Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Dream a little dream for me

If you have a few minutes, listen to this episode of KCRW's Unfictional (sorry, I can't find a transcript) where neuroscience researcher Moran Cerf publishes a paper on brain machine interfaces in Nature then watches the popular press spin out a string of fantasies about dream recorders and the government monitoring your subconscious.

It's a funny story but it has a serious undercurrent. At the risk of sounding like an alarmist, I'm beginning to think that our discourse, our ability exchange and evaluate important information and use it to collectively make informed decisions is in serious trouble, and I'm not sure how you can run a democracy without that.

The decline in journalistic professionalism is a big part of that problem. There are some excellent journalists out there, but there are also far too many like the ones in this story. They nonchalantly build on each other's fictions. They unquestioningly accept claims from interested parties. They dodge responsibility for uncomfortable facts by hiding behind he said/she said stories.

As I've said before, I honestly believe that given good information, the American public tends to make good decisions but there's a corollary to that claim: given the crap we've been fed recently, it's a wonder we still have a country.

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