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Say goodbye to the information age: it's all about reputation now - Gloria Origgi | Aeon Ideas

Assessing 'fake news'

To question and assess the reputation of an information source, ask:
  • Where does it come from?
  • Does the source have a good reputation?
  • Who are the authorities who believe it?
  • What are my reasons for deferring to these authorities?

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Say goodbye to the information age: it's all about reputation now - Gloria Origgi | Aeon Ideas

Say goodbye to the information age: it's all about reputation now - Gloria Origgi | Aeon Ideas

https://aeon.co/ideas/say-goodbye-to-the-information-age-its-all-about-reputation-now

aeon.co

5

Key Ideas

Paradox of knowledge

The increased access to information and knowledge we have today does not empower us or make us more cognitively autonomous.

Instead, it makes us more dependent on other people's judgments and evaluations of the information that we are faced with.

From Information to Reputation

There is a fundamental paradigm shift in our relationship to knowledge from 'information age', moving towards the 'reputation age'.

This shift involves valuing information only if it has already been filtered, evaluated and commented upon by others. From this perspective, reputation has become a central pillar or gatekeeper of collective intelligence. We become reliant on biased judgments of other people.

Reliant on reputation

If you are asked why you believe in, for instance, the big changes in climate, you might answer that:

  • You trust the reputation of scientific research and believe that peer-review is a reasonable way of sifting out 'truths'. 
  • You trust newspapers, magazines or TV channels that endorse a political view that supports scientific research to summarise its findings for you. (Here you are twice-removed from the source - you trust other people's trust in science.)
Even in conspiracy theories, people trust secondhand information based on the reputation of the sources.

Assessing 'fake news'

To question and assess the reputation of an information source, ask:
  • Where does it come from?
  • Does the source have a good reputation?
  • Who are the authorities who believe it?
  • What are my reasons for deferring to these authorities?

Empowering your knowledge

According to Frederick Hayek's book Law, Legislation and Liberty (1973), 'civilization rests on the fact that we all benefit from knowledge which we do not possess.’

In a civilized cyber-world, people must know how to assess critically the reputation of information sources.

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  • Successful conspiracy theories always tend to invent a great villain, have a backdrop or a backstory, and a morality lesson that can be easily understood by most.
  • Great stories are by nature more magnetic and appealing than the truth.
  • Human beings think and understand in stories. For thousands of years, fairy tales, legends, anecdotes and mysteries have helped our brains make sense of the world.

Collective Hysteria

Every society has its own, unique anxieties and obsessions, and the conspiracy theories that gain good mileage are the ones that tap into these primal fears.

Example: Many people fear vaccination of the children due to fears that the mass drive to vaccinate such a large population has some ulterior motive, like a mass medical experiment. The dodgy past record of the health care system, and the fact that the vaccination is free of charge, of course, adds fuel to the fire.

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Our existence is invaded by science and technology as never before. For many of us, this brings comfort and rewards, but this existence is also more complicated and sometimes agitated.

Our lives are full of real and imaginary risks, and distinguishing between them isn’t easy. We have to be able to decide what to believe and how to act on that.

Marcia McNutt  - Geophysicist

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“Science is not a body of facts. Science is a method for deciding whether what we choose to believe has a basis in the laws of nature or not.”

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The origin of real vs. fake information

When reading an article, you might want to consider checking its source. It is very often that journalists reinterpret the original findings according to their own point of view.

Then, another aspect worthy of your attention is the fact that truth will most probably appear in multiple articles, while fake news is bound to be found on only one or two websites, messages and the kind.

Checking the source of your news

Being positive that you can trust articles on topics as important as the current pandemic is of great relief.

This is why you should try reading reports that include comments from the study authors as well as articles that do not intend to present data in a certain manner, in order to manipulate the public.