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Repost from an old blog I never actually bothered to maintain; minor edit marked:

Is IT inherently weighted in favour of falsehood?

I’m not just talking about [governmental] Wikipedia edits or the scary prospect of CGI news. Those things are bad enough. I’m talking about the inherent nature of IT, not just electronic but everything back to language.

The way we learn is through repetition. Big Lie theory springs from the fact that it is hard to resist giving some credence, or at least avoid finding it easy to think, something that’s repeated often enough. It’s legacy from our animal past; I’m no behaviourist but Pavlov and Skinner can’t be rejected totally. If something happens a lot we tend to notice and bear it in mind. If that something is an idea, we tend to think in terms of that idea. That’s why it takes generations to work something like sexism or racism out of a culture; by and large a prevalent idea is simply too hard to get out of people’s heads, even if they consciously disagree with it, and you have to rely on the kids who haven’t grown up with the toxic idea as much to work out how to think in ways less tainted by the original lie. Of course, those kids can take things for granted and not see the need to be consciously analytical… but I digress, you get my point.

Assimilation through simple repetition was a viable learning mechanism when culture didn’t shape so much of the world, when we were surrounded by nature, which is what it is and doesn’t pretend otherwise (camouflage and various deceptive adaptations aside). By and large, there was a direct, honest, consistent and unmanipulated link between external information and the real world. Without IT, without language, truth is kind of hard to avoid.
But IT makes the mass production and dissemination of information possible, and doesn’t care whether that information is true or not.

In other words, truth is all around us all the time anyway, and IT gives lies the same reach and (often) more convincing – or at least distracting – presentation.

This is kind of a gloomy view. But it’s a serious question. And I don’t have a good answer.

It is some consolation, though, to think that if there is an effective bias towards falsehood in the medium, it seems likely that there’s a corresponding bias towards truth in most of the people using it. Of course, for their own understandings of  truth…


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