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Positive Thoughts and Prayer Requests - miamizsun - Dec 11, 2017 - 7:39am
 
• • • The Once-a-Day • • •  - oldviolin - Dec 10, 2017 - 10:27am
 
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Sunrise, Sunset - Antigone - Dec 9, 2017 - 3:00pm
 
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Red_Dragon

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Posted: Oct 23, 2017 - 4:54pm

tarbell
aflanigan
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Posted: Aug 10, 2017 - 6:30am

 Lazy8 wrote:
I'm not talking about a change (biologically or otherwise) to the human species, and I don't think we see the problem the same way at all.

What you see as our ability to delude ourselves I see as a fundamental characteristic of our species, neither good nor bad. We don't have a way to discern the truth, we have only the evidence of our senses. What we do with that evidence is ultimately up to us, aided by a built-in facility that has served us well for eons: pattern recognition.

It helps us see the difference in tracks between wounded and healthy animald when that difference is very subtle. We may not even be able to describe it, but we know it when we see it. Even though the tracks lead uphill the animal is worth following. We use it to reject some evidence in favor of an induction from other evidence, and it helped us get where we are today.

But that facility can be used against us. We see patterns—we want to see patterns, it's how we understand the world—where there is just noise. When you see someone rejecting evidence in favor of a cherished belief he's not acting completely irrationally, he's comparing the evidence to the pattern he's seen and rejecting it as disinformation, camouflage, an attempt to throw him off the track of that wounded beast. It takes a lot to overcome that built-in bias toward how we think the world works because there is noise, disinformation, camouflage. A magician's slight-of-hand might get you to believe that he has conquered gravity, but our experience—the patterns we've recognized from it—tells us to distrust anything we see a magician do, and to trust that gravity is constant.

What looks to you like self-deception is really data filtering. The conscious (and inquisitive) mind can overcome that with time and practice, but we won't abandon pattern recognition, the old pattern will be rejected or modified in favor of a new one. The underlying mechanism doesn't change, and I doubt it will. We need it. At least...that's the pattern so far.

The tool we need is skepticism, to test our assumptions—the patterns we think we see—against the evidence we can assemble. Skepticism is a skill we can learn, and we need to build a culture that values it.

Skepticism is damned inconvenient. It slows things down. It makes you prove that the building is on fire before you get out of your cozy bed to stand on the icy street, but it also gets us to the next level of societal evolution. It helps us get closer to the truth.

The tools that aid a skeptic are more accessible than at any time in history. It will take time to learn to use them, but the incentives are there. Most of us have been living with this access for fewer than 20 years. Give it a bit. Way too early to reject the long-term pattern of human social development just because there are idiots on Twitter.

  You're right, I was conflating our desire to see patterns and causality where it doesn't exist with choosing loyalty to a group over what our objective mind should see as the truth. They're separate phenomena. I didn't actually name skepticism in my discussion of tools found in our brain, but it is definitely one I was alluding to.
As I said, I am afraid that we have the potential to wreck our social order within the course of a single human life span, so the "give it time" platitude doesn't console me all that much. Wish I could be as optimistic as you.
EDIT: I am apparently not the only pessimist on this topic (hat tip to Xeric).


black321
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Posted: Aug 10, 2017 - 6:26am

 Lazy8 wrote:
aflanigan wrote:
I get the sense that the main thing we don’t agree on is the direction in which the arrow is pointing with respect to our ability to delude ourselves, and the ability to reject nonsense and irrationality. It seems you think that since the human brain is evolving and ultimately improving due to evolution (which I accept wholeheartedly), that on a microscopic, short term scale, we can also view the ability of humans to be less subject to self-delusion, less likely to buy into BS, as inexorably improving. On the long term scale of biological evolution, perhaps this is true. I tend to be more pessimistic than you, apparently, over the short term. You can cherry pick examples where we have “crawled out of the darkness”, as you put it, during the brief period covering human’s rise that we can call the “era of civilization”. One can offer comparable examples of the endless capacity for self-deception in humans.  Take the increased popularity of the anti-vaccine movement, which is now spreading to pets. The continuing (for centuries) popularity of belief in “faith healing” (the Quackwatch site points out that a “1996 poll of 1000 adults found that 79% believed that spiritual faith can help people recover from disease”). The continued gullibility of people who lose significant sums of money in an increasingly diverse variety of scams. The unwillingness of significant numbers people to change their false beliefs when presented with indisputable evidence of its falseness. I think it is instructive to think of the “evolution” of human capacity for being duped, for self-deception, not as an adaptation that deals with a static or slowly changing circumstance (such as gravity or climate), but as a battle between two constantly evolving and competing agencies. Sort of like our immune system (and our use of antibiotics) battling the evolution of diseases and microbes. In a sense, it’s somewhat of a battle against our own nature. Along with an improvement in peoples’ ability to recognize and resist old scams, new ones are created in the fertile mind of scam artists, pseudoscientists, etc. And the same tools (computers, internet, etc.) that facilitate arming one’s self against being scammed/taken in by nonsense, fake news, pseudoscience, quackery, etc. enable those who are so inclined to develop new, cleverer ways to dupe people that elude the defenses erected against existing scams, and to foist them on a much broader cross section of potential victims.

