authenticity: truth is still the new gold standard

fastcodesign.com just published an article proclaiming that “Fake Authenticity Is Now A-Okay.” has some great examples, summarizing the trends currently proving i was only close to bullseye¬†in 1996 when i said “if information is the currency of this new age, then truth will be the new gold standard.”

at the time, i foretold a future where the signal to noise ratio was so weak there’d be high demand for anything that amplified the signal, or at least picked nuggets of it out of the mountain of information noise with some regularity. hence the rise of Google, for instance. i also believed that truth in that signal would be more valuable than any other era of history. that mountain of noise has turned out to be just as deceptive and distracting as i’d feared, mostly trivial, but also full of half truths and outright lies. we protect and prove our identities in ways unheard of in 1996. cell phone videos hold authorities accountable. if a politician changes his opinion, we now count on it having been recorded, transcribed, tagged and filed for the ages.

what i didn’t anticipate was that we’d be satiated by the appearance of authenticity, or “truthiness,” as Stephen Colbert coined it in 2005. Fast Company points out F.S.C. Barber shops and Hipstamatic camera apps as examples of fake as hell references to the authentic past. i don’t think it’s mere nostalgia. these days, if it feels right—without regard for critical thinking or facts—it’s good enough. in our rush to consume information and experiences at accelerating rates, we make do without evidence or process, trusting that it will work out for the most part. twenty one hours ago, the New York Times proclaimed that Encyclopaedia Britannica is going out of print after 244 years. time will tell whether there’s much of a market for fact-checked info in a world where wikipedia.com is cited as a news source.

trouble is, dogs won’t stop eating chocolate until it’s gone or they die, and psychologists have proven we’re not far removed. we’re wired to believe what we feel, then rationalize it vehemently in defense of ourselves. what feels right is often bad for you, especially in a world that makes more money off your overfed feelings than your underdeveloped logic.

Jonathan Ives, SVP of Industrial Design at Apple, believes their products are successful because of discipline, “a sincere, genuine appetite to do something that is better,” rather than just superficially new or different. i believe there’s truth in that, but¬†he chooses words that load his messages with authenticity for marketing reasons too. is the new thicker, heavier iPad genuinely better? what happens when a company figures out how to make their products feel authentic, without having to invest in penetrating design?

what happens when all leaders, food, and factoids are entirely focused on feeling honest, helpful, hopeful, and healthy, instead of being those things?

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