How not to get bamboozled by fake news

Friday 18 December 2020 - Filed under Default

Before sharing what I’ve learned about not getting informationally swindled, infected or based, I want to share a perspective from an AI researcher named Joscha Bach. If you’re not familiar with his work, Bach is someone who seems to be on another level in how he models the world, how our minds work, and his views on the big questions of life. To Bach, socials network are creating a kind of global brain, but this brain is uninhibited so it is caught in a state of seizure. This made so much sense to me, because it fit with a system I’ve been designing.

The way it works is, as I’m reading news or social feeds, if I see something that looks like bullshit, I hit that BS button. Then should they run across the same story, my followers would be alerted that someone in their network has called BS on it. Inhibition!

Implementing this kind of system is a big job. I have a doc that describes more which I can share if you want to see it. Twitter is doing a form of this when they put notices on tweets that something is untrue or disputed, but it’s a black box. Is it based on reports? A deep-state panel (I’m kidding)? The folks you follow? I don’t think anyone’s comfortable with Twitter being the censor.

Until that kind of thing exists, you pretty much have to beef up your own BS detector. Learn about fact check sites. If you’re getting news from one source, expand and try to find others. Read stories that make you uncomfortable with an open mind. Avoid echo chambers. Be wary of small sites, groups and forums with cultish behavior.

I like to think that there is a real reality out there and anyone who reports on it gets some things wrong, so it is my duty to myself is to cast a wide enough net to be able to see what’s wrong, even in reporting stories that give me that warm fuzzy feeling.

Social networks are fun, amazing, frustrating, and powerful but we’re seeing how conspiracy theories (i.e. hallucinations) are given way too much mindshare and so we leaf nodes, need to be smarter about what we share, and engineers and designers need to add inhibitors to these networks so the truth has a fighting chance.

Most importantly before you share, remember this seizure concept. If you’re sharing something without denouncing it, I would consider that support of the idea. Good ideas spread naturally enough that you don’t have to do it, and I’m pretty sure I’ve only ever lost followers from retweeting others content. So avoiding sarcasm and adding a comment that makes it clear whether you support or detest what you’re sharing will help guide this social brain toward a little more sanity.

2020-12-18  »  David Sterry