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Home » Personal Asides

Accessibility of Information & the Death of the Dumb Card

Last updated by on 12 Comments

One thing I love about the Inter-webs is that people no longer have an excuse to play the “dumb” or “uneducated” card.

The accessibility of information is so prevalent that you can find an answer to just about any question with a tiny bit of time and effort.

We (humans) did not have access to any information you couldn’t find in a textbook or learn from a scholar/elder up until the last few of millions of years OF HUMAN KIND (this isn’t news, but when I let it sink in for a moment, it is profoundly amazing).

The Internet was not widely adopted until the late 90’s, and the quality of information that was accessible really didn’t pick up until the second half of the last decade (2006-2007’ish).

You could even argue that for older folk who didn’t grow up with or go to school with the internet, it wasn’t until the past 2 years or so that it was no longer socially acceptable to use the “I don’t like this new technology stuff and don’t know how to use a computer” free pass.

Eventually, the Internet has sucked in just about everyone. When my parents and my wife’s parents started emailing me links to website content, I knew we had reached a new era.

accessibility of information

Which brings me back to my original point – you, me, everyone – now that we have the power of the world’s collective knowledge base at our finger tips from the comfort of our own homes – we no longer have an excuse to be uneducated about personal finance, consumer purchases and rights, human rights, decisions that impact the environment, how to do things on your own, the food you eat, political deceit and inaction, animal rights, unruly governments, or other things that impact you, your community, and the world you live in.

We can no longer play the dumb card.

We can, however, still play the following cards:

  • lazy
  • gullible
  • undisciplined
  • apathetic
  • stubborn
  • evil

But who wants to play one of those? Not exactly the most desirable of societal labels to accept.

It was so much easier to just be endearingly, even lovably dumb.

I, for one, welcome the accountability and responsibility that comes with the death of the dumb card.

Do you?


About the Author
I am G.E. Miller, & this is my story. My goal is financial independence ASAP. If you share that goal, join me & 7,500+ others by getting FREE email updates. You'll also find every post by category & every post in order.


12 Comments »
  • Con-man says:

    This seems arrogant to me. First, a majority of what is on the interwebz is incorrect to some degree. So, how does one discern what is actually truth and what is not? For instance, a blogger suggests one should have international equities more along the lines of GDP or global market cap to be fully diversified. Seems risky to me, but then an un-lazy person would look at the actual article cited in the post to information that is a different. Who do you believe? So, does everyone who just reads the blogger’s post and doesn’t do further research lazy?

    Second, time is one of my most valued resources. It is limited in the amount I have. So yes, I spent about 3 hours of the afternoon on the deck with my daughter and wife watching the sunset being lazy, apathetic in terms of getting my car fixed and very undisciplined in terms of furthering my personal finance “education.”

    So, is it fair to say someone is either lazy, gullible, undisciplined, apathetic, stubborn and/or evil just because they have limited time, have different interests and priorities than you? And I’m not saying there aren’t lazy or gullible (pick your card) people; just that omitting a google search (or spending the time online) doesn’t make you such.

    • Elcobydos says:

      I think it ultimately comes down to laziness. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. You can have all the information in the world at your finger tips but people still manage to not educate themselves.

    • G.E. Miller says:

      Yes, there is a lot of misinformation online, but I think your point here misses the mark. Every piece of content online is formed of the opinion of whomever hit “publish”. Same as newspaper, books, radio, TV, or any other media. It is up to the reader to choose which side they believe in, take heed, and exercise caution. I can’t say that I’ve ever been a victim of misinformation online, and if I was, it was probably my own fault for not exercising due diligence and checking multiple sources.

      The limited time argument also misses the mark. I am not suggesting that everyone know everything and use all of their free time educating themselves online. However, when you are at the moment of a key decision, or action, do you simply rely on your gut or do you research? I would hope the latter. That’s the point.

      • Con-man says:

        Certainly if you are asserting that you will judge based on how one makes a “key” decision, but not what a “key” decision is, yes, people should make an “educated” decision for major things in their life (which really isn’t anything mind boggling).

        But, that isn’t what you said in your post. You rattled off a list of things(e.g. human rights, diet etc), which may be a major priority to you, but not to everyone. In fact, I read your post as everyone has a social responsibility to be educated on everything.

        My point is, I have things in my life which take priority over almost everything else. And while I’ll make less “educated” decisions about how my community charges for water or who to vote for or everything I eat, most people certainly won’t assign a negative connotation adjective to me because of my priorities.