I'm not talking about a change (biologically or otherwise) to the human species, and I don't think we see the problem the same way at all.

What you see as our ability to delude ourselves I see as a fundamental characteristic of our species, neither good nor bad. We don't have a way to discern the truth, we have only the evidence of our senses. What we do with that evidence is ultimately up to us, aided by a built-in facility that has served us well for eons: pattern recognition.

It helps us see the difference in tracks between wounded and healthy animald when that difference is very subtle. We may not even be able to describe it, but we know it when we see it. Even though the tracks lead uphill the animal is worth following. We use it to reject some evidence in favor of an induction from other evidence, and it helped us get where we are today.

But that facility can be used against us. We see patterns—we want to see patterns, it's how we understand the world—where there is just noise. When you see someone rejecting evidence in favor of a cherished belief he's not acting completely irrationally, he's comparing the evidence to the pattern he's seen and rejecting it as disinformation, camouflage, an attempt to throw him off the track of that wounded beast. It takes a lot to overcome that built-in bias toward how we think the world works because there is noise, disinformation, camouflage. A magician's slight-of-hand might get you to believe that he has conquered gravity, but our experience—the patterns we've recognized from it—tells us to distrust anything we see a magician do, and to trust that gravity is constant.

What looks to you like self-deception is really data filtering. The conscious (and inquisitive) mind can overcome that with time and practice, but we won't abandon pattern recognition, the old pattern will be rejected or modified in favor of a new one. The underlying mechanism doesn't change, and I doubt it will. We need it. At least...that's the pattern so far.

The tool we need is skepticism, to test our assumptions—the patterns we think we see—against the evidence we can assemble. Skepticism is a skill we can learn, and we need to build a culture that values it.

Skepticism is damned inconvenient. It slows things down. It makes you prove that the building is on fire before you get out of your cozy bed to stand on the icy street, but it also gets us to the next level of societal evolution. It helps us get closer to the truth.

The tools that aid a skeptic are more accessible than at any time in history. It will take time to learn to use them, but the incentives are there. Most of us have been living with this access for fewer than 20 years. Give it a bit. Way too early to reject the long-term pattern of human social development just because there are idiots on Twitter.

 
Skepticism is just another pattern to follow...no more truth down that alley than throwing darts. (Am i a skeptic?)


Lazy8
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Posted: Aug 9, 2017 - 10:53pm

aflanigan wrote:
I get the sense that the main thing we don’t agree on is the direction in which the arrow is pointing with respect to our ability to delude ourselves, and the ability to reject nonsense and irrationality. It seems you think that since the human brain is evolving and ultimately improving due to evolution (which I accept wholeheartedly), that on a microscopic, short term scale, we can also view the ability of humans to be less subject to self-delusion, less likely to buy into BS, as inexorably improving. On the long term scale of biological evolution, perhaps this is true. I tend to be more pessimistic than you, apparently, over the short term. You can cherry pick examples where we have “crawled out of the darkness”, as you put it, during the brief period covering human’s rise that we can call the “era of civilization”. One can offer comparable examples of the endless capacity for self-deception in humans.  Take the increased popularity of the anti-vaccine movement, which is now spreading to pets. The continuing (for centuries) popularity of belief in “faith healing” (the Quackwatch site points out that a “1996 poll of 1000 adults found that 79% believed that spiritual faith can help people recover from disease”). The continued gullibility of people who lose significant sums of money in an increasingly diverse variety of scams. The unwillingness of significant numbers people to change their false beliefs when presented with indisputable evidence of its falseness. I think it is instructive to think of the “evolution” of human capacity for being duped, for self-deception, not as an adaptation that deals with a static or slowly changing circumstance (such as gravity or climate), but as a battle between two constantly evolving and competing agencies. Sort of like our immune system (and our use of antibiotics) battling the evolution of diseases and microbes. In a sense, it’s somewhat of a battle against our own nature. Along with an improvement in peoples’ ability to recognize and resist old scams, new ones are created in the fertile mind of scam artists, pseudoscientists, etc. And the same tools (computers, internet, etc.) that facilitate arming one’s self against being scammed/taken in by nonsense, fake news, pseudoscience, quackery, etc. enable those who are so inclined to develop new, cleverer ways to dupe people that elude the defenses erected against existing scams, and to foist them on a much broader cross section of potential victims.

