Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Disinformation Age

An Einstein misquotation shows how random sayings which fund the 'wisdom' of the Internet should be treated with caution. Image Source: Wiki.

Perhaps the Information Age should be called the Disinformation Age. For decades, celebrities have complained that the media twist their lives and words for the sake of sensational stories. Now, everyone and everything is subject to the same trend. And people compound it by being uncritical and unreflective about their sources of information as they plunge headlong into online discussions. Every day, information is traded anecdotally, with no account of its origins or original context. Take this quotation commonly attributed to Albert Einstein in the weirder corners of the Internet:
The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift. We will not solve the problems of the world from the same level of thinking we were at when we created them. More than anything else, this new century demands new thinking: We must change our materially based analyses of the world around us to include broader, more multidimensional perspectives.
It sounds like something that speaks right to us in our time, doesn't it? And that is because ... it does! Einstein never uttered this quotation; it is a paraphrase from a self-help book from the 1970s:
This supposed "quote" seems to be one of many fake quotes attributed to Einstein in which he supposedly says mystical or spiritual things which do not fit with what we know about his beliefs. There are variant forms of this "quote" on the internet, but the most common one found seems to derive from a book called Planetary Survival Manual: A Guide to Living in a World of Diminishing Resources by Matthew Stein (2000). Stein does not give a source for this "quote".

The origin seems to actually be Metaphoric Mind: A Celebration of Creative Consciousness by Bob Samples (1976):
"Albert Einstein called the intuitive or metaphoric mind a sacred gift. He added that the rational mind was a faithful servant. It is paradoxical that in the context of modern life we have begun to worship the servant and defile the divine." (p. 26)
Only the first part is what Samples claims is from Einstein, though he gives no source or citation and it fits with nothing that is recorded of Einstein's quotes. The second part is Samples' own observation. The two parts have been conflated into a "quote" of Einstein, when there is actually no evidence he said the first part and the second isn't even attributed to him in the original source.
This tendency of grabbing a famous name in order to legitimize unsourced information is dangerous. The trend is to accept unquestioningly an 'authority,' in order to question another authority, usually one in a recognized position of power. With mounting questions over the place of copyright in the free exchange of information, the need to preserve other lines of cultural provenance grows.

Establishing the truth about events has never been more critical. But the more important finding the truth becomes, the more inclined people are to believe untruths, masquerading as 'real truths.'

This is why it was such incredible folly for Forbes to advise against study in the Humanities. All of the Humanities fields deal with the proper understanding of cultural knowledge; even in the midst of theoretical deconstruction, they preserve a line of memory and verifiable awareness of the origins of ideas and creative expression. And because they have to express that line of provenance and defensible argument or practice, they also deal with language, expressed clearly, in a time when misstatements, misspellings, grammatical messes and misunderstandings of word meanings are common.


  1. Do you remember when "forensics" didn't mean picking apart corpses on prime time cop shows?

    1. Um. No, actually (laughing). Perhaps you are a bit older than I? I had to look it up to see it once had a different meaning.

    2. Often when I meet a younger person who's become energized about exposing political spin it's often because they've recently discovered "A People's History of the United States". Even though it's a seminal book I've found Zinn to be personally more of a provocateur than an instructor. He enjoys demonstrating the subject matter more than just talking about it. When I ask if they've heard of Noam Chomsky, they usually want to know what his political background is. I tell them that he actually got into politics through academics because he's a linguistics professor who "specializes in semantics and forensics". Then they look at me like I've got three heads and ask, "He does autopsies on Jews?"