Friday, July 31, 2009

Truth and Fear

There are a lot of sections of Science of Fear that intersect with True Enough, and when talking of the media and its cumulative effect on society, Gardner and Manjoo are an echo chamber. Gardner is concerned that the way the media often trades in fear directly, or by emphasizing the unusual does so indirectly by hyping unrealistic fears.

A healthy skepticism is being driven into pure cynicism, and "along with truth, cynicism endangers trust."

This reminds me of an earlier post I made regarding teaching the digital natives, as they grew up with all the answers a click away but little context as a result:

"Where a reasonable respect for expertise is lost, people are left to search for scientific understanding on Google and in internet chat rooms, the sneer of the cynic may mutate into unreasoning, paralyzing fear."

The desire to use the Example Rule to prove our existing Confirmation Bias gets amplified in the social media. Gardner continues:

"Our social networks aren't formed randomly, after all. We are more comfortable with people who share our thoughts and values, we spend more time with them at work, make them our friends and marry them . . . . So we form social networks that tend to be more like than unlike, and we trust people in our networks."

Or on our friend lists. Or in our message boards.

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