“And so the question is: What happens if we aren’t getting the right information? Or worse, we’re getting really bad information most of the time. And that’s the core idea with information pollution.”

Mario Vasilescu

This is a slightly different kind of podcast. Typically I interview guests who are in some way making a difference through their efforts to deal with the causes or effects of climate change and other environment-related challenges. This podcast is no different, but the approach is very different: In today’s podcast, I interview Mario Vasilescu about “information pollution.”

“What does “information pollution” have to do with climate change and the Twenty First Century Imperative?”   Well, as you will hear in this episode, Mario argues that if we are going to deal with climate change, we first need to be able to agree on reality.  And given the ever increasing difficulty of internet “information pollution,” that is becoming ever-more harder to do. 

So in this podcast Mario and I talk about “information pollution”, what it is,   why we need to deal with it,   and how we can deal with it, in order to have more effective conversations about how to meet the challenges of the Twenty First Century Imperative.

Background:

Mario is a robotics engineer turned humane technologist and media ecologist.  He describes himself as “obsessed with rethinking how we measure and value attention”, and writes and speaks on the subject where it intersects with the future of work, media, and education. He is now putting his thinking into practice with his innovative, and award-winning company and social media platform, Readocracy.com, where he is both CEO and CPO.  Readocracy rewards and recognizes users for being well-informed, and helps users track and improve their content consumption.   As Mario says: “Readocracy is like a Fitbit to track your information diet.”

Mario graduated from Ontario Tech (previously known as the University of Ontario Institute of Technology) in 2012 majoring in Mechatronics Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Business Management. During his final year he won two national competitions in social media innovation  and the future of work, which landed him a role at the think tank of a multinational HR and change-management consulting firm based out of Paris, France, where he continued digging into these subjects to map emerging trends related to the role of different generations and technology at work. 

Mario has led digital projects for organizations at the national level in both Canada and France, and has spoken about emerging trends at leading media conferences, as well as directly to the leadership teams of some of the world’s largest media organizations.

When he isn’t working on Readocracy, you can find him enthusiastically cooking or eating, playing or watching basketball or hockey, writing, making art, and almost always listening to one of his many themed playlists.

What is Internet Information Pollution?

“I think this information pollution comes back to the idea of information that is essentially noise. You can make sense of it, but how does it actually help us? Or is it just a massive distraction? The sheer amount of celebrity gossip tabloids online; the sheer amount clickbait, I mean, we’ve said it all, right?… That’s pollution because we have a finite amount of attention… So that pollution matters.

Mario Vasilescu
Mario’s Readocracy profile page. (Photo from Readocracy)

 

What Advice Mario Had For Listeners About What They Can Do To Be Part Of Reducing Information Pollution:

Ultimately, if there’s one thing I would advise and ask it would be to make an effort to become more information mindful. I would assume most of your listeners have some sort of interest in their physical and food diets. I would ask them to start taking how they feed their minds just as seriously.

And I would also suggest being more intentional with your information diet. So think about it: Have you ever thought about “where am I actually getting most of my information?” And in the same way, somebody would say, you know, every time you have a meal, write down the number of calories, it was, well, you know, the portion size, all that kind of stuff.

 

What Mario Would Publish In the Sunday New York Times If He Had A Full-Page Spread At His Disposal:

NYT spread

What Mario Asked of Listeners:

I would just say, if you could check out Readocracy and if you could join us in our movement, if not that, if you could read our blog where we talk about all these things in depth, and if you could pass it on, so that we can create a society that’s a bit more information-mindful and get on the right track, so we can actually have a chance to solve the big problems facing us. That’s what I’d ask:  if you can, get involved with Readocracy.

Mario’s Book Recommendations:

  1. The Attention Merchants: The Epic Scramble to Get Inside Our Heads, by Tim Wu. Mario notes: “Tim Wu…talks about the history, and now the modern state, of the people who transact in your attention. And I think the point I always like coming back to is: this idea of attention multipliers.
  2. Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, by Neil Postman. Mario notes: “The book I most often recommend is Neil Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death.” “…Huxley remarked in brave new world revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny, failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions. In 1984 Huxley added people are controlled by inflicting pain, but in brave new world, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. So in short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that while we love will ruin us. And this book is about the possibility that Huxley not Orwell was right.”

How You Can Connect With Mario:

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