I'm not talking about a change (biologically or otherwise) to the human species, and I don't think we see the problem the same way at all.

What you see as our ability to delude ourselves I see as a fundamental characteristic of our species, neither good nor bad. We don't have a way to discern the truth, we have only the evidence of our senses. What we do with that evidence is ultimately up to us, aided by a built-in facility that has served us well for eons: pattern recognition.

It helps us see the difference in tracks between wounded and healthy animald when that difference is very subtle. We may not even be able to describe it, but we know it when we see it. Even though the tracks lead uphill the animal is worth following. We use it to reject some evidence in favor of an induction from other evidence, and it helped us get where we are today.

But that facility can be used against us. We see patterns—we want to see patterns, it's how we understand the world—where there is just noise. When you see someone rejecting evidence in favor of a cherished belief he's not acting completely irrationally, he's comparing the evidence to the pattern he's seen and rejecting it as disinformation, camouflage, an attempt to throw him off the track of that wounded beast. It takes a lot to overcome that built-in bias toward how we think the world works because there is noise, disinformation, camouflage. A magician's slight-of-hand might get you to believe that he has conquered gravity, but our experience—the patterns we've recognized from it—tells us to distrust anything we see a magician do, and to trust that gravity is constant.

What looks to you like self-deception is really data filtering. The conscious (and inquisitive) mind can overcome that with time and practice, but we won't abandon pattern recognition, the old pattern will be rejected or modified in favor of a new one. The underlying mechanism doesn't change, and I doubt it will. We need it. At least...that's the pattern so far.

The tool we need is skepticism, to test our assumptions—the patterns we think we see—against the evidence we can assemble. Skepticism is a skill we can learn, and we need to build a culture that values it.

Skepticism is damned inconvenient. It slows things down. It makes you prove that the building is on fire before you get out of your cozy bed to stand on the icy street, but it also gets us to the next level of societal evolution. It helps us get closer to the truth.

The tools that aid a skeptic are more accessible than at any time in history. It will take time to learn to use them, but the incentives are there. Most of us have been living with this access for fewer than 20 years. Give it a bit. Way too early to reject the long-term pattern of human social development just because there are idiots on Twitter.
aflanigan
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Posted: Aug 9, 2017 - 2:16pm

 NoEnzLefttoSplit wrote:
I don't know where fawning is on the evolutionary scale of things.  
Just wanted to say I think the discussions you two have are great and although you seem continually at odds, I find myself agreeing with both of you really often, which is kind of confusing, but hell, have at it.


 

 
Thanks, we probably both agree on a lot of stuff, but we do sometimes manage to make a lot of fuss over areas where we differ in opinion. 

 
NoEnzLefttoSplit
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Posted: Aug 9, 2017 - 11:26am

I don't know where fawning is on the evolutionary scale of things.  
Just wanted to say I think the discussions you two have are great and although you seem continually at odds, I find myself agreeing with both of you really often, which is kind of confusing, but hell, have at it.


 
aflanigan
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Posted: Aug 9, 2017 - 10:20am

 Lazy8 wrote:

If your point is that the evolution of human society is not uniform, that some people will lag the trend, then yes, point taken, point acknowledged, point made earlier. Yes, not everyone will get the word. We won't chase all the voodoo and superstition out of the zeitgeist at once—maybe ever. There are people who still believe the earth is flat. People still read their horoscopes, throw the I Ching, avoid the 13th floor, go to chiropractors and herbalists and organize campaigns against GMOs. There are millions convinced that fracking will poison their water, that cell phones kill bees and cause brain cancer, that antibiotics and taking megadoses of vitamins help you get over a cold. Scientology is still a thing. Hell, Abrahamic religions are still a thing and we've had over 5,000 years to work on that problem.

So no, I didn't miss that point. I'm saying that this kind of superstition and ignorance used to be the norm, and humanity has been crawling out of that darkness for its entire history. We have tools that help us crawl faster now, but that doesn't mean every single human will crawl out.

