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Get Savvy

Get Savvy

FAKE NEWS is not a new phenomenon. From the beginning of time, people have played loose with the truth in order to get what they want. Trust too, has waxed and waned over the millennia. It’s not new. People have always had to be on the lookout for fake news. And much has gotten through our filters over the centuries and has negatively impacted the assumptions we take for granted today.

Perhaps what if different today is our ability to so quickly and persuasively disseminate it through technology. It makes the task of discerning fact from fiction so much harder. So much information is coming at us about things we know very little about and in our rush to form an opinion we easily become susceptible to misinformation and other people’s agendas. As Jonathan Swift wrote in 1710, “Falsehood flies and the truth comes limping after.” We believe what we want to believe.

This is the subject of Savvy: Navigating Fake Companies, Fake Leaders, and Fake News in the Post-Truth Era by the husband and wife team Shiv B. Singh and Rohini Luthra.

The stark reality is that we have entered ... a new post-trust era, in which telling truth from opinion, and separating fact from outright fabrications, requires us to be on guard, intensely aware of the ways in which we are being played, and how we are unwittingly contributing to the problem. Fakery has not only pervaded politics, it has made deeper inroads into business and our personal lives.

Fake news works because it sells. It grabs our attention. And when it resonates, we buy into it and pass it along. It as Walt Kelly pointed out in his Pogo comic strip, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” We really can’t blame our institutions, our media, our leaders, or our neighbors. They are us.

“Savvy is about understanding the role we (as consumers of information) play in succumbing to and propagating fakeness. Just as we have technology glitches so too do we have human glitches in the way we process information.” So the authors catalog some of the ways we readily deceive ourselves and play into fake news. These “glitches” are well presented and deal with the problem of fake news at its source.

Repetitions Make the Truth

If we hear a lie enough times, we begin to believe it. “We all know perfectly well that simply hearing something over and over again doesn’t mean it is truth, but we fall for this persuasive tactic anyway. Why?” We move toward things that are familiar to us because they are comfortable. “The more often we her something, the more familiar it becomes, and familiarity breeds trust.”

We Want to Belong

The desire to belong is strong. Not only does this foster groupthink, but it most often creates a toxic us versus them mentality “often leading to the demonization of the ‘other’ and contributing to discrimination and sometimes violence.” They encourage us to welcome dissenting opinions. Respect those with different viewpoints.

We Want to Be Right

“We want to be right, and we look for information that supports our existing beliefs.” This is known as confirmation bias. Because of this bias, when we try to convince others of the truth, they most often become more convinced of their own position. The more you try to convince someone else of your view the more entrenched they become of their own. The best approach is to find some common ground on which to build a basis for trust. Humility is in order. Overconfidence in our own opinion can cloud our judgment and lead us to marginalize others.

We Bow to Authority

We tend to trust people in authority. In my view, we should always respect those in authority because of our own self-respect. While respect is a choice, leaders must also know that they need to behave in a way that is deserving of respect. That said, we shouldn’t blindly follow leaders. “Assess a leader’s credibility, expertise, experience, and integrity.”

We Blindly Trust Artificial Intelligence

Perhaps that is an overstatement, but the authors are right in saying, “Rapidly advancing innovations are providing new capabilities that require us to give serious thought to the degree of trust we should place in the companies and governmental bodies that will be deploying them, and in the technologies themselves.” Again, it’s not the technologies, it the people who use them. Some will use them to greatly enhance the quality of our life and others will use them to control others. We need to discern the difference. And we should never blame the computer or use it as an excuse for the disrespect of human beings. Computers are programmed no matter how human they seem.

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