Epistemic Ignorance

Epistemic ignorance also has value. For example, it is good epistemic practice to be strategically ignorant and highly selective in the things we know or seek to know in order to remain epistemically functional, particularly now that most of us are almost exclusively immersed in information-dense digital environments. We do not, for example, need to know how many blades of grass there are in a square metre (though a gardener might) and we rarely need to know the specific set of instructions that constitutes a given algor- ithm. It often makes sense to grant epistemic authority and trust to those with expertise and reputation, and who are known to be epistemically responsible. We often judge what to believe on whom to believe, and to make these judgments we rely on criteria of plausibility, consensus, relevance, and credibility, among other things. In digital informa- tional environments these criteria may also include online rankings, ratings, and the order of search results, such as those provided by Google. Google, the search engine that seems to be synonymous with the internet, is judged by many users to be reliable and trustworthy, though we argue below that this is not always the case. The Pew Internet and American Life Project reported that 73% of search engine users say that most or all the information they find through search engines is ‘accu- rate and trustworthy’ and 66% of users regarded search engines are a ‘fair and unbiased source of information’

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