Why You Can’t Trust Me

Why You Can’t Trust Me


This video is going to be a little different
to normal. I went to a place called Coober Pedy
to tell a story about water.>Coober Pedy is a town
in the Australian Outback. The record high temperature here was set this
summer just gone: 47°C, 118°F. But while the surface may be hot
in the blazing sun, the town has a fairly simple and free
air-conditioning solution: about half of the homes here are underground, and a lot of them were dug out
by hand many years ago. The rock under the surface stays at around
23°C year-round, and so do any rooms that you dig out of it. My hotel room is underground.
I don’t mean it’s in a basement: I mean the entire hotel is just
dug into the side of this hill. I’m walking on the ceiling.>So here’s the way I make a video. I find the story,
or someone sends me an idea for a story. In this case, it was a local at Coober Pedy who got in touch and said I might find the
place interesting, and yeah, it really is. So then I research a lot, I read around, I contact relevant people to ask for an interview, and once I’ve worked out the story I write
a script that is as fact-checked as I can make it. By the time I arrive at the location, most of the words I’m going to say to camera
are already written. I might tweak a line or two while I’m there, but there should be no surprises,
because I do the research. And in this case,
the story I had wasn’t about the town, or about the bizarre landscape
caused by opal miners with their mineshafts and
piles of leftover rock. That’s all been done.>This is not a place that’s friendly to humans,
but we built a town here anyway. Because there was money to be made:
opal mining is the main industry here. Well, that and tourism, these days.>I talked to a few people in Coober Pedy. One said that opal mining was
still the main industry. One said it was tourism, and that
some people hadn’t realised that yet. A couple of folks said that opal mining was
the side gig that a lot of residents had
alongside their regular jobs. So even that seemingly-basic fact turned out
to be complicated and questionable. Now, I’m not great at citing my sources. I used to be a lot worse, these days if I’m doing a monologue I try
to remember my citations, but I’m still not great at it.
And I am sorry about that. But if I’m interviewing people, well,
those are my citations right here, I’m getting first-hand testimony from experts. What happens if those experts disagree?>Coober Pedy is hot, dry, and it barely rains.
Water is expensive here: two and a half times the cost per litre
compared to the big cities. Because it’s a local system,
not connected to the rest of the state, it’s not subsidised by the government. Plus, you don’t get a discount for buying
in bulk: in fact, the cost per litre goes up as you use more. But the reason for that
may not be what you think.>Everything up until that point: confirmed. But this is where it gets tricky. I am bad at conflict and conflict resolution. It’s not what I do. I am not a journalist, I have never had training in determining the
truth when it’s murky because I rely on citations and papers
and scientific consensus and the results from all the folks who
have been trained to do that. I summarise, I condense, I tell stories. If the folks I talk to disagree,
I don’t want to be the one in the middle. Plus, to say that someone I have met, who I am now hopefully friendly with and who
gave a lot of their time to talk to me… for me as a non-expert to say “well,
these citations say you’re wrong” is a bit presumptuous. I’m not asking for opinions or political comment,
I’m just asking people to tell me facts.>The problem isn’t
scarcity of water in a desert. This town sits on top of the
Great Artesian Basin, as does about a fifth of Australia. It’s a complex set of groundwater basins,
the largest aquifer in the world, storing somewhere around 60 trillion litres of
fresh water a few dozen metres below ground level.>According to everyone I talked to
in the town, that’s wrong. My research was wrong,
news articles are wrong, Wikipedia is wrong. Instead, they said Coober Pedy sits on
the very outskirts of… something that might eventually feed into
the Basin? Possibly? People disagreed. The folks at the local water plant were kind enough
to actually drive me out to the boreholes, 25 clicks from the town,
and I got to taste the unfiltered water. It is warm full of iron and a bit of salt. There’s a reason that there’s massive
equipment back in the town to filter what’s pumped up. Anyway, point is,
while it is groundwater, apparently it’s not quite from the
Great Artesian Basin itself. But sure, I can work around that.>A recent long-term study showed that, while everyone here having their own–
a rec–>A recent long-term study showed that, while everyone here having their own
swimming pool would be a bad idea, there’s enough fresh water down in those rocks
to reasonably support everyone here… if they can get that water to the surface. Because pulling it up requires expensive equipment
and a lot of power.>There was a citation there! I looked at the relevant studies for the Basin, and I found that the consensus is that
