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This is the challenge of a YouTuber,
which is, you know, pushing the record button and actually filming something.
Because you never know: "Are people going to hate it?"
Or "Is it good enough?"
Have you thought through what you're going to say.
I've not thought through what I'm going to say...
(Laughter)
Ok, so I wanted to talk about the question:
Why is it that right now, when it is really easy to get access to facts, and information
Where you could just pull up your phone and look up anything in the world...
Why is it now that we have the most access to facts, do facts mean the least?
Why does fake news spread now. Why are we more
polarized now than ever before and what
I have to kind of admit to you is that I
was a real optimist.
Maybe I was naive about the internet, but
my thinking about having an
international communication system
whereby anyone anywhere can share
anything and anyone anywhere regardless
of say their education background or
their class standing can get access to
real information through wikipedia ok
my thinking was the internet was going
to make everyone happier and more
informed more educated I and
probably more tolerant of others around
them, and the reason why I think that the
internet should make people more tolerant
is because it should expose people to
people who are not like them. Right?
I mean is this is crazy!
My thinking is that as we have a
platform to communicate with each other
people in diverse places people with
different interest from us and we all
have the ability to sort of debate and
agree upon what is true we all would
become more accepting of the facts.
Maybe I'm ranting on about this too much.
Is too much?
Ok, so we can edit we can edit (the video) so I guess
the point is in summary,
I thought that the internet would
make the world more connected more
tolerant more educated and more true
like more agreed upon the facts and the
way things are. And for a while I think
there were signs that this was happening.
There was the Arab Spring where you know
people in countries that had been kind
of dictatorship for people who've been
oppressed for rising up there was the
approval of gay marriage in a number of
countries there were agreed upon climate
agreements that seem to suggest the
whole international community was coming together
there are things like my youtube channel
where there can be four million people
who can watch or subscribe to a channel
that's about information about learning
new things about the universe. Right?
The whole rise of smart content on youtube I
took as an indication that things were
going in the right direction that here
we can get communities together who are
all interested in the same sort of the
in the same quick high-level phenomena you know
the same like if I made a TV show I
could never convince anyone to make a an
episode about interpretations of quantum
mechanics I could never convince someone
to make a video about pilot wave theory
and go in as much depth as I went into
my videos but on the internet you can
find that audience because you can
aggregate across the whole world so
little niche audiences across every
country can all come together and say
you know we want to learn this and we
can support this sort of enterprise you
guys an agreement
ok now here's the problem, what I didn't
think about was that other communities
can form. Communities where people are
particular agendas ideological or
religious or you know people with
extreme biases normally they're not much
of a force to reckon with because they
are diluted in our populations but on
the internet just like the people who
love physics people who hate
science or people with differing
ideologies and people who are intolerant
can find each other and they can come
together into these camps so I think
that starts to suggest why we have the
problem that we have today and then what
do people do once they've found their
communities once they found their people
well we have meetups but we also we
share things with each other online and
you can think about some communities
that are really innocous like the
communities of people who are cat lovers
who love sharing like pictures of
kittens and then someone gets the idea
to write like a really cute phrase like
"i can haz cheezburger" on a picture of a
kitten and then that little image
tickles our brains in a way that is
you're really strong and really
incredible and then that spreads
throughout the internet and what you
have in essence is kind of evolution
taking place and evolution of ideas on
the internet and so I guess what I mean
is you know one person can post this
picture of a cat and then people can
vary the phrases that are on it and the
the best phrase is going to win out and
get itself replicated and shared across
the web more than any other, and the same
thing happens with ideological arguments
right if there's some sort of debate
that's happening on the internet
different versions of arguments can pop
up and when you think about two groups
on the internet debating they're not
really debating each other each
community creates what they think the
opponent's argument is and then people
within that community can tweak that
argument to make it worse and worse and
worse to make it but the most awful
version of itself that pushes our
buttons and when it pushes our buttons
then we share it with everyone we know
and we say look at the other side is
talking about look at how awful it
is and we keep evolving the ideas to
make them really really bad those are
the ones that that gets shared and
spread just like an evolution we are
evolving arguments to make them the
worst form of themselves and then to
make the the pushback you know even
worse and that I think is leading to
this polarization
and what's worse the internet is