As with all eons-long trends progress is not uniform and there will be setbacks from time to time, but how many witches have been hung in Massachusetts this year? Are gay people still being committed to mental institutions? How's attendance at your local church?

If you want a Ministry of Truth to establish orthodoxies then you're arguing to slow that evolution down. The truth emerges from combat with falsehood. Exempting ideas from challenge is the opposite of that process.

I'm speculating here—you haven't said what you want, just demanded a concrete proposal from me. Here it is: let's get out of the way. Advocate for what you think is true, but let no idea go unchallenged. Fight censorship. Engage with people and ideas you think are wrong, don't just try to shut them up. In short, reverse the trends we see on college campuses and public debates in favor of openness and dialog.

And start with yourself. Challenge your own beliefs. Read things that do that, talk to people who do that, realize that understanding the concept of confirmation bias doesn't make you immune to it. Get used to being uncomfortable with new information—that's how you know you're learning something. Be the change.

 

You obviously put some thought into this, for which I thank you, and I tried to do the same below.

I get the sense that the main thing we don’t agree on is the direction in which the arrow is pointing with respect to our ability to delude ourselves, and the ability to reject nonsense and irrationality. It seems you think that since the human brain is evolving and ultimately improving due to evolution (which I accept wholeheartedly), that on a microscopic, short term scale, we can also view the ability of humans to be less subject to self-delusion, less likely to buy into BS, as inexorably improving. On the long term scale of biological evolution, perhaps this is true. I tend to be more pessimistic than you, apparently, over the short term. You can cherry pick examples where we have “crawled out of the darkness”, as you put it, during the brief period covering human’s rise that we can call the “era of civilization”. One can offer comparable examples of the endless capacity for self-deception in humans.  Take the increased popularity of the anti-vaccine movement, which is now spreading to pets. The continuing (for centuries) popularity of belief in “faith healing” (the Quackwatch site points out that a “1996 poll of 1000 adults found that 79% believed that spiritual faith can help people recover from disease”). The continued gullibility of people who lose significant sums of money in an increasingly diverse variety of scams. The unwillingness of significant numbers people to change their false beliefs when presented with indisputable evidence of its falseness. I think it is instructive to think of the “evolution” of human capacity for being duped, for self-deception, not as an adaptation that deals with a static or slowly changing circumstance (such as gravity or climate), but as a battle between two constantly evolving and competing agencies. Sort of like our immune system (and our use of antibiotics) battling the evolution of diseases and microbes. In a sense, it’s somewhat of a battle against our own nature. Along with an improvement in peoples’ ability to recognize and resist old scams, new ones are created in the fertile mind of scam artists, pseudoscientists, etc. And the same tools (computers, internet, etc.) that facilitate arming one’s self against being scammed/taken in by nonsense, fake news, pseudoscience, quackery, etc. enable those who are so inclined to develop new, cleverer ways to dupe people that elude the defenses erected against existing scams, and to foist them on a much broader cross section of potential victims.

Can we “evolve away from” human capacity for self-deception, and resistance to rejecting falsehood? Perhaps not. The capacity for self-deception may be a defense mechanism. If your doctor tells you that you will die in six months, it is understandable that some may refuse to acknowledge the fact, in order to not become depressed. We want to believe the best of ourselves, and be optimistic, which certainly helps to maintain a positive frame of mind. Perhaps there are evolutionary advantages to maintaining a positive frame of mind, or more to the point, evolutionary advantages to clinging to potentially false knowledge if it is similarly being clung to by the other members of one's social group. As the article I linked to above suggests, perhaps "having social support, from an evolutionary standpoint, is far more important than the truth" One can view the beginnings of what we call “civilization”, or organized, complex societies, as being marked by our shift from DIY survival, to our willingness and ability as a society to produce and support “experts”, artists, agriculturalists, engineers, specialists, scribes, librarians, and (horror of horrors) bureaucrats who formalize and record/enshrine/curate knowledge in diverse fields of study. This evolution of human society has continued apace for centuries.  Your suggestion that we be essentially self-reliant when it comes to battling falsehood, and that turning to experts, or “ministries of truth” as you call them, in the battle against BS and scam artists, represents regression/slowing evolution down, seems to fly in the face of our history, and seems to me to be the more regressive view. Yes, I’m lumping a bunch of stuff together here and painting with a broad brush, and I imagine you’d protest  that by all means, we should turn to experts/take a course to learn how to find the knowledge you seek, learn how to be good at searching the internet, etc. To me, it’s not appropriate or helpful to separate things out with respect to being good at collecting potential information and being able to vet that information for truthfulness. Being able to detect bullshit involves the skilled use of tools, including various parts of one’s own brain. I was taught to use many tools, and some I learned how to use on my own. Detecting BS/pseudoscience can be a tricky endeavor requiring a high level of proficiency, particularly when confronted with highly evolved forms. Rejecting guidance available from experts out of hand simply because it may potentially be flawed, include underlying bias, etc. seems counterproductive if we are to achieve your vision of an ever upwardly arcing curve of human wisdom when dealing with falsehood in its many forms. The fact that reporters who work the science beat still regularly misreport or get duped seems to confirm the increasing sophistication of those who seek to deceive. IMO it seems a big waste of effort to promote a system where every individual should automatically scorn the opinions of others (journalists, bloggers, etc.) and insist on developing on their own the requisite proficiency in detecting fake news, BS, pseudoscience, quackery, etc. I’m not sure the majority of humans are that clever yet.

