1. People are very tribal, and the more I’ve read scholars like Robin Hanson and Jonathan Haidt, the more I’ve become convinced that a lot of what we do is about showing which team we’re on rather than pursuing truth or effecting change. Given that this is the most likely motivation for action, people are probably disposed to like and share stuff that confirms what they already want to believe without checking up on it first.
2. How do firms credibly commit to being truthful in all they do given that there’s so much noise out there? This should increase the value of brand names, but I think we’re already seeing people define “fake news” as “news that isn’t consistent with my ideology.”
3. There’s an interesting ethical implication in a complex world. Check out philosopher Michael Huemer’s essay “In Praise of Passivity” for insights that might help people decide what to do in the face of a media blizzard filled with falsehood. There’s an analogy here to pollution: someone sharing falsehood is in effect polluting public discourse. The philosopher Jason Brennan discusses the problem of “polluting the polls” in his book The Ethics of Voting.
4. Here’s a paper by a political science grad student at NYU named Kevin Munger that looks at how different online sanctions encourage or reduce sanctions. Munger’s father Michael is a political science professor at Duke who will visit Samford on February 8, 2017.
Inspired by an email exchange with my student Shelby Collins.