If an argument is only as good as its sources and there are so many sources and so many kinds of “good,” how does an inquiring person decide which of the many sources is or are the “best possible, under the circumstances?” Well, she said modestly, you could call the librarian.

Or you can hope that Steven Brill’s proposed rating process, which sounds promising, actually works. Rating systems are usually iffy when applied (Think movies.), but they can be a start.

And I love that Paul Allen, whose mother was a librarian, is, with a $125 million donation to his Brain Institute, trying to add “common sense” to artificial intelligence  This is exciting, if daunting, because a lack of common sense seems to be the common denominator among the clueless.

Finally. for diy’ers and those who think the search is as much fun as finding out, the NYT has a raft of ways you can use to evaluate your sources.  I especially like the suggestion that you find out where the information came from, how it got to you, and who did or could have changed it along the way. This brings back grand memories of the mantra of the enlightened Information Management Program at St. Kate’s: How does the information move and why and who can change it and why would he or she do so?  Adding social media and self-publishing would change the timing, paths, and influence appreciably, mostly by removing filters and adding sources and outlets, but it might help to advance the cause of sensible argument and therein, save our democracy.

Know your sources, argue wisely, convince your neighbor to checkout candidates.

AN AFTERTHOUGHT:  Just finished two good novels  about information moving.   David Ignatius’ The Quantum Spy is about quantum computing and the ways China and US try to keep tabs on each other.  I like David Ignatius a lot and learned a lot.  Then I read his earlier book, The Director, which is about hacking, about which I know too little, but  could also be a primer about the McCabe fiasco, among other intelligence service quandaries.


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