organized by algorithms, algorithms that
are designed to take the things that are
most engaged with, that most push
our buttons that get us going and get a
sharing and liking or hating and they
promote those even further and this I
think is where something like fake news
comes in
how is it possible that during the last
election cycle in the U.S. more fake
news was spread and shared than real
news that is extraordinary and I think
it happens because the Internet allows
groups of people to come together who
have really particular views it allows
them to share things with each other
even sharing what they think the
opponent's argument is tweaking it ever
so slightly doing all of these little
mutations little alterations and finding
the ones that push our buttons the most
and then those are the ones that get
shared those are the ones that get liked
and hated and everything and those are
the ones the algorithm elevates the very
top, so rather than the
internet bringing us together rather
than us converging around the facts
instead the Internet allows us to divide
ourselves into factions and to have this
crazy evolution of arguments which is
facilitated by the algorithms pushing us
ever further apart and that is the
the best that I've been able to reason
about why we now care less about facts
than we ever did before because deep
down each one of us is based on
confirmation bias we naturally go out
into our world and we seek things that
agree with what we think rather than
looking for things that disagree with
what we think that's an innate human
trait as you can see my video can you
solve this
so it's upsetting and I think we need to
find a way to overcome this division and
find a way to agree again on what is
truth and what is not
thank you. (applause)
Alright, alright, so are there questions? Anyone
a question or comment we have a
gentleman down the front yes I'm you
know that has a video on
cyber balkanization I've heard it from
Vsauce is very useful term.
say it again, cyber vulcanization?
Balkanization. Balkanization? Yeah the
'spliternet' you know
everything so the 'splinternet' and i
love it!
Cyber balkanization. I don't know what
balkanization is... I guess it has something to do with the political situation in The Balkans
Oh cyber balkanization yeah yeah yeahs
shout-out to CGP Grey's video here
yes this idea that you should try you
should think of your opinions like
papers in a box if you find another
opinion that is better than the opinion
that you have in the box
you should switch it out is not
the believers you are not their opinions
opinions are just like stuff to carry
with you that should be easily changed
very good point I also I should cite
CGP Grey's video about the evolution of ideas
because I was strongly influenced by
that video I think it's one of his
best and most important videos.
yes so mechanics that involves strong
ideas that polarize people do you think
there's a way to utilize this
mechanic to make danger better to
bring us all together to not being
pushed around but it by utilizing to
better stuff. Right,
I mean I personally think that the
mechanics has brought us here to
division is not in its current form
going to lead us to convergence so I
think something has to change about the
mechanics and if I think about one of
these options right who is saying about
the ideas that being the paper and you
should really swap them out
it's a very sophisticated mature idea
right? Very sophisticated and mature to
think that we can have our belief set
down and then when they get challenged
we can think about them and and swap
them out for new ones that's not
something that humans like to do
it's hard I was recently in the
Netherlands and the guy who is driving
this van, we were going around shooting a
TV series, guy was driving the van
talking to me about electric cars and he
was saying to me Derek you know that
even if you get like a low emissions or
zero emissions car and electric car, half
of the emissions of any vehicle come
from the production of the vehicle in
the first place. So, really if you think
you're cutting down a lot of the
emissions of your vehicle by getting an
electric car, which full disclosure, I do
have, he's saying you're not
really you know dramatically decreasing
the emissions because still half the
emissions happen when the car was made
so a better strategy than buying
all-electric cars would be to not buy
any cars at all and just keep driving
your car is a few years longer because
that's going to save a lot more because
you know a lot of the waste is upfront
and I did not believe him.
I was like that is crazy half of the emissions
half, like I know it's hard to make a car
but half of the emissions and you think it's
gonna drive for you know hundreds and
hundreds of thousands of kilometers and
I went and I looked it up and it was
true and I take his piece of paper and
swap it in and I move mine out. But I
think it's a really hard thing to do and
it is something that like I felt
repulsed by like I didn't want to swap
my piece of paper out that's why I think
I don't know that that can be the solution
wholesale because we can't just say to
everyone hang on a lot of you have
beliefs that are not true
can we just swap some paper out with
you just say "NO THAT'S MY PAPER!" and so I
was going to say to me the thing that
needs to change
I would say is some of the systems and
particularly the algorithms.
Because I think Facebook and I think
they are looking at this now needs to
figure out a way not to elevate take
news but to let it languish and promote
real news. They have a responsibility
because they are curating the feeds of a
billion people around the world they
have the responsibility to make sure
those feeds are not misleading and that
is something that they were bad about
doing in the last election.
