There’s a unique tendency of us humans to create alternative realities. In fact, with seven billion people on this planet, it might be said that there are seven billion different realities. Of course, many of those realities are of no real consequence – for instance, if you believe that the colour blue is somehow lucky. Other alternative realities, however, have far broader acceptance and therefore, profound consequences.
In the case of the sciences, the effects of alternative realities can often be quite serious. As just one of a billion possible examples, a friend of mine, having been diagnosed with prostate cancer, travelled the world far and wide in the pursuit of alternative remedies, just like Steve Jobs did following his diagnosis of liver cancer, wasting precious time and, in the end, needlessly costing him his life.
It never fails to amaze me how two people can receive the exact same input and come to diametrically different interpretations. While much of this sort of thing can be harmless, the shores of planet Earth are stacked high with the dried bones of broken relationships, ruined mega-bands, shattered marriages, collapsed business partnerships and more – all due to alternative realities derived from viewing the same events through different lenses.
The unscrupulous, which among others includes mass media, rent-seekers and power grabbers alike, well understand the buttons on human emotions and push those buttons relentlessly in the pursuit of their self-interest.
In today’s world, anyone – no matter how ill-informed – is capable, with the right amount of window dressing, of appearing knowledgeable on any topic. And with an imaginary typhoon looming large on the horizon, the unscrupulous with their newly fooled constituency of useful idiots in tow leap into action, each with their own self-serving agenda.
When it comes to separating hard realities from those that are substantially less so, you really have only your own powers of observation to fall back on. But there are some broad guidelines I would mention.
If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Enough said!
Be sceptical of dire predictions for the future. With the more or less steady advance of human progress, why should we now expect that progress to shift into reverse? That’s not to say there aren’t going to be periods of crisis – we’re in one now. But most people will muddle on through, and in no time at all, in time, things will be humming along, better than ever.
Don’t believe anything a politician tells you. It’s in their interest to tell you what you want to hear, and that can be a wide margin away from reality and most likely is.
Follow the money. If someone, or some company, tells you something the solution to which directly or indirectly benefits them, be cautious. That’s not to say that a company that offers products or services that solve various real problems won’t be truthful and genuinely helpful.
Find trusted sources, but even then keep your sceptic’s hat close at hand. It’s your life and your money – and that means you have the most to lose by picking the wrong path forward.