism, for instance, used to be regarded as an unquestionable fact until the arrival of the heliocentrism based on observations. Heliocentrism, on the other hand, can admittedly better explain the astronomical observations, but later it became once again disproved by more accurate descriptions of the stellar movement: that is, neither the Sun nor the Earth is the center of the universe.


Additionally, inaccurate information may be presented intentionally to misguide people, a phenomenon that is increasingly prevalent in modern society. Most of the time, the goal of those who spread misinformation is to achieve their own political agenda, which can be very well demonstrated by the 2016 US Presidential Election. During the election year, false information that is favorable to the Republican candidate was deliberately put onto the social media by foreign actors to influence domestic voters. More recently, a number of concerning “Deepfake” videos that are synthesized by artificial intelligence and deep learning have emerged on the Internet. This illustrates how easy it is to intentionally generate false information and deceive the public today.


Given the probability of misinformation, particularly because of those deliberate lies, some therefore suggest we should distrust all information we receive. In doing so, they claim that we will be less likely to be deceived. Admittedly, this proposal has some short-term merit to certain degree and can be beneficial in limited circumstances, such as an election year. However, equipping oneself with such a mindset all the time is counterproductive and sometimes even dangerous. The functioning of our modern society as well as our daily life hinges on us processing and responding to the information we receive. Should we distrust any piece of information, it is hardly conceivable that one will be able to make a reasonable decision. For example, a student who holds a doubtful attitude towards everything that his or her teacher says is unlikely to learn knowledge in school. Similarly, the decision coming from a politician who refuses to believe any information presented by his or her advisers can hardly be wise.


In conclusion, although the presence of misinformation is real and perhaps on the rise, regardless of unintentionally or intentionally, we should not mistrust all and any piece of information we receive simply because of they may one day be proven wrong. Doing so will bring many adverse consequences to not only our personal life but also our society as a whole.


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