And I am pessimistic because, unlike the biological robustness of humans, I worry that our civilization is fragile and subject to rapid decline, and even elimination, in a short period of time; too short for biological evolution to be of assistance. Species have become extinct, it is true, due to forces beyond their control. Our species seems clever enough to have the potential to deal with things such as climate disruptions or even the impact of a stray heavenly body, potentially. But we have to be clever enough to reach a consensus on the existence of the problem, and moreover, we have to be able to recognize what in my view is the more serious threat; self-annihilation/extinction. Perhaps my worries in this regard mark me as a creature of my time; as a youth I fed on a steady diet of dystopian novels, reading my share of Vonnegut, Orwell, Huxley, Atwood, Zamyatin, etc. Perhaps this has made me too cynical.
Sorry if this rambled on too much and got too far from the original point, but I'm interested in trying to see this discussion in a broader perspective beyond the health and future of traditional forms of journalism.


Lazy8
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Location: The Gallatin Valley of Montana
Gender: Male


Posted: Aug 4, 2017 - 9:55am

 aflanigan wrote:
I think you are missing the point.

Anyone can google "vaccines and autism", but none of the results that get spit out carry a number or any indicia representing the veracity of the "information" found on the page.

Up unitl a few months ago, then, you would likely have been presented with pages supporting a causal link between vaccines and autism, and pages that attempt to debunk such false claims. 
Now that Google has tweaked its algorithm to keep false info out of its search results and offers a fact check tag with the help of snopes and politifact for some search results, you won't find bogus vaccine/autism articles and websites showing up at least at the top of the page, but this relies on some sort of human vetting, just like editors and newspapers do. Which I'm getting the impression you are no big fan of because you find them biased.

People who are willing to be open-minded can certainly learn over time to distinguish BS and nonsense from factual/reliable information, especially after getting burned by false information a few times, but people don't always have the luxury of getting repeated attempts to make the right call. Worried parents who consider bringing their acutely ill child to a homeopathic practitioner on the advice of a friend/relative/minister will find listings for "Doctors" near them on Google, and their child may not survive the results.

And it is something people like you and me who are pretty good at detecting bullshit need to be concerned about, too, because decisions are being made every day that potentially affect us, and the people making them may not be able to distinguish fact from fiction. Or they may be highly prone to confirmation bias.

So the idea of "caveat emptor" as the sole mechanism of dealing with the harmful effects of misinformation/garbage information/psuedoscience is not a comforting one.

As far as the "curve rising", do you have any data to show that people are now less likely to be duped by misinformation than 50 years ago, or a century ago? My sense is that if anything, people are tending to be more gullible, but that's merely a subjective opinion.

If your point is that the evolution of human society is not uniform, that some people will lag the trend, then yes, point taken, point acknowledged, point made earlier. Yes, not everyone will get the word. We won't chase all the voodoo and superstition out of the zeitgeist at once—maybe ever. There are people who still believe the earth is flat. People still read their horoscopes, throw the I Ching, avoid the 13th floor, go to chiropractors and herbalists and organize campaigns against GMOs. There are millions convinced that fracking will poison their water, that cell phones kill bees and cause brain cancer, that antibiotics and taking megadoses of vitamins help you get over a cold. Scientology is still a thing. Hell, Abrahamic religions are still a thing and we've had over 5,000 years to work on that problem.

So no, I didn't miss that point. I'm saying that this kind of superstition and ignorance used to be the norm, and humanity has been crawling out of that darkness for its entire history. We have tools that help us crawl faster now, but that doesn't mean every single human will crawl out.

