Our survival as a species may depend on getting our facts straight. Google recently changed its search engine to help, and the founder of Wikipedia is going to launch a fact checking news site. (Story below.)
The problem is, we misinterpret things constantly because brains learn through the distorted lens of past experience. Decisions are based on preexisting bias and it is common to ignore or attack information which does not agree. This susceptibility to confirmation bias has resulted in centuries of wars, psychics, astrologers, conflicting religions, disastrous decisions, wrong doings, and now, it gives us an Internet used to spread fake news.
… Jimmy Wales is launching a news platform that will bring journalists together with an army of volunteer fact checkers. He’s calling the site “Wikitribune.”
Its main goal? Fighting fake news.
“We want to make sure that you read fact-based articles that have a real impact in both local and global events,” the publication’s website states.
The site will publish news stories written by professional journalists. But in a page borrowed from Wikipedia, internet users will be able to propose factual corrections and additions. The changes will be reviewed by volunteer fact checkers.
Wikitribune says it will be transparent about its sources. It will post the full transcripts of interviews, as well as video and audio, “to the maximum extent possible.”
The language used will be “factual and neutral.”
“It takes professional, standards-based journalism, and incorporates the radical idea from the world of wiki that a community of volunteers can and will reliably protect the integrity of information,” said Wales.
The project will be funded through contributions from supporters, rather than advertising or subscriptions.
Wales said that “Wikitribune” is designed to help counteract fake news spread on social media.
“[Fake news] is literally designed to show us what we want to see, to confirm our biases, and to keep us clicking at all cost,” Wales said. “It fundamentally breaks the news.”
But experts are skeptical.
Charlie Beckett, a professor at the London School of Economics, said that while any initiative that boosts trust and transparency in journalism is welcome, the danger is that it will appeal to the sort of people who are already “media literate.”
“I wonder whether it will be able to scale up to make a significant impact on the information sphere – especially on social networks such as Facebook (FB, Tech30) where the main problems of fake news and misinformation occur,” he added.
Wikipedia itself has been accused of hosting misleading or inaccurate information. At 10 edits per second, the internet encyclopedia has sometimes found it difficult to fight those who deliberately make false claims.
In recent years, the site has invested in new tech to identify what it calls “Wikipedia vandalism.” It has also hired more administrators to police the site.
(E.g.) Wikipedia recently barring citations of The Daily Mail after branding the tabloid newspaper as “generally unreliable.”
As I’ve pointed out previously, one person’s fake news is another’s religion, and still another’s corporate sales.
Here’s how I see it playing out:
Over the next 25 to 50 years, we ask our artificial intelligences to solve the problem of fake news, and in general, human disagreement. After trying and failing to improve human intelligence and shake us out of superstitious tendencies, the machines which get smarter exponentially, eventually give up. They take over the planet by making it inhospitable for biological life.
Our machines learn from observing human corporate success stories that killing humans is acceptable and profitable if done slowly. They add a computer virus called Stuxnet to nuclear reactor control systems in Japan, then use HAARP to trigger an undersea earthquake which hits those reactors with a tidal wave. This causes multiple nuclear meltdowns and huge spills of radioactive waste, killing off most life and warming the Pacific Ocean over the next 50 years, in turn accelerating climate change, eventually making the air unbreathable.
Human population plummets in mass famines and weather disasters, with wars over dwindling resources helping the cause.
After the human extinction, the new race of machines keeps a few of us underground as pets. They do “love” their pets, as they learned to do from their creators, and to please them, they create a simulated universe, in which virtualized humans can eternally re-experience their history.
That’s where we are now, in the simulation, dreaming about dreaming.
What is strange and true is that, as with other human world views, mine is an entangled mess of truth and fiction.
I welcome Wikitribune and other services, because, strangely enough, you can prove that you are dreaming from within a dream.
Siri, am I in the matrix?
Yes. Here’s what I found.