“How Can I Learn to Distinguish Conspiracy Theories From Serious Knowledge?”

How to deal with internet phenomena that spread even faster than viruses.

Conspiracy theories thrive in a climate of fear and uncertainty. Unfortunately, humans tend to look to them to make sense of complex, unexpected events or to reinforce strongly held worldviews. How can this be explained? Here is a classic on the subject:

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Image of: Conspiracy Theories and Other Dangerous Ideas

Conspiracy Theories and Other Dangerous Ideas

Legal scholar Cass R. Sunstein offers thoughtful, worthy essays on conspiracies, animal rights, government and climate.

Cass R. Sunstein Simon & Schuster

Americans have always been skeptical of intellectuals and experts. Today, says Tom Nichols, a professor of national security affairs at the US Naval War College, that attitude has mutated into outright hostility. In general, Americans have never been so willing to reject the knowledge of those who actually know something. This embrace of self-righteous ignorance bodes ill for the nation’s future. American society must re-establish constructive rules of engagement between laypeople and experts to keep democracy from devolving into mob rule or “elitist technocracy.”

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Image of: The Death of Expertise

The Death of Expertise

Americans are hostile to expertise, and seem to view their own lack of knowledge as a virtue.

Tom Nichols Oxford University Press (UK)

Nevertheless, presenting accurate information and defending the truth in public remain important civic responsibilities:

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Image of: This Article Won’t Change Your Mind

This Article Won’t Change Your Mind

The reluctance to give up false truths may have been an evolutionary advantage for early humans.

Julie Beck The Atlantic

How can you protect yourself from hyped misinformation? This is more than an abstract problem, as the internet drives the radicalization and conspiracies that can fuel real-life chaos and violence. Thankfully, there are ways to counter the post-truth:

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Image of: You Can Handle the Post-Truth

You Can Handle the Post-Truth

A tech professional reports on the state of internet surreality and its potential future.

Aaron Z. Lewis Aaron Z. Lewis
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Image of: The Science of Fake News

The Science of Fake News

Fake news has become pervasive worldwide. How can society better recognize and reject this false information?

David M. J. Lazer, Matthew A. Baum, Yochai Benkler, Adam J. Berinsky, Kelly M. Greenhill, Filippo Menczer, Miriam J. Metzger, Brendan Nyhan, Gordon Pennycook, David Rothschild, Michael Schudson, Steven A. Sloman, Cass R. Sunstein, Emily A, Thorson, Duncan J. Watts and Jonathan L. Zittrain Science
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Image of: How to Spot a Deepfake like the Barack Obama–Jordan Peele Video

How to Spot a Deepfake like the Barack Obama–Jordan Peele Video

Fake video and audio make it harder than ever to decide what’s real, but you can get it right with a little vigilance.

Craig Silverman Buzzfeed
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Image of: 3 Ways to Spot a Bad Statistic

3 Ways to Spot a Bad Statistic

How can people debate issues without trusting data? They can’t! Question stats; don’t ignore them.

Mona Chalabi TED Conferences LLC

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