As with all eons-long trends progress is not uniform and there will be setbacks from time to time, but how many witches have been hung in Massachusetts this year? Are gay people still being committed to mental institutions? How's attendance at your local church?

If you want a Ministry of Truth to establish orthodoxies then you're arguing to slow that evolution down. The truth emerges from combat with falsehood. Exempting ideas from challenge is the opposite of that process.

I'm speculating here—you haven't said what you want, just demanded a concrete proposal from me. Here it is: let's get out of the way. Advocate for what you think is true, but let no idea go unchallenged. Fight censorship. Engage with people and ideas you think are wrong, don't just try to shut them up. In short, reverse the trends we see on college campuses and public debates in favor of openness and dialog.

And start with yourself. Challenge your own beliefs. Read things that do that, talk to people who do that, realize that understanding the concept of confirmation bias doesn't make you immune to it. Get used to being uncomfortable with new information—that's how you know you're learning something. Be the change.
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Posted: Aug 3, 2017 - 12:14pm

This seems on topic for this thread:  ACLU-WV Brief on Behalf of John Oliver
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Posted: Aug 3, 2017 - 11:59am

 Lazy8 wrote:
 aflanigan wrote:
So what do we do to produce smarter consumers of information? Should we have some sort of formalized bullshit detection training in public schools? Leaving people to wander the intertubes unguided, as you note, usually results in their finding information that confirms their biases, rather than brings enlightenment.

Formalized training has tended to lag well behind both technology and culture. I think people are figuring it out on their own.

The marketplace has incentives to respond quickly. The schooling of most kids isn't driven by market forces so it responds when forced to by political changes. Snopes emerged without government intervention while schools were still teaching kids to use Apple IIes.

Who taught you to use Google? Wikipedia? Did you sign up for a class, or figure it out on your own or with online tutorials? Cultures evolve constantly to deal with the new tools that present themselves, but they don't evolve at the same rate for everybody. There will always be tails on the curve, but nevertheless the curve rises.

 
I think you are missing the point.

Anyone can google "vaccines and autism", but none of the results that get spit out carry a number or any indicia representing the veracity of the "information" found on the page.

Up unitl a few months ago, then, you would likely have been presented with pages supporting a causal link between vaccines and autism, and pages that attempt to debunk such false claims. 
Now that Google has tweaked its algorithm to keep false info out of its search results and offers a fact check tag with the help of snopes and politifact for some search results, you won't find bogus vaccine/autism articles and websites showing up at least at the top of the page, but this relies on some sort of human vetting, just like editors and newspapers do. Which I'm getting the impression you are no big fan of because you find them biased.

People who are willing to be open-minded can certainly learn over time to distinguish BS and nonsense from factual/reliable information, especially after getting burned by false information a few times, but people don't always have the luxury of getting repeated attempts to make the right call. Worried parents who consider bringing their acutely ill child to a homeopathic practitioner on the advice of a friend/relative/minister will find listings for "Doctors" near them on Google, and their child may not survive the results.

And it is something people like you and me who are pretty good at detecting bullshit need to be concerned about, too, because decisions are being made every day that potentially affect us, and the people making them may not be able to distinguish fact from fiction. Or they may be highly prone to confirmation bias.

So the idea of "caveat emptor" as the sole mechanism of dealing with the harmful effects of misinformation/garbage information/psuedoscience is not a comforting one.

As far as the "curve rising", do you have any data to show that people are now less likely to be duped by misinformation than 50 years ago, or a century ago? My sense is that if anything, people are tending to be more gullible, but that's merely a subjective opinion.


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Posted: Aug 3, 2017 - 10:19am

 aflanigan wrote:
So what do we do to produce smarter consumers of information? Should we have some sort of formalized bullshit detection training in public schools? Leaving people to wander the intertubes unguided, as you note, usually results in their finding information that confirms their biases, rather than brings enlightenment.

Formalized training has tended to lag well behind both technology and culture. I think people are figuring it out on their own.

The marketplace has incentives to respond quickly. The schooling of most kids isn't driven by market forces so it responds when forced to by political changes. Snopes emerged without government intervention while schools were still teaching kids to use Apple IIes.

