How ‘Do Your Own Research’ is opening a fracture line in society


DYOR: Do Your Own Research

This recommendation sounds reasonable. I do that.

Yet those words mark deep divides in society.

An article in New York Times today They Did Their Own ‘Research.’ Now What? examines the now-powerful phenomenon of DYOR.

“DYOR” is shorthand for “do your own research,” a phrase that, on its face, amounts to excellent if obvious advice — a reminder to stay informed and vigilant against groupthink.

But in the context of a broad collapse of trust in institutions and the experts who speak for them, it has come to mean something more specific. A common refrain in battles about Covid-19 and vaccination, politics and conspiracy theories, parenting, drugs, food, stock trading and media, it signals not just a rejection of authority but often trust in another kind.

The words imply a fundamental distrust in authority, and thus a shift to complete self-reliance. In the case of crypto, where there may be rewards but there are definitely massive risks, you should want to rely on your own judgment rather than someone else’s, who might be paid for their endorsement or simply be a fool.

In the case of vaccines, for example, doing your own research implies assessing a limited selection of scientific evidence, usually without substantial contextual knowledge. We certainly shouldn’t always blindly follow what we are told. Yet not adhering to medical guidance implies a massive level of distrust in the intentions more than the competence of medical experts.

The choice we all face is the domains we choose to do our own research, and those where we trust experts sufficiently to defer to a perceived consensus.

How this plays out will be a fundamental factor in shaping our future society.

Image: Sergey Zolkin