“Let me be as clear as I can be. In politics and in life, ignorance is not a virtue” said President Barack Obama during his powerful commencement address at Rutgers in May 2016. “It’s not cool to not know what you’re talking about.”

In recent years, the public sphere across the world has been dominated by a prevailing culture of falsehood, conspiracy theories, and deception. We are witnessing a renewed rise of populism and toxic narratives-amplified by rapid developments and innovation in communication technologies, smartphones, social media, and AI-based apps— that critically impact the functioning of our institutions and economies as well as social cohesion, security, and economic progress. This regretful situation is further compounded by the widespread psychological fatigue and poor mental health in the aftermath of the global pandemic and subsequent series of socioeconomic challenges.

From our kids in school to our colleagues and partners in business, everyone seems ready to abandon common sense and logic in favor of considering, if not fully embracing, wild theories. People are getting trapped in a vicious cycle of frustration, depression, and fear that hinder their ability to aim high, collaborate, and work productively and creatively and thus achieve personal or professional goals that drive economic growth and societal prosperity.

Today, not knowing what we’re talking about isn’t merely “not cool”, as President Obama cautioned back in 2016, but downright dangerous. In this context, it is crucial to help people develop the critical thinking skills needed to successfully sift through the constant deluge of misinformation. It is crucial to invest in resourceful, targeted, and impactful communication, to shed light on the truth, enable stakeholders and the public to follow issues as they develop, and provide opportunities for anyone to raise their concerns. Moreso, it is crucial to offer simple reasonable answers. Doing so is the only way to confront this new toxic reality and break the vicious cycle that increasingly threatens our ability to collectively move forward and face emerging complex challenges.

Communication has always been highly compartmentalized; people learn based on their background, position, rank, or any other demographic. However, today, in the age of furious news cycles, where everyone with a smartphone and an app can become a news source, compartmentalization has simply vanished. One way or the other, our children, students, employees, and clients, our smaller or larger micro-communities, will learn about almost everything.

In the absence of our message, of our truth, someone else will proffer their own message to cover the gap, creating fertile ground for misinformation, misconceptions, and ultimately deception.

It is therefore imperative to promote thought leadership and open, values-based dialogue, shine a spotlight on insightful and facts-based analysis, and allow rational, sound judgment to prevail. Whether dealing with minor everyday issues or complex structural challenges, we must appeal to our key audiences -colleagues, clients, employees, friends- to raise our voices and the level of public debate and thus safeguard our collective ability to make sensible, informed decisions.

The World Economic Forum ranks the spread of misinformation and fake news as among the world’s top global risks. We can’t just tell ourselves that it’s not our job to do something about it. This is an issue that affects us all, an issue that we simply cannot afford to turn our back on.