it is sustainable at current population. Except that Coober Pedy might not
use the Basin? I talked to folks including the Mayor and the
supply manager at the local water plant and all of them gave difficult, complex, hedged, and sometimes-conflicting answers on whether
Coober Pedy can support people into the future. The groundwater level does fluctuate, apparently? It does have to recharge sometimes, apparently? Notice how I’m not quoting
anyone directly there. Because I am trying to avoid conflict, I don’t want someone who has given their
time and patience, someone who has been brave enough to stand
in front of a camera for some British guy
they’ve never met before, I don’t want them to have to risk being
fact-checked, not by everyone online, but by everyone in their own community.
That’s not fair to them. And, even now after spending time
researching it further, I can’t find the truth about whether
Coober Pedy is sustainable or not. It’s possible that no-one actually knows.>In an interview in March 2019,
the water manager here said that there’s a failure somewhere in Coober Pedy’s
pipe network that’s leaking 30 percent of
the town’s water into the rock.>Full citation!
It’s a direct quote from the water manager, in an article in the ABC, a respected broadcaster,
that is clearly an acceptable source. Except two separate people in the town said,
no, that’s probably wrong, the 30% was probably the
peak effect of several leaks, it was either a misstatement or a misquote. Was it? To make it worse, when I got to the town, I found that the politics were far more complicated
than I’d realised. The Mayor was lovely. He was the one that drove me out
to see the opal mines, he was the one who showed me how close I could
safely get to the mine shafts without falling in. But he’s also not actually in charge of
the town right now, because the entire local government has been
suspended and an administrator’s been appointed because of decisions that the council made
before that Mayor was the Mayor. I had missed that entirely in many research
because I was focusing on the water and I didn’t look at the politics. So let’s skip all my now-questionable
discussion and jump to my conclusion.>Humans expand into
any environment that we can. And no matter the problems we encounter, it’s almost always cheaper and politically easier
to patch up what’s currently working and avoid radical change and high cost. Long-term planning has never been
our strong point as a species.>That was a wonderful point to end on before
I got to the town and discovered years of political wrangling that my interviewees and my contacts there
are in the middle of, about exactly those issues of sustainability
and long-term planning. Is it still true generally? Yeah. Is it much more complicated in this context, and do I look like a jackass for being all
highfalutin’ about it after talking to everyone there? Also yes. But by the time I knew that, it was time to
head to the airport. So this time, I spotted the problem. The video didn’t work, my research was inadequate,
you got this instead. But: how many times have I
failed to spot that? How many times have I got it wrong
and never known? You should not trust me implicitly, the same way that no-one should trust a
single source to get things right. But I can be more accountable. So, I’m going to endeavour
to cite my sources better, but also I have put together every significant
factual error in my videos into one list. It’s on my web site. For each error,
I have gone to that video, pinned the correction,
and linked to that list. Because if anyone on the internet says you
can trust them: they’re probably selling something. Which reminds me, this video’s
sponsored by Audible. Seriously, it is, that isn’t just
a cheap joke. If you’re an Amazon Prime member, then
for a limited time you can start an Audible membership
and save 66% on your first three months,
which is $30 off. It’s $4.95 a month for the first three months,
and after that it’s only $14.95 a month. The offer is valid from the 1st July
to the 31st July 2019. Every month, you get one free audiobook and two
free Audible Originals from an ever-changing list. I’ve spent a lot of times
on planes recently, and a good way for me to pass that time
without constantly staring at a screen is to listen to audiobooks. I really enjoyed Seanan McGuire’s
Sparrow Hill Road, it is a lovely set of ghost stories set on
the sort of American backroads that only exist in the imagination. Go to audible.com/trustme
or text ‘trustme’ to 500 500 and start listening. It’ll help keep your mind occupied
wherever you are, even if you’re not about to spend another
ten hours solid awake on a plane. Now, the question is: is this really a
sponsorship by Audible? Did I record this entire endorsement just
to set up a joke, or will that link in the description actually
take you somewhere and show you that offer? Can you genuinely sign up? You’ll just have to trust me. [car horn] You had to honk over my last line,
didn’t you? That was a great delivery. Right.

