Bush's paper might be regarded as describing a microcosm of the information society, with the boundaries tightly drawn by the interests and experiences of a major scientist of the time, rather than the more open knowledge spaces of the 21st century. Bush provides a core vision of the importance of information to industrial/scientific society, using the image of an "information explosion" arising from the unprecedented demands on scientific production and technological application of World War II. He outlines a version of information science as a key discipline within the practice of scientific and technical knowledge domains. His view encompasses the problems of information overload and the need to devise efficient mechanisms to control and channel information for use.
Why is this happening? Because, it seems, we no longer trust the facts. The president tells us we cannot trust the mainstream media, while that same media says his supporters peddle fake news. For the first time there are facts and (in Kellyanne Conway’s notorious phrase) ‘alternative facts’. As facts become fluid they become contestable; the truth becomes (once again) something you assert, not something you prove. It used to be a peculiar characteristic of totalitarian regimes that they made the facts fit their purposes; now it seems this can happen in a functioning democracy. As the court pointed out in its judgement on February 9th, the government had repeatedly asserted that national security was at stake and that this was why its order should not be stayed, though it had produced no evidence to support this assertion. The courts appear to be trying to preserve standards of reliability and evidence that are being undermined in the digital age. Will they succeed? Only time will tell.
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