Who taught you to use Google? Wikipedia? Did you sign up for a class, or figure it out on your own or with online tutorials? Cultures evolve constantly to deal with the new tools that present themselves, but they don't evolve at the same rate for everybody. There will always be tails on the curve, but nevertheless the curve rises.
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Posted: Aug 3, 2017 - 8:28am

 Lazy8 wrote:

1. There are fewer traditional media outlets to hire journalists, no question. They are competing in a market where there are too many suppliers chasing the same eyeballs. There will be consolidation, already underway; when the Des Moines Register can instantly reach readers in Talladega, Alabama that is going to drive down the need for an independent news source in each place. A lot of small town newspapers and radio stations are being bought up by conglomerates. I don't wring my hands over this, I see it as a sign that those small town newspapers weren't serving their readers well enough to keep their attention.

2. Oh holy crap yes. It's still too easy to lie to people. I'd hasten to point out that t'was ever thus, it's just that now people have an easier time finding lies that appeal to their prejudices rather than to the prejudices of the editors at media outlets and seek those out.

3. See 2, above. We'll get better at it as we live with the internet longer and shed our old habits. Kids entering college now have never lived in a world without Google. It has never been easier to debunk a lie. It has also never been easier to spread one. Our future depends on training those kids on how to fight the latter with the former. The arc of human history reassures me that we'll eventually get this right.

4. See 2, above.

5. I rest my case.

 
So what do we do to produce smarter consumers of information? Should we have some sort of formalized bullshit detection training in public schools? Leaving people to wander the intertubes unguided, as you note, usually results in their finding information that confirms their biases, rather than brings enlightenment.
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Posted: Aug 2, 2017 - 1:53pm

 aflanigan wrote:
Nowhere did I say that journalism was once subsidized by government/not a private enterprise activity during our history.

Instead of trotting out a straw man argument, maybe have a go at accepting my invitation to a civil discussion about the health and future survival of investigative journalism?

1. Yes, there is still good journalism being done. It seems however that the ease with which it can find a stable home to exist is disappearing. Do you agree with this, or do you think it is thriving?

2. Maybe part of the issue is that it's still being done, but is being drowned out by a proliferation of bad journalism and outright crap/fake stuff? 

3. The "direct to consumer" notion you mention is intriguing, but like "direct to consumer" medical information, is ripe for abuse. Most consumers of news aren't well equipped to distinguish BS from good journalism.

4. Old school organizations in theory have layers of vetting (well, maybe one or two), which work imperfectly, but most of the time I assume they work pretty well. 

5. EDIT: I used the phrase "government subsidies" in reference to an alternative to profit-based journalism that is not likely to expand any time soon. Schafer mentioned journalism done by NPR as being "directly subsidized" (it receives about 14% of its budget from federal, state, and local govts.) but that sort of direct government support is not likely to be significantly enlarged, particularly when some on the right are not happy about taxpayer money is being used for what they consider "biased news". And it does create the potential appearance of an interrelationship which would potentially tarnish the notion of a truly independent fourth estate.

1. There are fewer traditional media outlets to hire journalists, no question. They are competing in a market where there are too many suppliers chasing the same eyeballs. There will be consolidation, already underway; when the Des Moines Register can instantly reach readers in Talladega, Alabama that is going to drive down the need for an independent news source in each place. A lot of small town newspapers and radio stations are being bought up by conglomerates. I don't wring my hands over this, I see it as a sign that those small town newspapers weren't serving their readers well enough to keep their attention.

2. Oh holy crap yes. It's still too easy to lie to people. I'd hasten to point out that t'was ever thus, it's just that now people have an easier time finding lies that appeal to their prejudices rather than to the prejudices of the editors at media outlets and seek those out.

3. See 2, above. We'll get better at it as we live with the internet longer and shed our old habits. Kids entering college now have never lived in a world without Google. It has never been easier to debunk a lie. It has also never been easier to spread one. Our future depends on training those kids on how to fight the latter with the former. The arc of human history reassures me that we'll eventually get this right.

4. See 2, above.

5. I rest my case.
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Posted: Aug 2, 2017 - 1:22pm

 Lazy8 wrote:
 aflanigan wrote:
No, but thanks for once again putting words in my mouth!

{#Wink} 

Sorry, it's hard to parse what you wrote any other way. You described investigative journalism as being in decline, and list the forces driving that decline as the profit motive and a lack of government subsidies. If you meant something else maybe you should elaborate.

 
Nowhere did I say that journalism was once subsidized by government/not a private enterprise activity during our history.

Instead of trotting out a straw man argument, maybe have a go at accepting my invitation to a civil discussion about the health and future survival of investigative journalism?

Yes, there is still good journalism being done. It seems however that the ease with which it can find a stable home to exist is disappearing. Do you agree with this, or do you think it is thriving?

