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Sunday, 2 September 2018

The world isn’t as doomed as the internet would have you believe

The world isn’t as doomed as the internet would have you believe: The notion that the world is doomed and global conditions are at a historical low point is the product of cognitive biases fueled by the increased availability of information through the internet, Christopher Mims writes for the Wall Street Journal. “The biases that were once useful to our primitive forebears have become — like the craving for sweet foods — detriments in our modern world. Instincts that may once have saved us from real dangers have now, thanks to global instantaneous communication, turned us all into Chicken Littles.”

We believe things are more common and extreme than they actually are: Among these cognitive fallacies is the availability bias, which tricks our brains into thinking an event or trend is more common than it actually is, just because it’s something we’ve heard about recently. A good way to understand this bias is by thinking about how many foreign friends you’ve had to convince that Egypt doesn’t experience terrorist attacks everyday and in every corner of the country. This faulty conception is also backed up by the confirmation bias, which is our “natural tendency to seek information that confirms our pre-existing views and discount information that doesn’t.” In the contemporary digital age, the availability of information and the algorithms of social media directly feed into these two biases by specifically showing us the information that we have previously ingested, Mims explains.

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