For the first time in my life I’m conflicted about the prospects for the future. I’ve always felt that sanity could overcome hype. Or least contain the impact.
In news, election and business cycles there are two types of data: undistilled and distilled. The interconnectedness of today’s world means the ratio of undistilled to distilled information is rising.
Over time a quiet but determined group of rationalists has made progress towards undoing that. But the fact that cigarettes are more accessible to most Americans than spinach demonstrates how difficult it can be for rational thought to beat manipulative marketing tactics.
We are more interconnected than ever before. Breaking news, social networks and floods of undistilled information compete for our attention. Volume increases volume. To stay in business the sources must keep you hooked. To do that they increase the noise to convince your monkey brain that you need what they are making.
This is not the media’s fault. Trump is not the media’s fault. It is too early to understand the lasting impact, positive or negative, of the UK’s vote and well too early to predict the fall election.
The problem is that the impact is spreading. What you choose to eat has little impact on your neighbor. But how the majority chooses to vote forces everyone to come along for the ride.
What has and will happen is our doing. We are not stupid. We are manipulatable because, well, science. Our brains do more things subconsciously than consciously. Have you breathed in the last minute? Did you think about it?
We’ve fed the media with positive feedback loops. Instead of challenging click bait headlines we click them. Instead of spending 30 minutes learning about a topic we comment on Facebook. Our brain doesn’t know the difference between reading a peer reviewed study and reading our crazy high school friend’s conspiracy theories on Facebook.
We are responsible for our fate. Developing an intelligent view of the world and opinions based on it is no one’s responsibility but our own. We can’t blame someone else for becoming morbidly obese and we can’t blame anyone else for political outcomes that damage our lives.
We cede control it when we click, share and read undistilled, biased marketing spin.
We must ask ourselves what kind of people we want to be. But first, check Facebook.
First published on June 24, 2016