Maybe part of the issue is that it's still being done, but is being drowned out by a proliferation of bad journalism and outright crap/fake stuff? 

The "direct to consumer" notion you mention is intriguing, but like "direct to consumer" medical information, is ripe for abuse. Most consumers of news aren't well equipped to distinguish BS from good journalism.

Old school organizations in theory have layers of vetting (well, maybe one or two), which work imperfectly, but most of the time I assume they work pretty well. 

EDIT: I used the phrase "government subsidies" in reference to an alternative to profit-based journalism that is not likely to expand any time soon. Schafer mentioned journalism done by NPR as being "directly subsidized" (it receives about 14% of its budget from federal, state, and local govts.) but that sort of direct government support is not likely to be significantly enlarged, particularly when some on the right are not happy about taxpayer money is being used for what they consider "biased news". And it does create the potential appearance of an interrelationship which could tarnish the notion of a truly independent fourth estate.


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Posted: Aug 2, 2017 - 12:20pm

 aflanigan wrote:
No, but thanks for once again putting words in my mouth!

{#Wink} 

Sorry, it's hard to parse what you wrote any other way. You described investigative journalism as being in decline, and list the forces driving that decline as the profit motive and a lack of government subsidies. If you meant something else maybe you should elaborate.

I'll go ahead and point out in advance (assuming my characterization of your point is correct for the moment) that the profit motive has always existed, that the vast majority of journalists (especially those renowned as investigative journalists) have always been employed by profit-making companies, and the government subsidies you seem to think might help have never done much for investigative journalism.

I'd go further (having read the review) and criticize a point Shafer makes: FOIA foot-dragging (real as it is) isn't a likely cause of this decline, as the Freedom of Information Act only dates to 1966 and the federal government has never been enthusiastic about following it.

I have to wonder if you really read this review yourself; Shafer points out that most of what investigative journalism is concerned with is government malfeasance, and that limiting the scope and reach of government would lessen the need for it. There would still be private-sector scandals to expose of course, so we will always need journalists, but in the modern age we can do a lot of it ourselves. You don't have to get the Washington Post interested in your revelation anymore, you can leak to all the world's newspapers at once. With a camera in every cell phone they'd never be able to hide Paul McCartney's death anymore!

With all these pressures being applied there is still great investigative journalism being done, and finding a decent audience. It tends to get directly from the journalist to the reader without filling the coffers of the rest of the industry, and there are an awful lot more people who want to be journalists than their talents will justify or the market will bear. How to make a living performing a task people can increasingly do themselves is not a problem limited to journalism. Nothing is stopping any of us from doing investigative journalism except the desire to be well paid for doing it.
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Posted: Aug 2, 2017 - 8:58am

 Lazy8 wrote:


So the fourth estate didn't used to be based on profit-making companies back in the golden age? It used to be government subsidized?

Tell me more of this planet you speak of.

 
No, but thanks for once again putting words in my mouth!

{#Wink} 
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Posted: Aug 1, 2017 - 3:56pm

 Lazy8 wrote:
 aflanigan wrote:
So for those who decry fake news, bad reporting, political corruption, etc. and wonder what happened to the golden age of journalism, the $64,000 question is: How can a fourth estate based on profit making companies, independent of government subsidies (which would reek of the potential for propaganda), continue to ensure the survival of good quality investigative journalism when it doesn't make you much money?

Democracy's Detectives (book review) 

So the fourth estate didn't used to be based on profit-making companies back in the golden age? It used to be government subsidized?

Tell me more of this planet you speak of.

 
... You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war.”
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Posted: Aug 1, 2017 - 3:40pm

 aflanigan wrote:
So for those who decry fake news, bad reporting, political corruption, etc. and wonder what happened to the golden age of journalism, the $64,000 question is: How can a fourth estate based on profit making companies, independent of government subsidies (which would reek of the potential for propaganda), continue to ensure the survival of good quality investigative journalism when it doesn't make you much money?

Democracy's Detectives (book review) 

So the fourth estate didn't used to be based on profit-making companies back in the golden age? It used to be government subsidized?

Tell me more of this planet you speak of.
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Posted: Aug 1, 2017 - 3:18pm

So for those who decry fake news, bad reporting, political corruption, etc. and wonder what happened to the golden age of journalism, the $64,000 question is: How can a fourth estate based on profit making companies, independent of government subsidies (which would reek of the potential for propaganda), continue to ensure the survival of good quality investigative journalism when it doesn't make you much money?

Democracy's Detectives (book review) 


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Posted: Jul 20, 2017 - 3:01pm

this.
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