Yep. If you're determined to find the real
news you go out on a marathon of
research and usually you dig deeper and
deeper past the sort of 'junk' that's
being catered to us by the algorithms
but
what you're essentially proposing some
sort of a lie detector to be implemented
in algorithms that's kind of hard to do
right unless it's manually altered but
"uh oh" company's Facebook like I don't think
you can manually alter the algorithm I I
think you have to find a way and I think
the algorithms can be made I think it's
a big challenge i agree with you but I
think there's a way to do it i mean if
you look at Google search results there's
constantly people trying to game what
Google is doing but you don't end up
with fake news sites at the top you
don't end up with spam sites coming up
top in the Google search results.
That's because they battled and battled
and battled to find these signals that
that separate what's a valuable site what's
a site that people appreciate and seems
to be linked into a whole bunch of other
sites which are all part of a factual
web right and I think that similarly
Facebook needs to do something like that
we're in essence they look for signals
of truth. I agree, very hard, and it's
gonna be a constant battle, but I think
you need to look for the signal of truth
rather than just the signal of what
pushes people's buttons.
yeah, ... if yout look back at say the stone age if
you had a weird opinion and you're in your
little tribe either you convinced
everyone or you change your mind. Right?
So you know Facebook is kind of like our
tribe right so some people use Facebook
is more like oh these are my aquantences
but a lot of people use it like these
are my close friends if a close friend
said something weird about up something
on Facebook you comment, right? You have a
discussion and you know you don't say no
you're wrong I'm not going to talk to
you anymore right because he's your friend
or do you change your mind ou you convince the other person, right? But if
you go on like Reddit you're not going
to convince like 10 million billion
people so yeah I don't know maybe like
if you've ever liked tried the
controversial tab on Reddit that's usually
where some of the most of the interesting
discussions are but yes sometimes it's not so important.
And I think this brings me to one of my
kind of points that i think is a little
bit counter-intuitive and it's a point that's
difficult for me to think about I I'm
still not settled on this idea but I
wonder sometimes that arguing just makes
things worse you know as someone who
makes science films I
if I go out make a film about
something that's controversial I don't
know if maybe I'm just making it worse
and so I i think we ought to think about
that really carefully before we engage
in discussions which is: Is there a
chance by making these points which you
think are really clear and really get at
the truth is it possible that you were
just causing the other side to be more
deeply entrenched in their beliefs in
the first place? Down here.
Do you think that adapting to algorithms identify true
statements can have some issues with like
separating truth. Like uncontroversial
statements from
controversial than what's
uncontroversial it will more likely seem true,
yeah I get you there, as said, I don't
know the solution I think it is hard but
I do think we have to figure it out.
I think that there are places on the web
that have a good record of truth,
Wikipedia for example, for all of its
ability to be edited is still more
likely than not to be true so I think
there's all these places that do signal
true things I think you know CNN is more
likely to be true then Breitbart News, so
I mean there has got to be some signal
and the noise, some way to trace back
references and things right some of the
things we talked about were some of the
things we talked about where manual
intervention or or deeply searching
right going back and looking at all
these different sources
that's something that most humans don't
do and won't do and can't do don't have
the time to do that's what I'm saying a
machine can look at references, a machine
can look at signals that spread you know
and then they can do that very rapidly
so you want to find out who are these
people do they have a record of you know
falsely are they actually accredited
already in university there's there are
a variety of things that you can do to
see whether things have a true
signal or not I don't think it's easy
but I think it's possible. Yes.
There are traditional news medias that may
present the news or these articles fake or not
to the public,
don't you think they sort of had part of
the blame because they fact checked
those fake articles when the results
already were in like all these
statements were said and then when the
results were in say in the last election
they just want "Oh wait, these statements
were they true?
Oh wait they weren't but too late
to alter the results from all statements
yeah but I think there was a lot of light
fact-checking but it didn't seem to do
anything like people didn't seem to care
about facts and that deep down is the
the real question I want to get the
answer to which is why don't people
seem to care what's true and I guess
maybe rather than putting it that way
there were different camps which each
had their own narratives and their own
things that they believed was true and
it was different from the other side and
so figuring out what true was
really hard especially if you were
completely in one camp I mean there were
there were fake things around on both
yeah.