100 thoughts on “Why You Can’t Trust Me

  1. Thanks to everyone in Coober Pedy; I had a wonderful time there. I'm sorry this isn't the video you hoped for!

  2. I think if you allow conflict to happen, eventually a more clear answer will arise. I understand why you wouldn't want to start it though.

  3. One of my geography case studies was this place. Can't believe I still remembered about this place and opal mining. Guess that A didn't just fade away

  4. The other major industry there is crime, they won't tell you that! Lots of weird 'ex' crims starting a new life

  5. Tom… That fact that you made this makes me trust you even more… EVERY SINGLE journalist would NEVER do something like this. You say your not a journalist, your better. This is real. Keep it up

  6. Of all the 'educational' content on youtube, ones like these are the most valuable. Learn, investigate, enjoy. But be prepared to admit ignorance and failure to get better at it.

  7. This is one of the smoothest audible ads I've ever seen. Now I can't believe in your video at all. Who knows if all the cool stuff are actually just a huge ads roll?

  8. "If anyone on the internet says you can trust them, they're, probably selling something."
    Cut to sponsor.

    That was brilliant.

  9. But how can I be asked not to trust you when I would need to trust you in order to accept your advice not to trust you which would contradict your advice not to trust you?

  10. Haha
    I have only just discovered this gentleman's work.
    I have now become a fan.
    Thank you for keeping it real and exposing the gritty behing the story probability of inconsistant information.
    Cheers!

  11. Don't knock yourself on this, the video is still very interesting, and although you may have missed the points the fact that you discussed them has made this interesting
    Remember interesting things do not have to be perfect just presented in the most honest way possible, you have done far better my friend than soe main stream media

    keep making interesting videos , i wish i had your talent
    PJ

  12. Ironically for all intents and purposes, Opal IS solid water. It's not a true rock or crystal, it's a mineraloid. The fire you see dancing in it is the same reasons why you see colours shimmering in shallow, warm, tropical seas. It's just so hyper-saturated with silica that it moves slower than a snail. But keep a boulder opal section upside down, and it will start to slump just like glass.

  13. This video inspired me to request a video America needs badly. Can you Do a video on how when 20million people work for the United States government that there’s potentially 500k insane angry vile personalities working there because we have accurate percentages of mental health and criminals per 100k people.
    Evenly sprinkled corruption and greedy malicious intent throughout. Given that mental and personal development disorders have no bias.
    Thus making it almost impossible to blame any one person. Zero accountability by sheer division of responsibilities.
    So hating a president is virtually pointless. So is liking one. Or something like that.
    There’s even serial killers in there😟. There has to be. 20million. Someone’s killing people.
    But make it like your videos. Not all sad and dark so people aren’t driven to madness from cognitive dissonance.
    Also. Your curiosity, reason and understanding is comforting these days and I really appreciate all you do. I wish more people were drawn to the truth. It’s fun. Keep it up.

  14. Love the honesty in this video. Well done. You can but try and present all the facts you find, as long as you maintain that transparency, you’ll maintain your impressive credibility too. Well done Tom, fantastic work as ever.

  15. It's funny that if you binge watch these videos you can catch the hypocrisy. Not saying you do this on purpose but I know how it happens as sources change, feelings change and feeling safe following the narrative is the thing to do.

