Knowing Things

When I want to select the best product amongst a few choices at Amazon, first I look at popularity. If everyone is buying that particular item, then that’s a decent metric to go by. But I also keep an eye on the reviews, because popular items can have their problems. I read through the reviews, carefully analyzing their tone, attempting to discern a narrative of praise or scorn.

When comparing multiple items with equivalent functionality, it’s the experiences of actual users that makes the difference. Descriptions won’t tell me if the product lived up to expectations or how durable it is. So my decision boils down to the reviews, unless of course it’s a new or obscure product-category that has little or no activity.

In these scenarios, my decision is only as good as the general accuracy of the reviews. If a seller pays for reviews of their product, then I’d likely succumb to such trickery if the reviewers aren’t obvious shills. Incentivized opinions degrade my ability to make accurate decisions because I can only evaluate the data I’m provided.

And that’s the same with any assessment I must make, I only know what I know based on the available sources of information. If a person gains in prestige, power, or profit by presenting a particular point-of-view, then I must be wary of such sources — as they are not peddlers of truth, but persuasion. Yet it’s often difficult to tell the difference.

So how can we find unbiased sources of information? Typically, we can get closest to truth by finding a theme within first-hand accounts that are recorded almost by accident, thus having the least bias or incentive. One account isn’t good enough, but when a chorus of independent individuals harmonize into a particular melody, then we can discern something approximating truth.

Groups themselves can be led, so raw-numbers are not a faultless metric — accounts must be independently derived. We must wade through a sea of small voices, seeking a common core. But even this has pitfalls as we often presume a conclusion, then we’re drawn to the pieces that fit the narrative.

And we often find that over time our narratives change. Facts are fashionable, often altering with the age we’re in. What’s right becomes wrong, what’s healthy becomes toxic, what’s just becomes villainy. We only ever know what’s best based on fleeting glimpses of limited illumination. What this means is that such a pursuit is a vain attempt.

We cannot know anything in the absolute sense, life is fantasy meshed together with dream-logic. And without a concrete foundation we are left floating in a misty haze of commingling imagination. A formless void surrounds us as we visualize events before our alleged eyes.

Therefore, I simply pointed at each item while saying “eeny, meeny, miny, moe…”

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