Wars, Pandemics, and Recessions

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Three years in and the Covid 19 pandemic with its variants weighs on minds around the world. To the public of the 21st Century connected by digital communication technologies seemingly everywhere, thoughts, news, ideas, and rumors spread faster than any pandemic in the history of our shared planet. That could be good or bad, depending on the individual interpretation of the message received. And how it is shared. And to whom. 

Shaded by our learning and the influencers in our lives we can interpret sounds and images in an unlimited number of ways. Based on those learned behaviors and our responses to them we can help or harm the world around us. If I were the solitary responder to a piece of false information correcting my mistake is easily done. Unfortunately, the worldwide use of light- speed technology is in the hands of everyone, the wise geniuses, uneducated hobbyists, scientists, political zealots, and reactionary fools. All with the same ability to share their newly “learned” wisdom with every connected citizen of the world. It is both frightening and amazing. 

The misinterpretation of information – and the response to it – can be more dangerous than the information itself. The children’s game of ‘Gossip’ with whispered information passed from one child to the next has proven the frequent error of rumors. Yet we now engage in the habit of believing unvetted information on an incredible scale. Some of it sounds so believable. The phrase ‘Unintended Consequences’ must have evolved from the frequent misinterpretation of new information. 

In an age where financial impacts to large scale panics can rapidly grow to multiple trillions of dollars it is more important than ever to validate the accuracy of information we receive. To do that effectively we must select our influencers carefully. Who do you believe? Why do you believe them? 

Reactions to events by our leaders and influencers are dependent on the influencers of our influencers. If I accept the opinions of my influencer as valid, it is paramount that I know who my influencer depends on to validate his opinions. Are beliefs and values of those sources in alignment with my own? Its hard to keep up with the thoughts and mindset of the people I trust the most, and nearly impossible to keep up with whoever it is they rely on. At best it will be a gamble. 

Whether we want to admit it or not we fall prey to another common influencer, The Wisdom of the Crowd. 

If 100,000 fans cheer for a particular sports team, does the shear number of them (lets assume they are in the local majority) tell you their loyalty is to be adopted by us, you and me? The same question can be asked of followers of a political candidate, or a medical advisor, or an economist, or a military general. This is where the gamble is played. 

Our greatest responsibility can be the selection of our influencers, those mentors who help us navigate intelligently and responsibly through life. Who should we trust? If we are influencers to others, are we deserving of that responsibility? 

by Greg Henderson 

Greg Henderson is the retired founder of the Southern Oregon Business Journal. A University of Oregon graduate and a six year U.S. Air Force veteran. Contact him at ghenderson703@gmail.com

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