      • Rikkaku says:

        I agree with your intent of the article – information is ubiquitous and literally at your fingertips so there is absolutely no reason why one should make a poor decision, all things equal. I know exactly the kind of people you are talking about; I know too many people to count that repeatedly get ripped off on cars, school, apartments, houses, you name it. They can spend hours every day online, but can’t seem to figure out that the internet is more than facebook, twitter, ESPN, and gossip sites. The more accessible information becomes, the more society devalues it – supply and demand I guess. All the better for those in the know ;)

  • Modest Money says:

    I think a lot of people are just naturally lazy. They may have the information at their fingertips, but that doesn’t meant that they will take the time to learn. In fact, the easier things become, the more lazy we will become. Con-man also makes a good point about how unreliable some online information can be. Some people would assume everything on a site like wikipedia is 100% true, but they don’t realize that it is all derived from user input. The information can be coming from other lazy people who didn’t take the time to verify the information they were posting.

  • Micah says:

    Anyone who is not overwhelmed by the surfeit of information available is not making attempt to educate themselves. So at some point you have to realize that the smartest people are often the laziest. Try determining, for example, whether or not you are better off buying a couch and Bob’s furniture, or say Raymour and Flanigan. There’s loads of posts screaming about how horrible one or the other company is. You can spend days deciphering these and trying to decide if the extra $500 is worth the risk of a bad experience. Or you could be lazy, walk over to your neighbors house (this requires getting off a computer) and ask him where he got his couch. If he say “Bob’s, it’s junk and they smashed up my house delivering it four weeks late,” don’t go to Bob’s.

    I’ve wasted so much of my time online seeking out the correctest information. I regret this.

    Many sources of information want have their own financial interest in mind. Also it’s clear now that the system is now gamed: There are companies which intentionally distort online reputation for money. So if you are really unlazy, you should be able to collect enough information to verify that they information you have is correct.

    Part of being truly smart is knowing when to be lazy. The internet gives the opportunity for limitless but fruitless unlaziness.

    • Mary says:

      Micah, while I can accept your premise (the seemingly innumerable anonymous posts of potentially dubious validity), I must refute the logic behind your conclusion that it might be smarter to be “lazy” and simply ask your neighbor about their experiences. By the law of large numbers alone you will get a closer approximation of your expected outcome by sampling a larger number of customers. Your neighbor could have been the outlier who had the exceptionally bad (or awesome) experience.

      • Micah says:

        Mary,

        The problem is that you can only apply law of large numbers if you are taking samples at random. The samples of people who post are certainly not random. So in order to obtain useful information, you have to know the probability that someone with a good experience will post on the internet. You also have to know if there is variation from region to region. This varies from company to company and will take too much time to figure out for certain.

        In fact, I think that asking your neighbor is “better than random” because your neighbor is more likely to have similar tastes, income, floor plan, number of pets,etc, and will have probably used the particular store you are considering, rather than someone chosen randomly across the country.

  • Matt says:

    G.E. I like the stance on the topic and everyone else, I’m enjoying the responses. I’ll give an alternative view if I may and it is based on observation.
    In my professional dollar earning role I facilitate the solutions to challenging problems. My value to the process is as a facilitator to the challengee’s and as a very broad knowledgist and technologist. By that I mean that I know enough about most things that enables me to understand information and ask questions, but not enough that I would or could solve the challenge without the client team. It is very synergistic, they can’t see the problem because they are too close and because they cannot see it, they cannot ask the right questions. I don’t know too much about the problem initially, and that enables me to ask whatever questions I like, to make the clients think.

    In my opinion it is somewhat similar to our approach to the internet. My clients recognise that the answer to their problem is out there, someone else has a technology or process that will solve their problem, but they don’t know how to ask the question to find out who.
    Information at the touch of a button is still only information. What you do with it requires know how. Sure, know how can be gleaned from the internet too, but know how really comes from a learning experience, not someone else’s translation of their experience. For example. I enjoy repairing my own cars. My choice of car was made partly made on this basis so I am already inclined to wish to be knowledgeable in this area. I have access to a profoundly rich forum with everyone ranging from expert to spanner twit. All the information is there, but our experiences and comfort with the use of that information is profoundly different from one person to another. Me, I can wield a spanner and am pretty good at replacing parts. Another chap on the forum seems utterly inept when it comes to mechanical components, but the other day gave a very insightful diagnosis of an issue with another contributors sound system. He was comfortable with the information, comfortable in explaining it to another and knew far more than most others on the forum on that particular topic. His lack of knowledge on other topics was not born of laziness, but the ability to interpret and use the information for his needs. Just as we apply ourselves in different ways, so too do we learn in different ways.
    Where this becomes important is when you realise that in all decision making there is an equation, sometimes subconcious, that leads us to form the decision we do. Some people are more risk adverse, others prefer time with family over a 60 hour work week, others simply enjoy relaxing and savouring the time however that time may be spent. Those who are driven by productivity may point and say lazy, but the reality is we’re operating to a different equation of what we CHOOSE to do, whether it is an appropriate decision or not. Of course, there are always circumstances that alter the rule but have a think about the tasks you think of as chores, the ones that need to be done, and the tasks that you could do yourself but you choose not to, instead perhaps paying someone else to do it, or not doing it at all. There was some part of your personal equation of what is important that prompted that decision.
    Just my tuppence.

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