The previous post, about the ease with which fake news spreads, reminded me of two things.
This thing Ben Thompson said once.
…if there is a single phrase that describes the effect of the Internet, it is the elimination of friction.
With the loss of friction, there is necessarily the loss of everything built on friction, including value, privacy, and livelihoods. And that’s only three examples! The Internet is pulling out the foundations of nearly every institution and social more that our society is built upon.
Count me with those who believe the Internet is on par with the industrial revolution, the full impact of which stretched over centuries. And it wasn’t all good. Like today, the industrial revolution included a period of time that saw many lose their jobs and a massive surge in inequality. It also lifted millions of others out of sustenance farming. Then again, it also propagated slavery, particularly in North America. The industrial revolution led to new monetary systems, and it created robber barons. Modern democracies sprouted from the industrial revolution, and so did fascism and communism. The quality of life of millions and millions was unimaginably improved, and millions and millions died in two unimaginably terrible wars.
The unfortunate truth about us humans, which the NYT article supports, is that we have a tendency, when our beliefs are challenged by facts, to not believe less, but, in fact, harder in those beliefs.
For instance, one article suggested the United States found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The next said the U.S. never found them, which was the truth. Those opposed to the war or who had strong liberal leanings tended to disagree with the original article and accept the second. Those who supported the war and leaned more toward the conservative camp tended to agree with the first article and strongly disagree with the second. These reactions shouldn’t surprise you. What should give you pause though is how conservatives felt about the correction. After reading that there were no WMDs, they reported being even more certain than before there actually were WMDs and their original beliefs were correct.
So, we humans have invented the tools, and a platform, on which to spread stories at an unprecedented scale and with unprecedented ease.
And, we have a habit, when shown that one of these stories might be false, to believe harder, and share further, the original story.
What could possibly go wrong?