  16. Maynard from Tool preaches similiarly. Aka question everything, including, especially including the person or entity telling you to question others. Aka you should question his “facts” as much as anyone else’s; what makes him supreme knower of the universe.

    Everyone is motivated by something, a desire for the truth isn’t the most common motivation/motivator out there, when speaking of the human population at large and in general, IMO.

  17. Well, actually, Wikipedia is never wrong. Those people just need to adapt to the facts that are on Wikipedia.

  18. At least you try to be fully correct and tell the whole story, Tom, which is more than we can say for far too many sources (disappointingly).

  19. Great video! I appreciate the honesty. This principle, healthy skepticism applies across the board. Politicians, advertising, news media or anecdotes from elderly grandparents.

  20. Your video format probably hurt you in this case. If you did a multiple part series on the town you could have gotten every twist and turn along the way.

  21. If only all the MSM journalists questioned their own sources and judgements as much as you do, we would be living in a paradise of trust.

  22. The problem is the same everywhere all over the world. Old money being more powerful than "democracy". 2019 and imperialism is alive and well and most populations are oblivious.

  23. Tom and Evan (from Rare Earth) are my favourite YouTubers because of things like this. They always tell when they are not sure of what the story really is.

  24. Well, it's obvious. We can't trust uuo because you we exchanged with an android when you visited Bielefeld. You can't fool me!

  25. Tom…we all pass on info that is given to us and to the best we can. It isn't your fault that you weren't given facts. No, you are not a journalist but that's what I like about your channel, you give info rather than bend the truth like they do. Your videos are brilliant and informative. The info you give is based on research and you deliver them to us the best you can and as honest as possible. Your channel is my favourite and will continue to be so. Keep it up and keep your head up. You are great at what you do!

  26. This is why we love you and your channel. You value the authenticity of your source and strive to be as accurate as possible. If mistakes are made, then you admit to them and transform it into a learning opportunity.

  27. Tom Scott just proved to us how scientists can be the best journalists!!
    Truthful, unbiased and with morals!!

  28. Wow, never have I seen a Youtuber take so much accountability for the research they share.
    This vid clearly had the opposite effect, I trust you even more from now on.

  29. Tom, you're in BIG trouble, honesty in any form of reporting is NOT allowed today. Thanks for setting us straight.

  30. Tom, there’s a difference between uncertainty and conflict. Your video sets out very clearly the difficulty of dealing with the uncertainty that is prevalent in politics and social issues. However, this is not the same as conflict. Asking an academic difficult questions is not causing conflict, it’s just pointing out that there are multiple interpretations or competing explanations, which is the job of a good educator (or journalist) in these situations. Presenting the world too simplistically is a far worse crime than putting someone on the spot to defend their view (and I bet if you try it, you’ll find they’ve been asked that very question before and aren’t at all flustered by it)

  31. Aaaand what if we NEED to radically change our political and economic system before climate change destroys the ability for human life to survive on the planet?

    The top 100 contributors to climate change are all huge corporations.

  32. So you say I can not trust you … which means your statements are not to be trusted … which means I CAN trust you???

  33. I love your videos, always so concise and compact. You’re the British Veritasium no one asked for but the one we need.

  34. Hey, Tom. I've sent my subtitles contribution to this video. Brazilian Portuguese is my native language, so i did a complete translation of the original english subtitles. Could you please approve them so i can show the video to some of my colleagues? Thanks!

  35. Misinformation and rumours spreads like wild fire in small towns like Coober Pedy. Rural people are nice and friendly but don't trust a word they say, I should know I've lived in a town like Coober pedy most of my life.

  36. A good lesson on research, sources, and a healthy bit of skepticism. But what I learned from this video: you are a very trustworthy person. Does that mean everything you say is true? No. But we can take it in good faith that you try to deliver truth.

  37. Have not watched your video. I saw the title and just dropped in to say I like to take people at their word- meaning, I don't trust you so why would I bother watching?

  38. Tom's title before Veritasium's clickbait video:
    Here's an underground city…
    Tom's title after:
    Why you can't trust me?

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