Information pollution is harmful - Deepstash

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The Illusory Truth Effect

Information pollution is harmful

The trickle of information pollution, like air pollution, builds up over time. The more we are exposed to it, the more likely we are to pick up false beliefs that are hard to get rid of.

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Why We Have An Information Epidemic
Why We Have An Information Epidemic

We have a never ending stream of information coming at us, leaving our mind exhausted, with no energy left to engage, debate, analyse or refute the epistemic (epidemic of knowledge).

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Information Exhaustion: Reasons
  • Uncertainty: Be it diseases, the political landscape, the global concerns of war, environment and other ongoing crises, we have truckloads of uncertainty in our hands, which is stressing us out.
  • Polarization: We are more polarized than anytime in history, trapped in our echo chambers, with our mind filled with confirmation bias. The distrust we have of those who don’t think like us fuels our polarized mindset.
  • Misinformation: Fake news is everywhere, and it is not just to spread misinformation, but to impair our critical thinking abilities.
Information Exhaustion: Dealing With Uncertainty

You can handle uncertainty by:

  1. Limiting news consumption.
  2. Focusing on things that are in your control.
  3. Practice meditation and cultivate mindfulness in order to be more comfortable with uncertainty.
Information storms

We often feel overwhelmed when we are exposed to a large volume of information. We also rely on secondary knowledge that does not come from any external source.

To put it another way: rightly...

How misinformation builds
  • When we encounter unfamiliar information on a social network, we verify it in one of two ways. We either go through the burdensome process of countless claims and counter-claims to understand if it is true, or we rely on others by way of social proof.
  • If we search for online information, instead of coming up with our own way of assessing the quality or the usefulness of every website,  we rely on Google's PageRank algorithm to come up with the best sites. In essence, we rely on other people to source information by use of user traffic, reviews, ratings, clicks and likes.
How to handle an infostorm

Infostorms are like actual storms: they are a product of climatic conditions. Different climates can produce different results.

The more we understand the chain of events that led to a particular view, the better we are equipped to appreciate it if we are skeptical or take into account other perspectives.

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...

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.